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What do legislators not want you to know?

North Carolina’s current congressional and legislative districts have been ensconced in law for more than 14 months, and were used in November’s election. Yet emails that legislators and their lawyers exchanged as they drew the districts remain a closely guarded secret.

This has happened despite a state law that says redistricting-related documents prepared by legislative employees (including outside counsel) for legislators “are no longer confidential and become public records” once the new redistricting maps become law.

The state Supreme Court ruled Friday that those documents are protected by attorney-client privilege. In her dissent, though, Associate Justice Robin Hudson points out that the attorney-client privilege protects only confidential communications. Under state law, email and other communications between legislators and their outside lawyers stopped being confidential as soon as the redistricting maps won final approval. “The majority never addresses, let alone explains” how they reconcile that, Hudson wrote.

Aside from the legal intricacies, one wonders why Republican legislative leaders don’t want to be fully open with the public about how they arrived at the district maps under which we now all vote. These are secrets being kept by publicly elected politicians and their publicly funded lawyers about districts the public uses to elect public servants. Makes you wonder what they’re hiding, no?

United Way’s new effort

The local United Way is wading into treacherous territory, one where many others have tried, failed and even fled: Closing the achievement gap between the highest- and lowest-performing kids in K-12.

From the Gates Foundation to the elementary down the street, educators and advocates nationwide have worked to help at-risk students perform on grade level. Yet the problem persists.

Now the United Way of Central Carolinas is making this challenge a centerpiece of its strategic direction for the next decade. Led by executive director Jane McIntyre, the United Way has moved to what’s known as a Collective Impact model. Rather than being an umbrella funding agency that passes money from the public to scores of nonprofits, the United Way now seeks to proactively lead collaboration among agencies to accomplish more focused goals.

First up: Increasing the graduation rate for at-risk kids, who lag their peers on that measure by about 10 percentage points. The United Way is bringing together 16 of its member charities and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to work toward erasing that gap. Last week, United Way released data on nearly 8,600 at-risk kids served by those agencies. That will serve as a baseline to track progress over the coming decade, informing United Way grant decisions and helping nonprofits better track their own performance.

The transition to Collective Impact, if not done right, could be a semantical exercise. But if the United Way and these agencies truly collaborate, working with shared data and communicating frequently, they could succeed where others have dabbled and failed.

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