Dr. Aldona Wos defended her agency’s decision to award a $6.8 million, no-bid contract to a Washington, D.C. firm to help the state agency better organize its Medicaid finance office.

Wos credited the outside consultants at Alvarez and Marsal with helping improve the predictability of the Medicaid program, which has been plagued for years with cost overruns. This year, the agency projects it will return $63 million to the state’s general fund.

Still some members of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services were unhappy with the decision to pay the out-of-state firm a rate that amounts to about $473 an hour.

“We had an emergency in the department. We didn’t have enough people, and the right people, and we couldn’t get it right with the information, and the data, and the numbers and the budget, and everything else you’re asking us. That was an emergency,” explained Sec. Wos.

Wos pledged the department would be even stronger when they tackle Medicaid reform next year.

As Sarah Ovaska reported earlier on the Pulse, DHHS is opposed to a Senate proposal that would remove Medicaid from Health and Human Services, making it a stand-alone agency.

The oversight committee will look for another progress report from DHHS leaders when it meets again October 14th.

To hear some of Sec. Wos’ remarks from Tuesday’s meeting, click below:

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Art Pope officially departs the McCrory administration today, stepping down from the post of state budget director.

Last month, in announcing Pope’s decision to leave, Governor Pat McCrory called the budget director and former state lawmaker “an important voice and important mentor.”

Others outside the administration have suggested that the conservative donor had too much influence over state spending and policies advanced in the legislature.

Here’s how Pope’s influence has been portrayed by North Carolina’s best known editorial cartoonists:

NC Policy Watch’s John Cole:

The Charlotte Observer’s Kevin Siers:

The Raleigh News & Observer’s Dwayne Powell:

Succeeding Pope will be Lee Roberts, a Raleigh banking executive Governor McCrory appointed to the North Carolina Banking Commission last year.


The percentage of students graduating from North Carolina high schools now stands at 83.8 percent,
the highest in state history.

Since 2006, the first year the state reported a four-year cohort graduation rate, the percentage of students graduating from high school in four years or less has risen 15.5 percentage points.

The State Board of Education released the results on Thursday along with end of grade testing results.

“A top priority of the State Board of Education is to ensure that high school diplomas are meaningful and aligned with the skills and knowledge that students need in college and in careers,” said Board Chairman Bill Cobey. “It is good news that students are reaching higher standards and graduating in higher numbers as well.”

A closer look at the numbers finds that female students posted a higher graduation rate than male students. Asian students had the highest rate overall, while students considered to have limited English proficiency had the lowest rate.

Graduation rate 2014

Source: NCDPI


U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and House Speaker Thom Tillis went toe-to-toe Wednesday evening in the first debate of their tight U.S. Senate race. Hagan criticized Tillis’ legislative record, while Tillis repeatedly tried to link Hagan to President Obama.

As you try to decide who won round one, be sure to read the fact check pieces here on, and here at the News & Observer.

Click below to hear how both candidates responded to the question: What is the best way to retain qualified and effective teachers?

The North Carolina Association of Broadcasters Educational Foundation will host the second debate between the two contenders on October 7th, three days before the deadline to register to vote in the general election.

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  • Senator Kay Hagan and Speaker Thom Tillis square off – On Wednesday, the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters Educational Foundation hosts the first debate in North Carolina’s U.S.

    The first debate in the U.S. Senate race is Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.

    Senate race featuring incumbent Senator Kay Hagan (D) and Speaker of the NC House Thom Tillis (R). The 7:00 p.m. debate will be aired live, statewide and be moderated by Norah O’Donnell, co-anchor of CBS This Morning.

  • Education results to be released – The State Board of Education kicks off their September board meeting on Wednesday. We’ll be watching Thursday when they discuss the cohort graduation rate for the 2013-14 school year. They will also  release data on end-of-grade tests for the ’13-’14 school year.
  • Health Care enrollment is the talk of the town – On Thursday, the NC Health Care Access Coalition along with Senator Angela Bryant, Representative Nathan Baskerville, and former Congresswoman Eva Clayton will discuss the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, how Medicaid expansion would help the community, and implementation of the online marketplace, including
    State Budget Director Art Pope will step down next month, and be succeeded by Lee Roberts.

    State Budget Director Art Pope leaves office Friday, and be succeeded by Lee Roberts.

    Special Enrollment Period opportunities. The event will be held on Thursday from 6:00-7:30 p.m. at the Shiloh Baptist Church, 635 S. College Street in Henderson.

  • Art Pope exits – Art Pope departs the McCrory’s administration at the end of this week, stepping down from the post of state budget director effective September 5th. Succeeding Pope will be Lee Roberts, a Raleigh banking executive who the governor appointed to the North Carolina Banking Commission last year.
  • Focus on fracking – ***UPDATE:  This week’s Mining and Energy Commission meeting originally scheduled for Friday has been cancelled. ****  (Note: The final public hearing on the state’s draft fracking rules will be held in Cullowhee/Western NC on September 12.)