Across North Carolina this weekend, thousands of college graduates will be collecting their diplomas and entering what they hope will be an improving job market.

NC State University Chancellor Randy Woodson is mindful of not only what the students have accomplished, but the hard work from his faculty and staff under tight state budget constraints to help the Class of 2015 reach this goal.

“I think the UNC system has lost over $120 million in the last few years, some of which has been made up by tuition, but not all of it,” explained Woodson. “So, as a result our funding per-student has gone down over the last five years as a system, which is a challenge.”

Gov. Pat McCrory’s latest budget proposal calls for the UNC system to trim another two percent from the bottom line, about $50 million. House leaders will present their budget blueprint for the state and the UNC system the week of May 18th.

Chancellor Woodson joins us this weekend on NC’s Policy Watch’s News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss the need to invest in higher education, the impact of rising tuition rates, and some recent good news regarding NCSU’s scholarship endowment.

Click below to hear a preview of our radio interview with NC State’s Chancellor.
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For more on this weekend’s graduation activities with their notable commencement speakers, check out our list below:

Saturday, May 9th:
North Carolina State University
Commencement Speaker: France A. Córdova, National Science Foundation Director
North Carolina Central University
Commencement Speaker:  Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education
Elizabeth City State University
Commencement Speaker:  Gov. Pat McCrory
UNC School of the Arts
Commencement Speaker:Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President
University of North Carolina at Asheville
Commencement Speaker: Wiley Cash, Novelist
Shaw University 
Commencement Speaker: Congressman G.K. Butterfield

Sunday, May 10th:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Commencement Speaker: Jason Kilar, former CEO of Hulu


The state Board of Education holds its monthly meeting in Greenville Wednesday where members are expected to discuss giving an additional 17 charter schools preliminary approval to open in 2016.

This latest expansion comes on the heels of a new study by scholars at Duke University that finds that the rapid growth of charter schools across North Carolina has led to a growing segregation by race.

helen-ladd_1Dr. Helen Ladd, one of the co-authors of the study, discussed the findings and implications last weekend in a radio interview with NC Policy Watch’s Chris Fitzsimon. Click below to hear the full segment:

Schools recommended by the NC Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB) to receive their preliminary charter include:
1.  Cape Fear Preparatory Academy — New Hanover County
2.  Cardinal Charter Academy at Knightdale — Wake County
3.  Central Wake Charter High School — Wake County
4.  Charlotte Classical School — Mecklenburg County
5.  FernLeaf Community Charter School — Henderson County
6.  Gateway Charter Academy — Guilford County
7.  Kannapolis Charter Academy — Cabarrus County
8.  Leadership Academy for Young Women — New Hanover County
9.  Mallard Creek STEM Academy — Mecklenburg County
10.  Matthews-Mint Hill Charter Academy — Mecklenburg County
11.  Mooresville Charter Academy — Iredell County
12.  Peak Charter Academy — Wake County
13.  Pine Springs Preparatory Academy — Wake County
14.  Town Center Charter High School — Gaston County
15.  Union Day School — Union County
16.  Union Preparatory Academy at Indian Trail — Union County
17.  Unity Classical School — Mecklenburg County

There are currently 146 charter schools operating across North Carolina. The proposed charter schools being recommended by the CSAB are slated to open in the 2016-17 scholastic year.

Source: NC Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB)

Source: NC Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB)


Commentary, News

# 1 – Stop HB465/Broken Promises Tour  – Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice NC and Progress NC Action kick off the Stop HB465 Tour with at least six opposition events planned this week. she decides

HB 465 would triple the already unnecessary waiting period, making it more difficult for women to access what is a safe and legal medical procedure. Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice NC and Progress NC Action call this bill “government interference at its worst.” This legislation interferes with a woman’s ability to make the best health care decisions for herself and her family.

During his campaign for Governor, Pat McCrory promised that he wouldn’t sign further restrictions on abortion into law. Participants will urge Governor McCrory to publicly pledge to veto HB 465 and any other restrictions on a woman’s right to choose. Here’s the rundown of this week’s tour stops:

  • Charlotte, NC: Pearle Street Park (1100 Baxter Street), Monday, May 4th at 12:30 PM
  • Asheville, NC: Pack Square Park Amphitheater (60 Court Plaza), Monday, May 4th at 5:30 PM
  • Greensboro, NC: Old Guilford Co. Courthouse (301 W. Market Street), Wednesday, May 6th at 12:30 PM
  • Greenville, NC: Pitt Co. Courthouse (100 W. Third Street), Thursday, May 7th at 12:30 PM
  • New Bern, NC: Craven Co. Government Building (406 Craven Street), Thursday, May 7th at 4:00 PM
  • Wilmington, NC: Wilmington City Hall (102 N 3rd St), Friday, May 8th at 11:00 AM
Dorothea Dix Property and Raleigh Skyline

Dorothea Dix Property and Raleigh Skyline

# 2 Dix Park a Done Deal – Governor Pat McCrory and the N.C. Council of State are expected to  finalize on Tuesday the $52 million deal selling the Dorothea Dix campus to the City of Raleigh.  The council’s vote is the final vote needed to make the 308-acre Dix campus a destination park; legislative approval is not required.

Readers may recall state senators blocked the sale when first proposed by then Gov. Bev. Pedue, and only recently agreed to abandon a second bill they filed to delay the project.

# 3 Equality NC Lobby Day – Last year brought the freedom to marry to North Carolina, but there’s a lot of work to do before North Carolina has full LGBT equality! Equality NC’s Day of Action is all about empowering LGBT and allied North Carolinians to create positive change; meet legislators and discuss bills important to the LGBT community; and attend workshops hosted by ENC’s Electeds for Equality and fellow activists. For a schedule of events, visit:

Second chances# 4 Second Chance Lobby Day – The NC Second Chance Alliance hosts its Second Chance Lobby Day on Tuesday in support of promoting opportunities for North Carolinians with criminal records.

The Second Chance Alliance is a statewide alliance of advocacy organizations, service providers, faith-based organizations, community leaders, and directly-impacted and concerned citizens that aim to promote policies that remove barriers to productive citizenship for individuals with criminal records. The lobby day will address current legislation being considered by North Carolina lawmakers, including SB 362: Amend Certain Expunction Laws.

The Second Chance Alliance will also voice their support for a variety of specific reforms that provide genuine restorative opportunities to individuals ready and willing to move beyond their criminal records, and contribute to their families and communities, including:
•    Broader eligibility for Expungements and Certificates of Relief
•    “Ban the Box” for Public Employment
•    Raise the Age of Adult Prosecution to 18

Learn more here about the policies and bills supported by the Second Chance Alliance.

roadworries#5 Return of the Good Roads State? – Tuesday at noon members of the House Transportation Committee will discuss House Bill 927,  Reestablish NC as the “Good Roads State.” If this bill were to pass in its current form, the gas tax would drop down to 30 cents a gallon on July 1, 2015. But consumers would also notice their annual car registration fee would jump from $28 to $42. They would also see a new 6.5 percent tax on motor vehicle insurance premiums. (***Note Tuesday’s hearing is for discussion purposes only with no planned vote.)

# 6 Duke Energy Annual Shareholders Meeting – Thursday morning,  Duke Energy will have their annual shareholder meeting in uptown Charlotte. CEO Lynn Good will present plans to shareholders for the coming year as well as highlights from the past year.

NCWARN, along with its allies, are planning an outside and inside strategy to stand up for economic and environmental justice at the shareholder meeting. Specifically protesters will  call on the company to:
* Stop blocking access to solar
* Foot the bill for comprehensive coal ash clean-up

The meeting runs from 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. at the O.J. Miller Auditorium 526 S. Church St. Charlotte.

#7 Graduation Weekend – Thousands of college students across North Carolina will collect their diplomas and Graduation capscelebrate commencement weekend this Saturday and Sunday.

NC State University will hold its graduation ceremony Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. at PNC Arena in Raleigh. National Science Foundation Director France A. Córdova will deliver the commencement address.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will hold its commencement on Sunday, May 10, 2015 starting at 9:00 a.m. at Kenan Stadium. Media and entertainment innovator Jason Kilar will deliver the commencement address. Kilar, who graduated from Carolina in 1993, is the co-founder and CEO of Vessel, and was previously the founding CEO of Hulu.

Duke University will hold its 2015 commencement ceremony on Sunday at 9:00 a.m. at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Dr. Paul Farmer, who has dedicated his life to improving health care for the world’s poorest people, will deliver the commencement address.

Congratulations to the Class of 2015!


While Governor Pat McCrory prods the federal government not to impose a 50-mile buffer when it comes to exploring for oil and gas off the Carolina coast, the Wilmington Star-News reminds its readers what’s at risk if drilling were to occur closer to our shoreline:

NCPW-CC-2015-04-07-oil-rig-flickr-tsuda-CC-BY-SA-2-0-150x150[McCrory] raises good points, and we’re aware that domestic production has helped lower gasoline prices.

But we’re skeptical that the gains of tapping those offshore reserves will be worth the risk to our water quality, the coastal tourism economy, and our area’s ability to attract affluent retirees who add more to the tax base than they require in services.

Five years ago, the BP oil well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, spilling more than 3 million barrels of oil that polluted shores from Texas to Florida.

In looking back, Bloomberg Business said “the environmental damage has been far less than many feared.”


Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle

But wads of petroleum gunk are still found in Louisiana marshes, news reports say. Fewer Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are nesting. Fish have skin lesions and oil in their internal organs.

Can we pin our coastal economic hopes on government oversight and responsible action by energy companies?

If so, a report by the Associated Press on another, less publicized leak in the Gulf of Mexico is troubling.

An underwater mudslide triggered by 2004’s Hurricane Ivan toppled Taylor Energy Co.’s platform and buried 28 wells under sediment about 10 miles off the Louisiana coast.

Taylor’s leak is about 20 times greater than the company reported, the Coast Guard concluded after sifting through AP’s findings.

A Florida State researcher said the sheen is a “substantial threat to the environment,” particularly birds, fish and other marine life.

So what will be done? Probably nothing.

The company says the environmental risks of trying to stop the leak outweigh the damage the oil is causing.

And the government is shielding spill-related information from the public to protect Taylor’s “trade secrets.”

In defending the proposed 50-nautical mile buffer for the Southeast – that’s 57.5 regular miles – Abigail Ross Hopper of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said the buffer fits in with Defense Department needs, commercial fishing and environmental concerns, and would accommodate offshore wind farms.

Good fences make good neighbors. A 50-nautical-mile buffer between our beaches and oil drilling makes good policy.

You can read the full editorial here in the Star-News.

Commentary, News

1. Threatening consumers with court system spam

Why thousands of average citizens could get dragged into court by controversial “debt buying” legislation
If you thought that the ignominy of being sued for “bad debt” and all the fun things that come with it is a phenomenon that only afflicts poor people and/or those desperate or gullible enough to get sucked into the vortex of predatory, high-cost loans, it may be time to think again.

Indeed, if the sponsors of two bills in the General Assembly and the giant national debt collection outfits behind them get their way, the “excitement” of the experience could soon be a part of your life and/or someone you know or love. In many parts of the country with weak consumer protection laws, this is already the case. [Continue Reading…]

2. Lawmakers push raft of education bills in advance of crossover deadline

As the April 30 ‘crossover deadline’ nears — at which point a bill must be passed by one legislative house in order to have a shot at becoming law — members of the General Assembly scrambled to rush proposed measures through committee hearings Tuesday, debating many of the education bills that have been the focus of the 2015 session.

Read on for some highlights from Tuesday’s meetings, in which lawmakers quickly debated bills in an effort to keep them alive for the remainder of the year. [Continue Reading…]

3. More guns, more guns, more guns.

One of the most interesting responses by the General Assembly to a public still anxious about making ends meet in this uneven economic recovery is the push to make it easier to take a hidden and loaded handgun into more places in North Carolina. Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer— who’s also heading the effort to make it more difficult for women to access abortion services—is leading the charge to weaken the state’s already disturbingly anemic gun laws.[Continue Reading…]

4. For better or worse, Supreme Court takes up same-sex marriage debate

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear argument Tuesday morning in what many have called the landmark civil rights case of our time, considering in Obergefell v. Hodges whether states must allow same-sex couples to marry. It’s been nearly two years since the Court last addressed the same-sex marriage issue, ruling in U.S. v. Windsor that provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act which defined marriage as only between a man and a woman were unconstitutional.[Continue Reading…]
5. Help wanted: North Carolina’s public higher education systems both in need of new leaders

Scott Ralls will be leaving his job as North Carolina’s community college president in a few months, leaving an opening at an institution that’s a central piece of the state’s educational and economic bedrock. Ralls says it was an opportunity to be back on a campus that led him to take the job [Continue Reading…]