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Two for-profit companies vying to tap into public education funding streams and enroll thousands of North Carolina children into virtual charter schools will be in front of a state education committee tomorrow.

K12 logoA special committee designated by the State Board of Education to review virtual charter school applications will meet from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday on the seventh floor of the state Education Building, 301 N. Wilmington Street in Raleigh. Audio of the meeting, which is open to the public, will also be steamed here.

The full State Board of Education, responding to the state legislature’s creation of a pilot program for virtual charter schools, will meet in  January to decide if the online schools can enroll students – and receive public funding – for the 2015-16 school year.

Virtual charter schools teach students from kindergarten through high school through classes delivered through children’s home computers. Parents or guardians often serve as “learning coaches” to assist with lessons while teachers remotely monitor students’ attendance and performance.

North Carolina’s legislature opened the door for two virtual charter schools to open next August when it tucked a provision in this summer’s budget bill that created a four-year pilot program for two online-based charter schools to open by August 2015.

The country’s virtual education market happens to be dominated by two companies, K12, Inc. (NYSE:LRN) and Connections Academy, a subsidiary of Pearson, an educational publishing company also traded on Wall Street (NYSE: PSO). Both companies employed lobbyists in North Carolina last year.

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The Associated Press is reporting that the FBI is looking into the death of a Bladenboro teenager found hung to death near his home.

From the AP:

A prosecutor says the FBI is looking into the hanging death of a black North Carolina teen after his family questioned the official ruling that he killed himself.

Seventeen-year-old Lennon Lacy was found hanging by a dog leash and a belt from a swing set in a trailer park in August. The state medical examiner ruled it a suicide, based on reports from law enforcement and a county coroner. That coroner says he now questions if it was a suicide because of so many unanswered questions.

Bladen County District Attorney Jon David confirmed to The Associated Press on Friday that an FBI agent has been assigned the case.

Lennon Lacy

Lennon Lacy

Lacy, 17, was found dead in late August, hanging from a swing set near his home. While local police and the state medical examiner have classified his death a suicide, his family members have questioned that, pointing out that the outgoing teenager was excited about an upcoming football game and was found wearing shoes that didn’t belong to him.

Lacy, who was black, also had a romantic relationship with an older white woman and his body was found near a predominantly white trailer park in the rural Southeastern North Carolina town.

The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP is holding a march at 10 a.m. tomorrow in Bladenboro to call for a more thorough investigation into Lacy’s death. Check the NC NAACP’s Facebook page for more information about the march.

The state NAACP also released a report last month  from a pathologist who questioned the state medical examiner Deborah Radisch’s ruling in Lacy’s death, noting that the state official wasn’t provided photographs of the swing set, according to Raleigh television station WRAL.

From WRAL:

Lacy was 5 feet 9 inches tall, while the cross beam on the set was 7.5 feet from the ground. There were no swings attached to the structure, nothing at the scene that he could have stood on, and a grommet that the noose was tied to was nearly 2 feet away from the swing’s climbing platform, the report states.

The noose also did not appear long enough for him to have been able to tie it from the platform and still have a loop big enough for him to place it over his head, according to the report.

Bladen County District Attorney Ben David has said he believes the investigation was thorough and welcomes a federal review.

You can read the entire article here and the NAACP report here.

 

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A working group of UNC’s Board of Governors will be meeting tomorrow and Thursday to hear presentations from 34 centers and institutes from across the university system.

This week’s meetings is part of a system-wide evaluation of academic centers and institutes by the board of governors, and a final report will make recommendations about whether any centers should be dissolved or have state funding reduced.

The meetings, which are open to the public, begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Spangler Center, UNC General Administration Building, at 910 Raleigh Road in Chapel Hill.

The state legislature paved the way for up to $15 million in cuts in last year’s budget by requiring that the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors and campus leaders “shall consider reducing State funds for centers and institutions, speaker series, and other nonacademic activities.” (Click here for more background on the review.)

Several of the centers scheduled to make presentations this week include groups that provide services or study issues affecting minority or disenfranchised groups of North Carolina residents. Those include groups like the Center for New North Carolinians at University of North Carolina-Greensboro and the Center for Civil Rights; the Sonya Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History and the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, all on the Chapel Hill campus.

 

The schedule of presentations is below:

 

Centers Institutes Working Group Agenda Dec 10 and 11.pdf by NC Policy Watch


N.C. Policy Watch will be at the meetings Wednesday and Thursday, and you can get updates via Twitter at @SarahOvaska.

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The University of North Carolina’s board of governors has narrowed its probe of centers and institutes for possible closures down to 34 groups.

The Republican-led state legislature paved the way for up to $15 million in cuts in last year’s budget by requiring that the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors and campus leaders “shall consider reducing State funds for centers and institutions, speaker series, and other nonacademic activities.”

The review – which began earlier this year with 237 centers from a variety of academic disciplines– is led by a working group of members of the UNC system’s Board of Governors.

The 34 remaining groups are spread across the university system’s 16 campuses, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and East Carolina University have the most groups still under review.

The centers flagged Friday by a working group from the UNC Board of Governors will hear presentations next Wednesday and Thursday before making final recommendations about shutting down any of the centers or reducing state funding. Of the 34,  seven of the groups are already under examination at the campus level for possible closure.

The Board of Governors will separately review the nine centers and fields that work in the marine science fields in the beginning of 2015.

Several groups that concentrate on providing services or studying issues that affect minority or disenfranchised groups of people remain under review by the UNC Board of Governors. Those include groups like the Center for New North Carolinians at University of North Carolina-Greensboro and the Center for Civil Rights; the Sonya Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History and the the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, all on the Chapel Hill campus.

Gene Nichol, the outspoken head of the poverty center, has rankled members of the UNC Board of Governors concerned about Nichol’s vocal criticisms of policies under Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican majority in the state legislature. (Note: Nichol is on the board of the N.C. Justice Center, the non-profit that house N.C. Policy Watch, but he did not have any role in the reporting or writing of this post.)

Jim Holmes, the UNC Board of Governor’s member leading the review effort, reiterated that the review isn’t aiming to weed out controversial centers.

“Everyone is looking at this like there’s some agenda,” Holmes said. “I can assure you, there’s not.”

Groups under review may be terminated, lose state funding or could continue operating as it is or be folded into an academic department, Holmes said.

Holmes also said Friday that the group wants to create a new “public advocacy” policy for centers that re-state the limits and type of political or partisan activities UNC employees can engage in during work hours.

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There’s an interesting article today from North Carolina Health News about fast-food workers who make too much to qualify for Medicaid in North Carolina but make too little to afford health care on their own.

North Carolina is one of several states that declined to expand coverage of Medicaid in the state, after the state legislature passed a law in early 2013 preventing  expansion that Gov. Pat McCrory signed.  The situation has left hundreds of thousands of low-income workers unable to afford health care on their own and without access to the federal subsidies that would make health care more affordable.

Among those people are a 35-year-old Durham man whose worked for a decade making pizzas at Dominos.

From the article, by Hyun Namkoong:

The Feb. 15 deadline to sign up for health insurance coverage on the federal Healthcare.gov website is quickly approaching, and low-wage workers like DeAngelo Morales and Isaac McQueen are stuck between a rock and hard place.

McQueen, 35, a father of two, has worked at Domino’s Pizza for 10 years as a pizza maker. He says he doesn’t qualify for subsidies offered under the Affordable Care Act. He also doesn’t qualify for Medicaid after North Carolina declined to expand the program to adults who make more than 49 percent of the federal poverty level, which works out to $9,697 a year for a family of three.

“I [make] too much money,” he said with an ironic laugh.

McQueen said there was a plan on the federal health insurance exchange that cost $80 a month, but he couldn’t afford it.

Instead, his health insurance plan is based on hope and faith.

“[I’m just] hoping and praying to God I don’t get sick, because I can’t afford any substantial medical bills,” he said.

 

You can read the entire piece here.