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Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque wants back pay from the non-profit he founded – the same federally-funded group that prosecutors contend he stole $300,000 from while serving as its executive director.

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican who resigned from the state legislature in July 2012 following his federal indictment, filed a breach of contract lawsuit in May in Lenoir County Superior Court against the East Carolina Development Company. The non-profit was one of two non-profits LaRoque ran as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture rural lending program intended to offer low-interest loans to struggling businesses in rural areas.

LaRoque-PCLaRoque is seeking $58,500 for what he contends is six months of work he was never paid for in 2012 and nearly three months worth of pay and benefits following his termination from the non-profit after his federal indictment, according to the court documents.

“Defendants have willfully breached the Agreement by failing to pay the agreed upon salary, benefits and give 90 days notice of agreement termination [sic] despite multiple requests from Plaintiff,” LaRoque wrote in the lawsuit, which he filed on his own behalf.

Nowhere in his four-page complaint nor in East Carolina Development Company’s brief answer denying any wrongdoing is any mention of the federal charges and controversy.

The lawsuit (see below) has been stayed until after LaRoque’s February criminal trial is over, meaning it won’t move forward until that trial is over, said Mikael Gross, a Raleigh attorney now representing LaRoque in the Lenoir County lawsuit.

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North Carolina had 20,000 fewer people working in July than the previous month, as the state’s unemployment ticked up slightly to 6.5 percent.

The July jobs report that came out Monday morning (click here to read) puts the state’s unemployment rate at 6.5 percent, much lower than the 8.1 percent unemployment the state experienced a year ago, in July 2013.

The national unemployment rate is 6.2 percent.

July’s unemployment rate in North Carolina was an uptick from recent months, when the unemployment rate dipped as low as 6.2 percent in April.

North Carolina has seen its labor pool shrink steadily as it has emerged from the recession, and there were 19,848 fewer people receiving paychecks in July than there were in June.

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Many assistant principals in the state will go without pay raises this year – even as the teachers and other school staff working in their schools do get raises.

The N.C. legislature responded to widespread discontent over North Carolina’s low teacher pay this year by including pay raises for teachers in their $21.1 billion budget. Republican legislative leaders have described the increase as an average raise of 7 percent. Others, including the N.C. Association of Educators, have chipped away at that number, pointing out that lawmakers folded in existing longevity bonuses to make their calculations.

The salary schedule for assistant principals shows that they seemed to have escaped lawmakers’ priorities this year, with salaries stagnant for professionals in their first 12 years of education work with only nominal raises not topping $200 in later years.

The salary schedule for assistant principals gradually ticks up in the 13th year, with the base salary going up by $28 for the entire year, according to the comparisons between for 2013-14 and 2014-15 public education salaries posted by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. (Scroll down to see salary schedules.)

It doesn’t mean that the assistant principals will go completely without, however.

A onetime $809 bonus from non-recurring funds will go  to the assistant principals who don’t otherwise get raises this year, said Vanessa Jeter, a DPI spokeswoman. Or if the teacher salary for the corresponding year of service is higher than the assistant principal pay, the assistant principal would get the higher pay, she said.

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North Carolina’s public universities can’t keep turning to tuition revenues to fund need-based aid for lower-income students, a move could lessen how much aid is available for coming classes and lead some to take on more student loans.

The university system’s Board of Governors unanimously passed a four-year tuition proposal Friday that puts a 15 percent cap on how much tuition money schools can use for need-based aid to help lower-income students.

The need-based aid proposal also freezes the dollar amount that goes to need-based aid at five campuses that are at or exceed the 15 percent mark – Elizabeth City State University ($470,584), Fayetteville State University ($328,869), N.C. State University ($7.3 million)and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ($19.1 million) and Winston Salem-State University ($190,089). Read More

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Two members of the state’s advisory board for charter schools unexpectedly submitted their resignations yesterday.

Both Baker Mitchell, of Wilmington, and Paul Norcross, of High Point, co-founded charter schools and have been some of the more prominent advocates through the N.C. Alliance for Public Charter Schools for the privately-run but publicly-funded schools. They also both own companies that have contracts to run public charter schools in the state.

State Sen. Phil Berger appointed Sherry Reeves of Pamlico County to fill the unexpired term of Baker Mitchell. Reeves served on the board of Arapahoe Charter School in 2011-12. Berger appointed Phyllis Gibbs of Guilford County to fill the unexpired term of Paul Norcross.

The state Senate approved those replacements today. The charter school advisory board reviews applications for charter schools and makes recommendations about approvals and rules governing the schools to the State Board of Education.

Mitchell and Norcross had been the target of recent ethics complaints, though no violations of state ethics law have been substantiated.

This spring, Eddie Goodall of the N.C. Association of Charter School’s filed complaints with the N.C. Ethics Commission against the two. Goodall’s complaint takes issue with Norcross and Mitchell not recusing themselves from a May charter school advisory vote to approve a school  that’s a member of the alliance organization that Mitchell and Norcross have affiliations with.

Mitchell and Norcross submitted their resignations to Sen. Phil Berger within an hour of each other Wednesday afternoon, according to copies of their resignation letters obtained by N.C. Policy Watch.

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