Author

News
SEANC Exec. Dir. Dana Cope

SEANC Exec. Dir. Dana Cope

UPDATE, 2:20 p.m.: Dana Cope resigned Tuesday afternoon from his position with SEANC, saying he had “blurred the lines between my personal life and my professional life,” according to WRAL.

For those who may have missed it, the News & Observer published an investigation this weekend detailing some questionable spending that’s gone at the State Employee Association of North Carolina under executive director, Dana Cope.

The former treasurer of the employee association group, a N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Medicaid analyst, brought her concerns to the newspaper about several purchases at the association. Those purchases included over $100,000 paid to a landscaping firm also doing work at Cope’s personal residence and flying lessons the association paid for Cope to take.

From the N&O article, by investigative reporter Joseph Neff:

In March 2014, the State Employees Association of North Carolina wrote a check for nearly $19,000 to Perspective Concepts LLC, a defunct computer company in Washington, D.C.

But the check was cashed by Perspective Landscape Concepts, a new Apex company that was also working at the home of Dana Cope, SEANC’s executive director.

Cope says the check was for emergency work for irrigation and drainage at the SEANC office.

SEANC’s own files suggest otherwise. A memo justified the check as computer work done by the D.C. company with a name very similar to the local landscaping company. The owner of the computer company said he closed the firm in 2003 and never worked in North Carolina. Cope and SEANC’s general counsel admit the memo is phony but will not explain beyond saying it’s a personnel matter.

There was irrigation work done at the SEANC building four months later. But that work cost $685.25 and was done by a long-established company in Garner, records show.

Since last March, Cope has directed SEANC to write checks totaling $109,078.50 to Perspective Landscape Concepts, the company also working on projects at Cope’s Raleigh home, or to its owner, Perry Pope.

The landscaping bills are one of several spending practices that are being questioned by some former members of SEANC’s executive committee. They question whether Cope has blurred the lines between his personal finances and the finances of an organization largely supported by dues from its members, 55,000 current and retired state employees.

You can read the original investigation here.

The group’s executive committee is standing by Cope, and issued a statement saying that it had looked into the purchases Neff referred to and found everything above board.

Read More

News
UNC President Tom Ross

UNC President Tom Ross

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently requested and reviewed hundreds of emails that UNC President Tom Ross received Jan. 16, the day he was forced out of his job by the UNC Board of Governors.

Ross, who had been the head of the UNC system since 2011, has said he hoped to stay on with the university system, but a board appointed by Republican leaders opted instead to replace him in 2016, a move that many by surprise.

Ross plans on staying on as president until January 2016 or until his successor is selected, whichever is later.

Among the messages Ross received on the day he was dismissed were notes from another former UNC president, Erskine Bowles, as well as Fred Eshelman, a former Board of Governor member and prominent Republican fundraiser.

You can read more of the email snippets over at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

News

K12, Inc.As expected, the State Board of Education gave its blessing Thursday to two virtual charter schools applying for a new pilot program set up by the state legislature.

The new public schools will allow students to take their entire course loads remotely, and stand to send millions in public education dollars to two companies that will manage the daily operations of the virtual schools.

N.C. Policy Watch has been covering the push by K12, Inc., the company behind the N.C. Virtual Academy, since 2011 to open a virtual charter school in North Carolina. The company has been criticized in other states for its aggressive lobbying of public officials to open schools, as well as low academic results from many of the public schools it manages.

On Thursday, the state board also decided to drop a requirement that would have required schools to provide or pay for learning coaches for students whose parents can’t serve in that role.

Here’s more from my article earlier today:

Get ready to add “attend third-grade” to the growing list of things you can do over the Internet in North Carolina, after ordering pizzas and watching cat videos.

The State Board of Education, which oversees public education in the state, is expected to approve two charter schools today that will teach children from their home computers in schools run by Wall Street-traded companies.

Daily monitoring would be in the hands of “learning coaches,” a role that’s been filled by parents, guardians and athletic coaches in the more than 30 other states that offer publicly-funded virtual schooling options.

Today’s anticipated vote of approval (click here to listen to an audio stream of today’s meeting) will be a significant change of the state board, which fought an attempt in the courts from the N.C. Virtual Academy to open up a virtual school three years ago.

If approved, the N.C. Virtual Academy (to be run by K12, Inc., NYSE:LRN) and N.C. Connections Academy (to be run by Connections Academy, owned by education giant Pearson, NYSE:PSO) will be able to enroll up to 1,500 students each from across the state, and send millions in public education dollars to schools run by private education companies.

You can read the entire piece here.

 

News

The State Board of Education will be making its final decision about whether to give a green light to two online-based charter schools that hope to open their (virtual) doors this fall.

It seems all but certain the state board will approve the schools, where students from kindergarten through high school work from home computers while being supervised by a “learning coach,” which usually is a parent. The schools are seeking to each serve up to 1,500 students statewide in the first year, which would send millions in state, local and federal education dollars to the schools.

K12 logoRepublican-led legislature slipped a provision into last summer’s budget bill mandating the creation of a four-year pilot program for two of the online-based charter schools.

Several public education groups, including the N.C. Association of Educators and N.C. School Boards Association, have expressed concerns about the schools, saying the charter schools will divert scarce public education dollars to hand off to for-profit companies while delivering a subpar education to students.

Proponents have said that North Carolina, which offers no full-time virtual education, needs to offer the public education choice for children that don’t do well in traditional schools, because of health issues, full extracurricular or athletic schedules, bullying or in need of remedial help or advanced learning.

Both of the publicly-traded companies behind the two schools now applying to open, K12, Inc. and Connections Academy (which is owned by education giant Pearson), has had teams of lobbyists at the N.C. General Assembly paid to push their cause.

Read More

News

Here’s a glimpse of life in Detroit, far from us in North Carolina, but where the circumstances may ring familiar for thousands also trying to figure out how to get to work without much reliable transportation around.

James Robertson, a machine operator from Detroit, works 23 miles from his home, in a metropolitan area where public transportation is spotty.

His solution has been to walk – a combined 21 miles a day – in order to get to and from work every day. He’s been doing the four to six-hour commute, which also includes taking two buses, since his car broke down a decade ago.

 

 

Detroit also leads the nation in auto insurance rates, with the average driver shelling out $5,941 a year for auto insurance, compared to the average $1,022 bill that North Carolinians pay.

Amazingly and incredibly, Robertson has never missed a day of work because of his commuting challenges.

Read More