The Nation became the latest national media group to offer its thoughts on the changing direction of the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors, with the publication today of “How A Right-Wing Political Machine is Dismantling Higher Education in North Carolina.”

The progressive magazine took aim at recent decisions like the firing of UNC president Tom Ross and the controversial closure of three academic centers, as well as recent pledges to look at “right-sizing” the entire public university system.

From the article:

But just as pertinent as the question of what should be taught at UNC is the question of whom. Since its founding in 1789 as America’s first public university, UNC has fought to preserve the “public” part of its mission; high-quality education plus low tuition has kept more students in-state in North Carolina than anywhere else in the country. Now the board appears to be dismantling the system’s ability to fulfill that goal.

In response to deep cuts to state funding, the board has approved a series of tuition hikes—in-state students will pay 4.3 percent more next year on average—while imposing a cap on financial aid that may impact nearly 22,000 low-income students next year. Governor McCrory has suggested that schools compensate by limiting enrollment to “those who are ready for college,” a distinction that smacks of euphemism. Despite these austere times, the board voted in April to boost the salaries of top administrators to as much as $1 million a year.

The goal, apparently, is not only to put Ayn Rand into the hands of students but also to force UNC into the sort of economic order she envisioned. It matches the agenda that the legislature and McCrory have advanced throughout the state with the backing of the Pope network: cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy, and use the resulting revenue gap to justify the evisceration of safety net programs like unemployment insurance, and public institutions like schools. “You can’t separate what’s happening at the Board of Governors from what’s happening in the legislature,” Gene Nichol said over the phone in March. “They govern for the white, wealthy, straight Christians, mostly for the males, and all the rest be damned.”

“We’re capitalists,” explained Steven Long, a former Civitas board member who now sits on the Board of Governors, after the body voted in May to cut dozens of academic programs across the system. “We have to look at what the demand is, and we have to respond to the demand.”

You can read the entire piece here.



Carol Ann and Thomas Person were planning to be married when they went to a Forsyth County magistrate’s office in 1976.

Carol Ann and Thomas Person (Source: N&O/Person family)

Carol Ann and Thomas Person (Source: N&O/Person family)

To their suprise, they was turned away because two magistrates, citing their own religious beliefs, refused to marry an interracial couple.

The couple now lives in Moore County and have been married for 40 years.

Carol Ann wrote about the experience of being turned away by the county magistrates in this poignant editorial published in the News & Observer, to emphasize their opposition to Senate Bill 2, which would allow magistrates to refuse to marry same-sex couples.

“Whether gay or straight, black or white, Jew or Gentile, nobody has a right to tell anyone who they can love or marry,” she wrote.

The N.C. House of Representatives is expected to consider whether to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto later today.

From Person’s column:


I met the love of my life more than 40 years ago in Raleigh. Thomas is a lifelong North Carolinian. I was a recent transplant from Vermont. We are both legally blind, and soon after we met, we moved to Winston-Salem to work for the Industries of the Blind. Our friendship blossomed into love, and in 1976, Thomas proposed. I very happily said yes.

Soon after, we went to our local courthouse to receive a civil marriage license from one of the magistrates there, so we could commit our lives to each through a legal union. I was so excited. People always say your wedding day is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life, and I was expecting mine to be exactly that.

But when we walked into that government office together, we were told that the magistrate on duty wouldn’t give us a marriage license. I was flabbergasted. We had planned everything, we had all our paperwork and we were legally eligible to get married.

So why wouldn’t he marry us? The reason, it turned out, was because Thomas is African-American, and I am white. The magistrate told us that marrying an interracial couple went against his religious beliefs. Our happy day quickly turned into a nightmare.

I was so surprised that a government official was using his own personal religious beliefs to deny us a civil marriage license that I didn’t know what to say. There was a second magistrate on duty, but he, too, said he wouldn’t marry us, because doing so would violate his religious beliefs. One of them took out a Bible and began to lecture us about their religious views and why Thomas and I should not be together. We eventually went down the street to the local Legal Aid office and returned with a lawyer, but the magistrates still refused. It was so upsetting.

The entire piece, which is well worth reading, can be found here.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory made a surprise appearance at the quarterly meeting of the state’s public-private economic development board Friday morning, asking for support for economic financial incentives and his $3 billion transportation and infrastructure bond package.

AGGAG-vetoHe also told board members, who are largely business people from around the state, that he’d made headway in showing the legislature that the public backed those proposals.

McCrory said that public support, which he referred to as “surveys,” may be set back after yesterday’s veto of a bill that would have permitted magistrates to refuse to marry same-sex couples and more vetoes he said were on the way.

“That [survey information] may change after yesterday’s veto and today’s veto and two other vetoes coming up,” McCrory said. “And I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.”

Shortly after the morning meeting, McCrory’s office announced he vetoed the “ag-gag bill,” which had been opposed by animal-rights groups and AARP and would have penalized whistle-blowers who exposed wrongdoings at companies they work at.

When asked afterwards about his comments about future vetoes, McCrory would not expand on his comments.

Another controversial bill making its way through the legislature that would require a 72-hour waiting period for abortions, and require doctors to send patients’ ultrasounds to the state health agency.

A list of other bills on McCrory’s desk is here.

At Friday morning’s meeting, McCrory also had sharp criticism for his Republican colleagues in the legislature, where his bond proposal is getting a lukewarm reception.



McCrory wants to put the proposal, which would fund a myriad of transportation and state government projects around the state, before voters. The proposal needs legislative backing to get on the ballot.

“We have support in the legislature but it is very soft support,” McCrory said, adding that the legislature was busy with budget proposals. “Frankly, they’re scared of their own shadow.”

He also said that he would play “hardball” and wouldn’t be deterred by opposition from those in his political party.

“I’m not going to let three or four people in the legislature block progress in North Carolina,” McCrory said. “I don’t care what party they’re from.”

Friday morning’s quarterly meeting of the economic development meeting is a public meeting, but N.C. Policy Watch was the only media member, as well as the only member of the public, to attend the meeting at  Red Hat’s headquarters in downtown Raleigh.

The public-private partnership was established last year by the state legislature, and transferred the tourism and business recruitment division of the state Commerce Department to the quasi-public group. It’s largely funded with public money ($16 million) but is on the hook to raise $1.25 million from private funders in its first year.

The group has raised $830,000 so far from private contributors, with several other gifts promised and about $250,000 more to be raised by October, said John Lassiter, a Charlotte attorney and chairman of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

Want to hear for yourself? McCrory’s comments about the legislature and upcoming vetoes begin at the 4:40 minute mark:


Note: This post has been changed from the original to more accurately reflect McCrory’s comments about upcoming vetoes. He referred to the vetoes in the context of how “surveys” from the public may change in light of the vetoes, not his relationship with the legislature as initially reported. We apologize for the inconvenience.


The head of North Carolina’s office overseeing charter schools is leaving for a job with a controversial virtual charter school opening up this year.

Joel Medley, who had headed the N.C. Department of Public Instruction since 2011, is leaving his state job to become the head of school for the N.C Virtual Academy. The school is a new online charter school opening this summer that will be run by the Wall Street-traded for-profit education company K12, Inc. (NYSE:LRN).


Joel Medley. Source: LinkedIn.

“I have accepted a position at the NC Virtual Academy in June and will serve as the head of school — returning back to my roots as a school administrator,” Medley wrote Thursday in an email to N.C Policy Watch. “It has been an honor to serve here in the Department and I look forward to this new opportunity.”

Medley, who made $91,473 a year in his role as North Carolina’s director of the Office of Charter Schools, has worked in both South Carolina and North Carolina monitoring charter schools, taught at all levels of education and has also been a past director at a charter school.

Details about his new salary at N.C. Virtual Academy, which is considered a public school, were not immediately available.

In a news release issued this afternoon, N.C Virtual Academy also announced it was hiring Marcia Simmons, who had been an instructional director at the state-run N.C. Virtual Public School, as the new charter school’s academic administrator.

Medley oversaw the charter school office during his four-year tenure as director when the number of charter schools grew dramatically, from 100 to 146, after newly empowered Republican lawmakers opted in 2011 to remove a cap on the publicly-funded, privately-run schools.

Legislation in last year’s budget mandated the creation of a four-year pilot program for two virtual charter schools. The N.C. Connections Academy, which will be managed by the Pearson-owned Connections Academy, and N.C. Virtual Academy, the K12, Inc.-run school, will both open for this upcoming school year, enrolling up to 1,500 students each.

K12 logoK12, Inc. operates in more than 30 states, offering students and families a full course load of schooling that can be accessed via home computers. Proponents of the online schooling company say it offers families an alternative way of education, and one that has special benefits for children that may not do well in traditional school settings because of bullying, medical conditions or other reasons.

But the company has faced criticism as well, with critics accusing the company of draining off scarce public education dollars and being more focused on profits than delivering a quality education.

The company has run into issues in other states for its low graduation and test scores of its students. Tennessee is slated to close its K12, Inc.-run virtual school this year after test scores ranked the school as one of the worst-performing in the state.

Medley’s new job will involve managing a virtual school he once stood in opposition with, as the state unsuccessfully fought efforts for several years by the Wall Street-traded K12, Inc. to open up a North Carolina public charter school.

“The grim academic achievement coupled with the high turnover compel North Carolina to move slowly before opening the flood-gates to virtual charter schools,” Medley wrote in a 2012 affidavit filed trying to stop the K12,Inc.-run virtual school from obtaining approval through the courts.

This is Medley’s last week at DPI.


Note: As has been reported below, the degree discontinuations do not necessarily mean the opportunities to study in these areas are going away. Many of the programs are being consolidated into similar majors or degree offerings.

The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors decided at its meeting last week to whittle down the types of degrees offered at various campuses.

UNCsystemThe culling came from a combination of campus requests and a regular system-wide review of programs with low enrollments that’s conducted every two years.

The discontinuations don’t necessity mean the opportunity to study in those areas are going away. Many of the degrees being cut were absorbed into other majors, with concentrations offered.

At East Carolina University, for example, individual undergraduate degree programs for French, German, German K-12, French K-12 and Hispanic Education will be consolidated into a single degree of Foreign Languages and Literature.

At the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, students can still study in the specialized education areas, their degrees are just being combined with similar degree offerings.  The bachelor’s degree program in child and family development is being absorbed into a nearly identical major, where participants also earn a license. (Previously, students had the option of not receiving a license, an option for students who wanted to work in daycare setting which don’t always require licenses.). Also, the master’s degree offering in special education, adapted, is being merged into a more general master’s program in special education.

Many of those being cut and combined into other degrees are educational training programs, with the review noting that out of the 221 degree programs with low enrollments, 46 of those were related to education.

That’s part of an ongoing issue that the UNC system and state education leaders are grappling with, given a 27 percent drop from 2010 to 2014 of those wanting to pursue teaching as a career. The situation, many fear, could lead to a teacher shortage in the state.

The 46 degrees being discontinued are below (information from UNC report on academic degree productivity):



Please note, that many of the programs are simply being merged into more general degree offerings, with the educational offerings remaining the same.

To read the entire report about the degree discontinuations, click here.

The board also appointed two new chancellors last week – state Medicaid director Dr. Robin Cummings became the new head of the University of North Carolina-Pembroke campus, while the University of North Carolina at Greensboro found out its new chancellor is Franklin Gilliam Jr., a public affairs dean from UCLA.