Dear NC Policy Watch readers,

It’s been a great pleasure to connect with all of you and bring you news and information about what’s going on with public education here in North Carolina.

Today is my last day with NC Policy Watch, although I’ll still be wrapping up some remaining projects over the next few weeks. But do not despair: Policy Watch will continue its work covering important education issues—if you know anyone interested in working as an education reporter, please do be in touch!

I am excited to announce I’ll be joining the Fletcher Foundation as an education specialist. In that role, I’ll be conducting research, analysis and reporting on issues pertaining to education in North Carolina. In particular I’ll be taking closer looks at trends related to charter schools, educational equity, and the broader area of school choice, just to name a few topics.

And I will continue to collaborate with my colleagues at Policy Watch, so keep your eyes peeled for more from me here, too.

If you’d like to drop me a line, you can now find me at

Thanks again for reading and supporting NC Policy Watch.

Commentary, News

Dan ForestYesterday was a wild and wacky day (and night) in the already wacky world of North Carolina policy and politics as lawmakers stayed in session past four o’clock this morning and sent all kinds of new potential laws to the Governor — often with only a cursory review of what they actually will do.

For some of the players in the drama, however, the chaos of end-of-session sausage making was clearly not enough to hold their complete attention. Take Lt. Governor Dan Forest, for example. Yesterday, the presiding officer of the state Senate took three hours out of his workday to serve as “guest host” on Called 2 Action Radio — an program hosted by a self-described “Christian wacko” named Steve Noble (In 2011, Noble released a book entitled “The Making of a Christian Wacko: Are You Next?”)

In case you’re not familiar with Mr. Noble and his program, it is a syndicated show based in Raleigh in which the host and his guests spew a steady stream of vitriol and condemnation — especially toward gays, Muslims, Mormons and anyone else who does does not adhere to their particular brand a far right, fundamentalist religiosity. Just last week, Noble held forth on multiple occasions on the supposed incompatibility of Islam and the the U.S. Constitution, how he “hates Islam,” how the Bible is explicitly pro-capitalist, how Donald Trump has twice violated “Jesus’ prohibition against divorce except in cases of sexual immorality” and, well, you get the idea.

According to the folks at Right Wing Watch, Noble said the following in the run-up to the vote on the marriage discrimination amendment back in 2012:

“The homosexual lifestyle is not an orientation it’s just a temptation, we all face that, but they’re the ones, that’s the only group of sinners that’s chosen to try to attack the entire world, let alone the word of God, to say ‘no, no, we’re going to keep fighting until you all agree with us that this thing that we know as a sin, isn’t.”

Noble went on to describe homosexuality as, among other things: “the playground of Satan and the evil forces against God’s way.”

Yesterday, a post on on Forest’s Facebook page stated that:

“Dan is the fill in guest host for Steve Noble’s nationally syndicated radio show today. On live now with Congressman Mark Meadows. Tomorrow we will post the full three hour podcast where you can hear Dan interview Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, David Barton, Rep. Meadows and more>’
Then in the middle of the afternoon, Forest tweeted the following:
“On air in place of Steve Noble for the next few hours. Have presidential candidates, business and faith leaders on your local radio station.”
As of yet, the promised podcast has yet to materialize on either the Called 2 Action website, Forest’s website or his Facebook page. We’ll keep an ear and eye out.
Commentary, News

The Environmental Defense Fund and its nearly 44,000 North Carolina members are urging Governor Pat McCrory to veto House Bill 765, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2015.

In a two page letter signed by EDF Director Jane Preyer, the environmental group notes the legislation approved on Tuesday by the General Assembly simply makes it easier for businesses to cut corners and profit from violating environmental laws:

Some parts of this legislation may be improved with further study and a more focused debate during a future legislative session. Others are inconsistent with North Carolina’s values and will allow more pollution of our air and water, degrade our land, harm wildlife, and jeopardize the health of families and communities.

Click below to read a copy of their full letter.



The good people at the NC State AFL-CIO have issued the following statement on House Bill 318, the controversial legislation approved by lawmakers last night to limit the use of alternative identification cards for undocumented immigrants and cut off SNAP benefits (Food Stamps) for tens of thousands of struggling people.

“’North Carolina lawmakers have raised the bar for showing hostility to the interests of working people with H.B. 318, and that’s saying something for a legislature which has made a sport out of bullying the unemployed and the working poor,’ said MaryBe McMillan, secretary-treasurer of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO. ‘We call on Governor McCrory to veto this bill as soon as it reaches his desk.’

Dishonestly named the ‘Protect North Carolina Workers Act’, H.B. 318 will callously and needlessly cut off food assistance to unemployed people, will make it harder for local police to protect the public, and will make it easier for unscrupulous employers to exploit immigrant workers.

H.B. 318 will force more residents struggling to find and keep a job into deeper hunger and poverty by denying access for tens of thousands of childless adults to the federally-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. H.B. 318 will prohibit the state from getting waivers to federal time limits on such benefits despite the fact that unemployment remains high enough in 77 of North Carolina’s 100 counties to qualify and no state money would be affected by the change.

H.B. 318 will make the already difficult job of local police to protect the public even harder by forcing them to prioritize the enforcement of federal immigration law over common-sense policing and by discouraging crime victims and witnesses from interacting with police to help solve and prevent crimes. H.B. 318 will make the simple act of establishing the identity of North Carolina residents with whom they interact on a daily basis more difficult not only for law enforcement but for courts, clerks, or other government officials.

Meanwhile, H.B. 318 will make it easier for abusive employers to use the threat of deportation to keep workers from speaking up about unsafe working conditions or unpaid wages, thereby undermining the wage standards and working conditions of all working people in North Carolina.

‘There’s a lot the General Assembly could do to protect working people in North Carolina, like moving a bill that has bipartisan backing to crack down on the rampant misclassification of workers as independent contractors, restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit, or raising the minimum wage,’ said McMillan, ‘but H.B. 318 does none of these things. This bill does not protect workers. Like so many policies passed by this legislature, this bill hurts working people and should be vetoed immediately.’”


One of the longest legislative sessions in more than a decade (possibly the longest since 2002) came to a close during the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Here’s a quick update on some last minute controversial proposals affecting public education that ultimately didn’t become law.

Charter school funding 

Sen. Jerry Tillman breathed new life back into a proposal heard earlier this session that would have diverted funds typically reserved for traditional public schools over to charter schools.

Using the ‘gut and amend’ process, Tillman shoved the complicated language into a House bill that was previously about school playgrounds a week and a half before the close of session. Loads of push back ensued from the school boards association, school administrators and other education advocates.

The bill would have allowed charter schools to receive more federal and local tax dollars—as well as private grants— than to which they are currently entitled. And some of that money could have been reimbursements for services that charter schools may not be providing to students, like school lunches. (State law doesn’t require charter schools to provide school lunches, although many do participate in the federal school lunch program.)

Senate lawmakers approved the measure Monday evening and sent it back to the House for concurrence—but the bill was left to die last night. It could come back next year.

School vouchers

Republican House lawmakers successfully banded together Tuesday morning in an effort to block a proposal put forward by school voucher champion Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam that would have set up the state’s new school voucher program for expansion.

Stam gutted and amended S456 to require the state to award more Opportunity Scholarships (also known as school vouchers) to kindergartners and first graders, a move seen by some as a set up for the program’s expansion down the road.

But there appeared to be growing discontent among some Republican lawmakers over the school voucher program, as Rep. Bryan Holloway led efforts to block Stam’s proposal by telling his colleagues they “might find it interesting” to look at what kinds of schools voucher students are picking and choosing.

Rep. Leo Daughtry (R-Smithfield) told colleagues that a private school in his district accepting school vouchers didn’t seem fit to take tax dollars.

“I went to visit this school [receiving school vouchers, in his district]. It’s in a back of a church, and it has like 10 or 12 students. And one teacher. Or one and a half teachers,” said Rep. Daughtry. “And I think you need to go slow with Opportunity Scholarships. From what I saw…the school there that I visited didn’t seem to be a school that we would want to send taxpayer dollars to.”

Stam’s proposal was narrowly defeated in the House appropriations committee, 24-26, after a careful count of the ayes and noes.

Achievement school district

Rep. Rob Bryan (R-Mecklenburg) pushed hard for months behind closed doors to pitch a proposal to his colleagues that would have created an ‘achievement school district’ in which some of North Carolina’s lowest performing schools would be placed, teachers and staff at those schools could be fired, and the schools would be subject to the management of for-profit (or not-for-profit, too) charter school operators tasked with bringing them up into the ranks of the state’s top performers.

The idea is controversial thanks to the mixed results its seen in places like Tennessee and Louisiana, coupled with the notion that for-profit charter operators subject to fewer checks and balances and not accountable to an elected school board would be tasked with the care of a vulnerable student population.

As the end of session neared, it began to look as if Bryan’s proposal would be heard publicly only at the very last minute—but ultimately the bill, which was another ‘gut and amend’ of a Senate proposal that had already passed that chamber, never made it into committee. Rumors of the idea being placed into a ‘study committee’ never materialized, but the pitch could come back next year.