News

In 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly eliminated the much-lauded NC Teaching Fellows program, which prepares and provides for students eager to enter into a teaching career in their home state. As the last of the Teaching Fellows are set to graduate this spring, the program’s sponsor has released a retrospective report on the program’s impact since its inception in 1986.

“With declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs at our state’s colleges and universities and increasing numbers of teachers retiring, moving to other states or leaving the classroom altogether, the loss of this highly effective teacher recruitment effort will certainly be felt across North Carolina” said Keith Poston, President and Executive Director, Public School Forum of North Carolina.

Since it began, the [North Carolina Teaching Fellows] has graduated 8,523 Teaching Fellows, 79 percent of whom were employed in the public school system at least one year after completing their initial four-year teaching service requirement and 64 percent still in the public school system six or more years after completing the scholarship program’s service requirement.

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Commentary

Be sure to check out Sharon McCloskey’s excellent story over on the main Policy Watch site this morning summarizing yesterday’s state Supreme Court argument in the school voucher case. You’ll get the history, the basics of the arguments and a blow by blow of yesterday’s proceedings.

If you want to grasp what is perhaps the essence of the plaintiff’s challenge, however, check out the following excerpt that Sharon quoted from the argument of the lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Raleigh civil rights attorney Burton Craige:

“North Carolina’s voucher program is unique. No other voucher program in the country allows the receipts of vouchers by private schools that can be unaccredited; employ unlicensed uncertified teachers — including teachers who don’t even have a high school diploma; employ teachers and staff without performing a criminal background check; teach no science or history; teach only the recitation of religious texts; and discriminate against students with disabilities. In the absence of standards, North Carolina stands in a class of its own.”

And here is a five minute excerpt from Craige’s argument:

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News

The American Association of University Professors released a statement today calling on the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors to keep an academic poverty center run by an outspoken professor.

UNCsystemThe Chapel Hill law school’s UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, which receives no direct state funding and subsists largely off a $120,000 private grant, is one of three centers facing closure after a months-long review of university centers and institutes. It is led by Gene Nichol, a tenured law professor who has rankled Republican state leaders for his editorials in newspapers lambasting political leaders for the treatment of the poorest North Carolinians.
The majority of the faculty at UNC Law School have also signed a similar statement opposing the expected closure of the poverty center and criticisms lobbed by one member of the Board of Governors at the Center for Civil Rights.

The AAUP represents 40,000 university professors across the nation, including chapters in North Carolina, and the group often speaks out if it feels academic freedoms are at risk.

In this case, AAUP members are concerned that the poverty center is being targeted because of political reasons , said Henry Reichman, a vice-president in the national professors’ group, and a California-based academic.

In the case of UNC, the group hopes the Board of Governors rejects the recommendations to shut down the poverty center, but may open an investigation into the matter if the closure goes forward, he said.

The group would be just as likely to jump to the defense of a center with conservative leanings facing issues of academic freedom, he said.

“In times of political controversy, these things tend to increase,” Reichman said. “This would be a concern if it was a liberal board going after a conservative center.”

From the statement:

This statement from the national office of the American Association of University Professors is sent on behalf of the local AAUP chapters at University of North Carolina institutions and the statewide North Carolina conference of the AAUP and is addressed to the UNC Board of Governors. It conveys the Association’s concern relating to a special committee’s recommendations affecting several UNC centers that are scheduled for action by the board at its meeting on February 27. Of particular and immediate concern to us is the recommendation to discontinue the UNC School of Law’s Center on Poverty, Work, and Community, reportedly seen by its opponents as less a center for teaching law students and for scholarship than an advocacy program for the economic and social betterment and the civil rights of the poor, the disabled, and persons of color.

As noted in the AAUP’s 2013 Statement on Conflicts of Interest, “American universities have long been engaged with the institutions of the wider society, to their mutual benefit.” To be true to their mission, public universities must serve all members of our society, the poor as well as the privileged. Externally funded centers must be free to sponsor curricular and extracurricular programs and provide services to the public across the broadest range of perspectives and approaches.

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Commentary

ITony Tata 2t is increasingly clear that a) North Carolina Transportation Secretary Tony Tata is a part-time Secretary who receives full-time pay ($136,000 per year) and b) Gov. Pat McCrory doesn’t give a darn.

How else to explain the Secretary’s ongoing second and third jobs as a novelist and Fox News Commentator on military issues and the silent acquiescence from the mansion?

Today — a day on which large swaths of the state are paralyzed by an unexpected snowstorm, thousands of public employees can’t get to work and numerous Department of Transportation crews are, presumably, working feverishly to clear our roads — the DOT Secretary will be…speaking in Chicago at Pritzker Military Museum & Library to plug his new “thriller” novel.

We’re not making this up. A call to the Pritzker Museum a few minutes ago confirmed  that Tata’s talk for this evening (800 miles from home) is on.

Meanwhile, Gov. Pat McCrory plods cheerfully along — content, apparently, to let one of his most important department heads mail it in and play the role of prima donna media figure on the public dime.

One can only imagine the wild bleats and gesticulations that would have emanated from Right Wing Avenue had a Perdue administration official somehow produced a book on, say, child rearing or healthful living while in office and then gone on Oprah to plug it. When it comes to Tata, however, the only thing one hears from those erstwhile crusaders against government waste, fraud and abuse is the sound of crickets chirping.

Commentary
Guilford Co. Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen

Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen

Senate Bill 2, the controversial proposal to allow North Carolina magistrates to avoid their duty to perform marriages for same-sex couples was whisked through the state Senate’s Judiciary II Committee today as thousands of North Carolinians remained stranded by an unexpected snowstorm. By my watch, the meeting featured all of eight minutes in public comment on what is, by any fair assessment, a proposal of great import and serious constitutional implications.

Of course, the lightning-fast review was no accident. When you’re selling a proposal that’s a gussied up effort to legalize discrimination and “separate but equal” public services, it’s best not to linger in any one place for too long lest people quickly see through the pancake makeup.

Let’s hope that, at some point, public outrage at the proposal (see for instance, today’s edition of the Fitzsimon File) forces lawmakers to apply the brakes to this particular train so that additional rational voices can be heard.

In this vein, a great example would be Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen. here is a letter Thigpen sent to the memberso the Judiciary II Committee via email at 7:40 this morning:

Dear Judiciary II Committee members,

I learned late yesterday SB 2 had been put on the calendar for hearing today. It’s snowing in Guilford County and Schools are closed. I don’t know if I’ll be able to attend but I wanted to express a number of concerns I have with the bill, specifically regarding the Register of Deeds provisions. They are as follows:

1) A “sincerely held religious objection” is not defined. If a Catholic employee discovers an applicant is applying for a second marriage, can they file a religious objection based on this bill?

2) As a manager, Register of Deeds will be put on notice by their employee(s) regarding their religious objection (which is not defined). There is no due diligence or deliberation regarding this matter. The employee is given power, without question, to state the religious objection and immediately be exempted from issuing marriage licenses to ANY citizen. The employee is then given a six month free pass from performing their duties processing marriage licenses.

This can have a serious impact on our daily operations and undermines our role as managers of our offices. Read More