Pat McCrory 4This morning’s editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer gets it just about right with its assessment of Pat McCrory’s bizarre foul-up of — of all things — the appointment of North Carolina’s poet laureate by ignoring the established processes and then compounding the error by appointing a person whom some have charitably described as “a beginner” in the field:

The state has on its college campuses a number of professional poets and teachers who would easily fit the bill as the position is described to demonstrate literary excellence and inspire it in others.

Whether McCrory intended it or not, his attitude toward this appointment raises suspicions that he’s just sort of thumbing his nose at the state’s literary community (liberals, maybe?). And he certainly was not well-served by staff members who should have known more and taken this appointment more seriously.

A good friend of NC Policy Watch, veteran North Carolina poet, author, political observer and longtime Peace College faculty member Sally Buckner of Cary, had this to say yesterday in a Facebook message:

As one who has studied our literary scene since the 1960s, I know why North Carolina is what Doris Betts called it: “the writingest state.” It’s because the literary community here is cooperative rather than competitive. Our poets laureate beginning with Sam Ragan have been major figures in making it so. And they’ve done so with little recompense. $15,000 a year doesn’t begin to pay for their travels, workshops, etc….  McCrory’s spokesperson lauds Ms. Macon’s interest in the homeless. I praise it, too–but it’s not a reasonable substitute for professional quality in poetry.

N.C. Poet Laureate Valerie Macon (Provided by N.C. Arts Council)

N.C. Poet Laureate Valerie Macon (Provided by N.C. Arts Council)

Both Sally and the N&O are right, of course — though the N&O may be giving the Guv too much credit. If he really wanted to stick it to the liberal intelligentsia he’d have had his staff find some kind of far right professor at a conservative Christian college or institute to put up for the job.

But that’s not how McCrory operates. In many ways, the appointment is actually reminiscent of the Guv’s equally bizarre decision last summer to deliver cookies to reproductive rights protesters outside the mansion. As in that episode, the Governor’s actions are like those of a distracted, partially-engaged college boy rather than a committed politician with any kind of coherent ideology or agenda.

Seen in this light, the fact that McCrory opted to select an anonymous state employee who has self-published some poetry as a kind of hobby as North Carolina’s poet laureate makes more sense. By selecting such a person the Guv has opted for someone like himself — a person who doesn’t fully comprehend his job or the fact that he doesn’t comprehend it.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/07/15/4008193/a-laureate-for-nc-without-laurels.html?sp=/99/108/#storylink=cpy

State senators offered a new budget proposal Tuesday – one that included 8% raises for teachers and would fund second-grade teaching assistants. But teaching assistants in the third-grade, they would not be funded in this latest proposal.

And there’s another wrinkle, as Rep. Nelson Dollar discovered when seeking clarification on the Senate’s new numbers:

“If I’m reading that correctly, this offer would still cut TAs of that allotment roughly in half, and in addition to that…the funds that remain there, are those largely non-recurring funds?” asked the Wake County Republican.

“That is a non-recurring compromise,” responded Sen. Harry Brown.

Rep. Dollar noted that relying on one-time funding for thousands of second-grade teaching assistants would certainly create a problem next year.

But Sen. Brown said his side has made ‘key concessions’ from their initial budget proposal.

Senators and House members also remain about $30 million apart on Medicaid spending, meaning that aged, blind and disabled patients would see some services cut.

House budget conferees are mulling over the Senate’s latest plan, and are expected to come back with another proposal from their side later in the week. To hear some of Tuesday’s debate, click below:
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Is Senator Jerry Tillman truly the man of compromise that he says he is when it comes to the Common Core standards?

State lawmakers are coming close to passing legislation that would aim to repeal the Common Core standards, although the language in the bill currently would allow for a review commission to recommend keeping parts of the Common Core standards in place, if they so choose.

Sen. Tillman was behind the softer language (the House version doesn’t allow for Common Core to remain), saying last week that the Common Core has “some good and rigorous standards, and I’m sure that we will adopt some of them,” Tillman said. Tillman has also said publicly that he has rallied pro-Common Core stakeholders around his version of the bill, including the NC Chamber and State Superintendent June Atkinson.

But at a May news conference about Common Core at Phoenix Academy, where Tillman was flanked by Lt. Governor Dan Forest and State Board of Education member Buddy Collins, Tillman’s vehement opposition to the Common Core was made very clear in a lengthy speech he gave. (Head over the jump for video highlights)

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Supreme courtFollowing remand by the U.S. Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the university’s affirmative action program.

The Supreme Court had sent the case back to Texas for a reconsideration of the university’s affirmative action policy under a strict scrutiny standard.

In the 7-1 decision by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court said that “because the Fifth Circuit did not hold the University to the demanding burden of strict scrutiny articulated in Grutter and Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, its decision affirming the District Court’s grant of summary judgment to the University was incorrect.”

“[S]trict scrutiny does require a court to examine with care, and not defer to, a university’s ‘serious, good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives,’” Kennedy added.

In a 2-1 decision, the Fifth Circuit found that Texas had met that burden:

It is settled that instruments of state may pursue facially neutral policies  calculated to promote equality of opportunity among students to whom the public schools of Texas assign quite different starting places in the annual race for seats in its flagship university. It is equally settled that universities may use race as part of a holistic admissions program where it cannot otherwise
achieve diversity. This interest is compelled by the reality that university education is more the shaping of lives than the filling of heads with facts—the classic assertion of the humanities. Yet the backdrop of our efforts here includes the reality that accepting as permissible policies whose purpose is to achieve a desired racial effect taxes the line between quotas and holistic use of
race towards a critical mass. We have hewed this line here, persuaded by UT Austin from this record of its necessary use of race in a holistic process and the want of workable alternatives that would not require even greater use of race, faithful to the content given to it by the Supreme Court. To reject the UT Austin plan is to confound developing principles of neutral affirmative action,
looking away from Bakke and Grutter, leaving them in uniform but without command—due only a courtesy salute in passing.

The decision is here.

Patrick WoodenIt comes from the notorious all-purpose far right minister, the Rev. Patrick Wooden of Raleigh’s Upper Room Church of God in Christ. At a pastor’s anti-marriage equality event today near the state Capitol Building, Wooden said the following according to this AP story:

Seventy-eight percent of our children are born into homes where there are no dads. We have a disaster going on. In fact, if we encourage marriage, we won’t need as many government handouts.

Thanks for that brilliant insight, Rev. Pat. I’ll be sure to explain that to my LGBT friends who’ve adopted all kinds of unwanted children from troubled single moms and given them a chance at happy lives.