UNC Nobel prize

Image: UNC Chapel Hill

As one of the first acts of his governorship back in 2013, Pat McCrory went on a national right-wing radio show to attack “the educational elite” in our university system who supposedly weren’t doing enough to gets student “butts in jobs.” Since that time, his administration has waged a more or less permanent war against academia by repeatedly allowing faculty salaries to slide and just generally under-investing in public colleges and universities.

Whether a sincerely held belief or just a convenient scrap of red meat to toss to the intellectual-hating far right, McCrory’s stance is predicated on the notion (regularly championed by denizens of the Art Pope empire) that universities should be more like training institutes in which faculty devote the overwhelming majority of their time to preparing students for employment. Meanwhile, “luxuries” like the liberal arts and research for the sake of advancing knowledge are just that — extravagances to be left to the vagaries of the “market” and the “demand” provided by well-off students and parents willing to underwrite their cost via private school tuition.

This morning, North Carolinians received yet another powerful reminder of the absurdity of the Governor’s stance on these issues when Prof. Aziz Sancar of the UNC School of Medicine was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. According to the Associated Press:

“The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said their [Pro. Sancar’s and his fellow recipients’] work on DNA repair had provided ‘fundamental knowledge’ about how cells function and shed light on the mechanisms behind both cancer and aging.”

You got that? Prof. Sancar helped advance an important piece of “fundamental knowledge” that has the potential to greatly benefit all of humankind. From this vantage point, that sounds like a pretty darned good use of tax dollars.

Let’s hope Sancar’s award spurs the Guv and his allies to think a little harder about their simplistic takes on higher education — especially when it comes to the numerous would-be Aziz Sancars who continue to be driven out of North Carolina by the administration’s shortsighted approach to faculty compensation and duties.


University system leaders are happy with how they emerged in the state budget, saying they were grateful lawmakers opted to fund enrollment growth and other asks they had.

UNC system president Tom Ross (left) and John Fennebresque, UNC Board of Governor, in file photo.

UNC system president Tom Ross (left) and John Fennebresque, UNC Board of Governor, in file photo.

John Fennebresque, a Charlotte attorney who serves as the chair of University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors, called the $100 million overall increase for the university system “the best budget” since the Recession began in 2008.

Among the things lawmakers opted to fund in the two-year budget signed into law this afternoon by Gov. Pat McCrory were annual enrollment growth costs of $49 million, and earmarked dollars to vshore up East Carolina University’s medical school and Elizabeth City State University.

Chancellors will also be able to carry over financial savings they might find on their campuses to future years, in order to fund other priorities.

Those words of praise about the budget came despite the UNC system being handed $64.4 million in discretionary cuts over the next two years, and following nearly $500 million in cuts the system has weathered since 2010.

UNC system staff and faculty, like all state employees, also received a $750 bonus in the budget instead of any type of permanent salary adjustment.

Tom Ross, the president of the UNC system, said that he viewed the budget overall as a positive for the UNC system in comments he made during Friday’s meeting.

“Our enrollment was fully funded for both years,” Ross said, referring to the additional $49 million each year allotted to cover increasing numbers of students. “We’ve got to have the resources to educate the students when they come.”

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As rumors continue to swirl on Jones Street about a deal reached Friday night on the FY2015-2017 budget (details to be released Monday), investments in North Carolina’s community colleges and workforce development programs remain an area of critical concern. These programs are essential for improving the skills and competitiveness of our labor force and ensuring that low-income workers have accesses to the training resources they need to achieve long-term upward mobility in their careers and lifetime earnings.

Job training and basic adult education are critical investments that give workers—especially those at the bottom of the income scale—the tools they need to enter higher-wage occupations. For many, these programs can mean the difference between a life trapped in poverty-wage jobs and a life with opportunities to climb the career ladder and enter the middle class. Career pathway programs in particular create avenues for workers to build occupation-specific skills consecutively over the course of a career, creating stepping stones for long-term advancement within that occupation.

As a result, these programs provide a powerful policy-level antidote to income inequality and wage stagnation. As the recent State of Working North Carolina report points out, wages remained largely flat in decade prior to Great Recession and then experienced significant decline in years since the recession. This is largely the result of policies that allowed corporate executives and investors to earn the lion’s share of increased productivity achieved by technological advancements.

Building skills through job training and workforce development is an important tool for returning these productivity gains to workers—both by strengthening the ability of individual workers to bargain for better wages and by improving the overall recognized skills of the state’s workforce, a key competitive advantage that will create more quality jobs in North Carolina.

Given this reality, all eyes are on the emerging final budget deal to see how legislators treat these important programs. Thus far in the budget debate, the Senate has cut more funding for these investments than the House in its proposal. In the House proposal passed earlier this summer, the Community College System received a $52 million cut compared to the $59 million cut served up by the Senate. Similarly, the House provides $15 in new money for instructional equipment at the community colleges, while the Senate provides just $5 million. And while the House provides $1.9 million for job training in economically struggling areas, the Senate does not, instead opting to invest $1.5 million to put community college “coaches” in high schools with the goal of helping high school students transition into vocational training programs upon graduation.

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Note: This post has been updated to include comments about the dismissal from Wake District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.

Assault charges against R. Doyle Parrish, a member of the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors, were dropped last week, according to court information.

R. Doyle Parrish

R. Doyle Parrish

Parrish, 61, was arrested in May and accused by Raleigh police of assaulting his wife by slapping and pushing her in a May 12 incident at the couple’s North Raleigh home.

He is the chief executive officer and co-founder of the Raleigh-based Summit Hospitality Group, which manages 17 hotels and several restaurants.

Parrish faced a misdemeanor charge of assault on a female, but the case was dismissed by prosecutors on Wednesday, according to information filed at the Wake County courthouse.


Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Tuesday that the assault charge against Parrish was dropped because his wife Nancy Parrish, who hired an attorney of her own, was not willing to testify against her husband.

The couple has undergone counseling since the May incident and it did not appear to be a situation where there was an ongoing pattern of physical abuse, Freeman said.

“There was no indication this was an ongoing domestic violence situation,” she said.

Freeman said her office does not generally drop domestic violence cases based on victim’s cooperation alone, but did so in Doyle Parrish’s case because there was little evidence to purse the criminal case with outside of Nancy Parrish’s statements.

Freeman also said Doyle Parrish was not given any special treatment by her office. 

The court file for Parrish’s case could not be located Monday by staff at the Wake County Clerk of Courts Office.

Following his arrest, Parrish kept his seat on the UNC Board of Governors, the 32-member board that directs the state’s 17-campus university system. He did step down from committees tasked with selecting the UNC system’s next president, citing the need to take care of some personal issues.

This post will be updated if more details about the dismissed charges become available.


NC Budget and Tax Center

State lawmakers would like to amend North Carolina’s state constitution in ways that would undermine our ability to adequately meet the needs of a growing and changing state and impede our ability to build today for a strong economy for the future. These amendments would reduce annual state revenue by nearly $2 billion if implemented in 2015, meaning state funding cuts to important public investments that drive the state forward – our public schools, affordable higher education, safe and healthy communities, and modern infrastructure.

Colorado, which enacted TABOR in 1992, serves as a cautionary tale regarding the perils of taking such a path. The state suspended the law for five years in 2005 in response to a sharp decline in public services. As a result of TABOR, Colorado went from the middle of the pack to the bottom among states in regards to state support for public education and initiatives that serve children. Regarding Colorado, an updated 2015 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities highlights:

  • Colorado fell from 35th to 49th in the nation in K-12 spending as a percentage of personal income.
  • College and university funding as a share of personal income declined from 35th in the nation to 48th.
  • Colorado fell to near the bottom of national rankings in providing children with full, on-time vaccinations.
  • The share of low-income children in the state who lacked health insurance doubled, making Colorado the worst in the nation by this measure

North Carolina has ALREADY experienced erosion in state support for public schools, higher education and early childhood programs in recent years and currently ranks near the bottom among states in many areas. The implementation of these constitutional amendments would all but guarantee a last place finish in every race, every year.

  • North Carolina already ranks 43rd in average pay for our teachers.
  • North Carolina had the largest decline among states in average teacher salaries from 2003-04 to 2013-14.
  • North Carolina ranks 41st in change in state spending per student at 4-yr public universities since 2008

TABOR would make sure that we are unable to boost investments in early childhood initiatives, public schools, and public colleges and universities at a time when doing so is important to North Carolina becoming a more competitive and attractive state.

Contrary to the saying that if you’re at the bottom the only way to go is up, if TABOR comes to North Carolina, the only fate for the Tar Heel State is a permanent place at the bottom in regards to our commitment to public education.