House lawmakers approved legislation Friday that allows private, for-profit management companies that run charter schools to keep their employees’ salaries secret, even though they are paid with public funds.

The bill also fails to provide protections for LGBT students, even though an earlier version did.

While the bill, SB 793, or Charter School Modifications, clarifies that the salaries of charter school teachers and non-profit boards of directors are subject to public disclosure, employees of for-profit companies that are contracted to manage the operations of charter schools would not be subject to those rules.

In a prior version of the bill, language simply required charter schools to publicly disclose all employees’ salaries.

The change comes at a time when one prominent Wilmington-based charter school operator, Baker A. Mitchell Jr., has been fighting media requests for months that have asked him to fully disclose the salaries of all employees associated with his charter schools – teachers as well as those who work for his for-profit education management organization (EMO), Roger Bacon Academy.

Mitchell, who also sits on the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board that is tasked with approving and monitoring charter schools, operates four charter schools in southeastern North Carolina through his for-profit company.

Roger Bacon Academy has raked in millions of dollars in profits that consist of public funds since 1999 – and Mitchell himself has profited to the tune of at least $16 million in management fees over the past several years. Read More


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.

Paul Stam 2It’s funny how time usually seems to catch up to hate and bigotry (and the people who purvey them).  As society progresses and humans become more enlightened, language and viewpoints and images that once were widely held and expressed become less and less acceptable. Sometimes, the change happens rather suddenly — so suddenly that the proponents of the noxious views miss the memo and go right on spouting off until they suddenly become laughingstocks and pariahs for saying the same things they’ve been saying for years.

The current sports world controversy surrounding the use of the name “Redskins” by the Washington, DC NFL team is an example of how public mores can reach a tipping point and then change rapidly.

America witnessed countless such incidents in the late 20th Century around the issue of race and gender — usually in the form of clueless public figures saying embarrassingly stupid things about members of racial minorities or women. The pathetic thing about so many of these incidents. of course, was the befuddlement that gripped the clueless bigots. Frequently, they simply couldn’t fathom how their once-funny “jokes” or “common wisdom” observations had, all of a sudden, become offensive and unacceptable.

Let’s hope with all our hearts that we’re witnessing another such event take place right before our eyes in North Carolina with the latest noxious utterances from North Carolina’s longstanding champion of hatred and intolerance toward the LGBT community, State Rep. Paul Stam. Read More


Food labelIf you’re getting ready to pop open a cup of yogurt or a can of soup for lunch today, be sure to take note of the nutrition label as it’s about to get a smidge more relevant and informative in the near future thanks to a new Food and Drug Administration directive and some helpful advocacy from First Lady Michelle Obama.  And, of course, it probably won’t be long before the denizens of the Pope Empire inform us that this is all a matter of big government quashing the “freedom” of unfettered markets.

And speaking of “free” markets, the right wing is — amazingly enough — weighing in again of late to inform us that not only is raising the minimum wage a terrible idea, but so, indeed, is the VERY IDEA of minimum wage laws. First it was the John Locke Foundation in this essay last week and then, yesterday, it was state House Speaker and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis.

And speaking of the U.S. Senate, here’s a doozy: Read More


Gay prideOne of the most amazing developments in recent public policy debates has been the emergence of so much common ground between so-called Christian conservatives and the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Who would have guessed that just a few decades after Ronald Reagan sought to confront the leaders in the Kremlin over what he called their “evil empire,” that his and their successors would find so much to share?

There’s the mutual devotion to unfettered plutocratic capitalism, the shared belief that environmentalists should be generally ignored, the common desire to link church and state and, perhaps most famously of late, the fact that both parties are willing to do whatever it takes to marginalize and discriminate against the LGBT community.

This strange mutual admiration society has arguably reached new heights in recent weeks with the largely successful Sochi Olympic games in which Putin emerged stronger than ever and the rise of a new wave of Putinist anti-gay proposals in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Happily, however, the whole bizarre and disturbing union suffered a big setback yesterday when Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona bowed to widespread national pressure (the owners of the NFL, for instance, made it clear they’d take back the 2015 Super Bowl from Phoenix if she signed it) and vetoed a proposal that would have permitted discrimination against gays in the name of “religious freedom.”

Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end for American Putinism, but given the Russian leader’s relative youth and vast fossil fuels-based wealth (and the passion that so many misguided Americans still bring to the cause of social reaction), we’re probably not out of the woods yet.