Each week, staff at Carolina Journal looks back at the week in N.C. politics and chooses what we think are some interesting, relevant stories you may have missed. Here’s a week in review:
Silent Sam: Orange County Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour will hear arguments Friday, Dec. 20, against a controversial deal involving Confederate statue Silent Sam. On Nov. 27, a committee of the University of North Carolina System’s Board of Governors struck a deal with the Sons of Confederate Veterans organization. UNC gave Silent Sam — along with a $2.5 million trust fund — to the SCV. The settlement was part of a pre-planned lawsuit largely hidden from the public. Outrage followed. The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., filed a motion to intervene in the case. Lawyers also filed a motion for the court to discard its previous judgment. If approved by Baddour, the group’s motion for relief would ship Silent Sam back to UNC Chapel Hill’s campus, UNC leaders said. The statue was illegally torn down in August 2018 and would pose a safety hazard if put back up, officials stated. Baddour is set to hear arguments 10 a.m. Friday in Courtroom 4 of the Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough.
DMVA scholarships: A crisis involving the Department of Veteran Affairs and funding for the Children of Wartime Veterans Scholarships has been resolved. Gov. Roy Cooper announced Dec. 16 the DMVA will borrow money from next semester’s funding to fill this year’s budget hole, which left some students with tuition payment notices. While Cooper and the department blamed the ongoing budget impasse for the lack of funds, Senate Republicans accused them of playing political games. Sen. Danny Earl Britt Jr, R-Robeson, has said the money was in the form of recurring funds, so the budget impasse shouldn’t have interfered with the scholarships. “In the light most favorable to DMVA, they’re incompetent for waiting four months to disburse any of the $9.19 million in scholarship funds they had sitting in their account since July,” Britt said in a news release.
Budget sparring: The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is in need of more money to provide at-home care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Currently, 12,000 people are on a waitlist for the program. Senate Republicans have pointed out that money for 1,000 additional waiver slots are in the budget Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed in June. “Governor Cooper’s own administration is begging for the budget that Governor Cooper vetoed,” Senate Republicans wrote in a news release. “His single-issue ultimatum is harming the people he’s supposed to represent, and harming the credibility of his own staff.”
Ballot order: The N.C. State Board of Elections will determine the ballot order for the 2020 primary and general elections 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20. Candidate filing ends at noon on the same day. Determining the ballot order is a multi-step process. First, NCSBE officials will randomly pick a letter of the alphabet. Candidates whose name starts with the selected letter will appear first on the ballot. Then, a coin toss will be held to determine whether the ballot order will be in alphabetical or reverse-alphabetical order starting with the selected letter. NCSBE will stream the ballot selection process on its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NCSBE/.
Read to Achieve: State Superintendent Mark Johnson has alleged that more than 70,000 students were improperly promoted under the state’s K-3 reading program: Read to Achieve. Johnson blamed the State Board of Education for allowing thousands of students to be promoted to the fourth grade, even though their reading scores weren’t in line with Read to Achieve requirements. “Read to Achieve specifically directed the State Board of Education to end social promotion of third-graders — promoting students from one grade level to the next on the basis of age rather than academic ability. Sadly, the State Board’s policy aggressively avoided that directive,” Johnson said in a memo. Eric Davis, chairman of the State Board of Education, denied the claims. “The State Board of Education has made improving reading proficiency for all North Carolina students by the end of third grade one of its top priorities,” Davis said in a statement obtained by the News & Observer.
Linda Johnson: Rep. Linda Johnson, R-Cabarrus, will not seek re-election in 2020. The senior chairman of the House Appropriations committee announced in a Dec. 19 news release her plans not to seek an 11th term. “Representing the people of North Carolina House District 82 is a great honor and a privilege I take very seriously,” Johnson said in a news release. “I am very proud of the work that we have done to ensure North Carolina remains the best place in the world to live, play, raise a family, and start a business.” Johnson also serves as a vice chairman of the House Appropriations/Education committee and as chairman of the House Education K-12 committee. Johnson has endorsed Parish Moffitt, a member of her staff, in the race to fill the open seat.
Coding grants: Fifteen school districts and schools will have more money to partner with local businesses to develop computer science, coding and mobile app development programs for middle and high school students. State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced Dec. 19 the winners of the Coding and Mobile App Development Grant Program. Grants range from $7,300 to $80,000. “This innovative program is providing North Carolina students the opportunity to learn computer science, coding and mobile app development to help them gain key skills in high demand in the 21st century economy,” Johnson said in a news release. “The focus is on empowering students to create and contribute – not just use and consume – in the digital economy and to actively engage as informed citizens in our complex, technology-driven world.”