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:
ReConnect pilot program: Columbus County will get a $7.9 million ReConnect Pilot Program grant to help expand high-speed internet. Gov. Roy Cooper made the announcement Thursday, Dec.12. “High-speed internet shouldn’t be a luxury, but a necessity, and the digital divide creates real challenges in communities across North Carolina,” Cooper said in a news release. Through the pilot program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest in Atlantic Telephone Membership Corporation to connect more than 4,000 homes, businesses, and education buildings in Columbus County. Critics of subsidized broadband argue communities nationwide are losing millions on the projects. Last year, Salisbury voted to lease its city internet service Fibrant to Hotwire Communications. At the time, the city was losing about $3 million a year to operate the network. Another government-owned network, MI-Connection, which services Mooresville and Davidson, has seen annual operational deficits of $6 million.
National board certified teachers: North Carolina continues to have the most teachers certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in the country. The Tar Heel State has 18% of the country’s nationally board certified teachers, with 22,653 teachers holding the certification this year. Wake County Public Schools has the most credentialed teachers in the nation. Obtaining the certification is completely voluntary, but teachers who earn the credential receive a 12% salary supplement to their regular pay.
Diverse teacher task force: A new task force is coming to North Carolina to increase diversity and inclusion in the educational field. Cooper signed Executive Order 113 on Tuesday, Dec. 10, to create a task force to develop ways to recruit, retain, develop, and support more educators of color. The 15-member task force will include teachers, parents, education advocates, lawmakers, higher education representatives, and other key stakeholders.
Jobs champion: The N.C. Chamber has named several lawmakers as “Jobs champions” based on their voting records. N.C. Chamber is a non-partisan business advocacy group focused on economic growth and job creation. The group looked at legislators’ voting record on 38 bills. While some of the bills were pro-jobs, N.C. Chamber considered 13 of the bills to be anti-jobs. A legislator who scored 80% or higher is considered a “Jobs champion.” Sen. Andy Wells, R-Catawba; Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson; and Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, all received high marks. Rep. Kelly Hastings, R-Gaston, was the only lawmaker to receive a perfect score.
Farm Bureau president: The N.C. Farm Bureau has a new president. Shawn Harding, a Beaufort county farmer, was selected to replace longtime President Larry Wooten, who has held the position since 1999. “The opportunity to lead North Carolina Farm Bureau is the only thing that could make me leave the farm, and it’s an honor to be chosen by my peers to serve as president,” Harding said in a news release. Before becoming new farm bureau president, Harding served as president of the Beaufort County Farm Bureau and chairman of the N.C. Farm Bureau Resolutions Committee.
Superintendent race: Two Republicans have officially announced their candidacy for state superintendent — Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, and Catherine Truitt, chancellor of Western Governor University. The two have long speculated a run but were waiting for current State Superintendent Mark Johnson to decide about whether he would run for re-election. Johnson announced that he’s running for lieutenant governor.