News: CJ Exclusives

CJ politics week in review, Jan. 20-24

Each week, staff at Carolina Journal looks back at the week in N.C. politics and chooses several interesting, relevant stories you may have missed. Here’s a week in review:

New CEO: Amy O. Cooke has joined the John Locke Foundation as its new CEO. Cooke is also the new publisher of Carolina Journal. Before joining JLF, Cooke was executive vice president of the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Colorado. John Hood, who chairs the John Locke Foundation board of directors, said, “Amy is a strong, creative leader committed to expanding the John Locke Foundation’s influence and effectiveness — and to expanding freedom in North Carolina.” 

Istation v Amplify: The K-3 reading contract dispute between two competing vendors won’t be resolved any time soon. Amplify, which lost the bid to provide the state with a reading assessment tool, challenged the Department of Public Instruction’s decision to grant the award to Istation. The dispute has been playing out in an administrative hearing with the Department of Information Technology. Jonathan Shaw, the DIT hearing officer overseeing the case, wants the parties to send him proposed decisions in the next five weeks before he sends his recommendation to DIT Secretary Eric Boyette, EdNC reported. 

Leandro commission: Gov. Roy Cooper’s education commission met Jan. 23 to finalize recommendations for how the state could comply with Leandro, a decades-old education funding lawsuit. The Commission on Access to a Sound Basic Education formally adopted its report after hearing from WestEd, an education consulting group the court tasked with overseeing ways the state could meet the tenets of Leandro. The commission report bears several similarities to the WestEd report, including calling for an increase in public education funding and expanding the state’s early education programs. 

NCAE survey: The N.C. Association of Educators is floating the possibility of a statewide teacher strike over pay raises and Medicaid expansion, but its board rejected the idea for now. “Last night, the NCAE Board of Directors met to consider options. The Board has decided not to authorize any statewide action at this time,” Mark Jewell, NCAE president, said in a news release. The plan is to wait for responses from a NCAE member survey to gauge support for various actions, including a walk-out, Jewell said. “The NCAE board of directors’ announcement is a surprisingly bold rebuke of the few dozen activist members who want to make their strike fantasies a reality,” said Terry Stoops, vice president of research and director of education studies at the John Locke Foundation. 

Roanoke-Chowan probation: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges placed Roanoke-Chowan Community College on another six-month-long probation in December. The accrediting board said the school still fails to comply with three standards: 1) “The institution’s governing board ensures a clear and appropriate distinction between the policy-making function of the board and the responsibility of the administration and faculty to administer and implement policy,” 2) “The institution’s chief executive officer has ultimate responsibility for, and exercises appropriate control over the institution’s educational, administrative, and fiscal programs and services,” 3) “The institution publishes and implements policies regarding the appointment, employment, and regular evaluation of non-faculty personnel.” Besides accreditation challenges, the school has cycled through four presidents between 2012 and 2017 and is currently led by Interim President Audre Levy. “I have a feeling we will in fact get past the SACSCOC successfully,” said board member William Holder, who chairs an advisory board that is working with the college. “But the presidency, in my opinion, is the bigger challenge for the school.”

Redistricting: The three-judge panel in the state’s legislative redistricting case Common Cause v. Lewis released an order Jan. 22 explaining in detail how the legislature’s remedial maps comply with the Federal Voting Rights Act. Although the court ruled Oct. 28 that the maps were compliant, the supplementing order was filed in response to the plaintiff’s request. The court also ordered Republican defendants, who lost the case, to pay plaintiff Common Cause a total of $102,343.89 in damages. That includes $69,027.25 for deposition costs and expert witness fees, and $33,316.64 for fees and expenses of Stanford Law School Professor Nathaniel Persily, who was appointed by the court to referee the remedial maps. 

CJ staff writer Brooke Conrad contributed to this story.