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 this week’s review:
School choice: U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5th District, took to the House floor to praise school choice on Jan. 27. Foxx, who is the senior Republican on the House Committee on Education and Labor, pointed to the thousands of school choice events happening in North Carolina for National School Choice Week, which runs Jan. 26 to Feb. 1. “Unfortunately, the media continues to conjure up misleading claims about school choice, and it’s time we corrected the record, Foxx said. “School choice is not about picking winners and losers, it’s about letting families choose the educational options that meet the unique needs of their children.”
Debt report: Gov. Roy Cooper touted a new Debt Affordability Advisory Committee report as evidence the state should issue school construction bonds. Not so fast, said State Treasurer Dale Folwell. “The report’s increase in debt capacity is more related to a change in methodology than any real change in the state’s ability to issue debt,” Folwell said in a news release. Just because the state has a higher borrowing ability doesn’t mean it should borrow more, Folwell said.
Bolton visit: John Bolton, President Trump’s former national security adviser, is coming to Duke University Feb. 17 to speak about national security concerns. Bolton’s talk is part of the Spring 2020 Ambassador Dave & Kay Phillips Family International Lecture. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Page Auditorium on Duke’s campus. Peter Feaver, director of American Grand Strategy and professor of political science and public policy at Duke, will interview Bolton.
Istation contract: State Chief Information Officer Eric Boyette canceled State Superintendent Mark Johnson’s emergency purchase of Istation because Johnson didn’t seek approval from the Department of Information Technology before going forward with the contract. Boyette directed the Department of Public Instruction to issue a new emergency contract. The emergency contract allows schools to continue to use Istation to assess students’ reading while a contract dispute between Istation and its competitor, Amplify, is ongoing. Like the old emergency contract, the new emergency contract runs until March 31 and costs $928,570.
Teacher turnover: The annual State of the Teaching Profession report found 7.5% of teachers left the profession in the 2018-19 school year, continuing a downward trend from 8.1% and 8.7% in previous years. Of the 94,672 North Carolina teachers, 7,115 left in the 2018-19 school year. A little over 60% left for personal reasons. The higher retention is the result of consecutive teacher pay raises, Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said in a news release. Berger took a swipe at Gov. Roy Cooper for vetoing the budget, which included an average 3.9% pay raise over the biennium. “Teachers should have already received their sixth and seventh consecutive pay raises, but Governor Cooper vetoed that stand-alone pay raise bill,” Berger said.
Silent Sam: The judge who oversaw the Silent Sam deal between the University of North Carolina System’s Board of Governors and the Sons of Confederate Veterans was chatting with UNC’s attorney before the SCV’s lawsuit was filed Nov. 27, shows a report from WBTV. A public records request for text messages peeled away yet another layer of secrecy surrounding an agreement that has riled people around the state. Messages show Judge Allen Baddour and attorney Ripley Rand — who formerly were law school classmates — had at least three phone conversations about the Confederate statue that formerly stood on UNC Chapel Hill’s campus. The records also indicate Baddour and Rand met twice in person before the lawsuit was hastily brought to court the day before Thanksgiving. Baddour approved the settlement an hour after it was filed.
CJ Assistant Managing Editor Kari Travis contributed to this report.