News: CJ Exclusives

CJ politics week in review, Sept. 14-18

Peter Hans, president of the UNC System. (UNC-TV image)
Peter Hans, president of the UNC System. (UNC-TV image)

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.

Falling behind: Senate Republicans are touting a study from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that says students will fall further behind if schools offer only remote learning. An average student who can’t attend classes in person might see 3% lower career earnings unless schools immediately return to pre-COVID learning arrangements. Disadvantaged students likely will lose more, the study found. School closures might cause the nation’s gross domestic product to drop by 1.5% through the rest of the century, the study concludes. “This study backs up what we’ve been hearing anecdotally — long-term school closures are hurting our students, especially students that are already disadvantaged,” Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Watagua, said in a news release. Gov. Roy Cooper needs to provide parents the option of full-time in-person instruction, she said. Cooper said Thursday, Sept. 17, school districts can allow K-5 students to return to school as early as Oct. 5, but children in higher grades still face at least part-time remote learning indefinitely. 

Record enrollment: Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, the University of North Carolina system saw record-high enrollment. UNC’s enrollment grew from 239,981 students in 2019 to 242,464 students in 2020 — a 1% increase. Undergraduate enrollment rose by 0.2%, graduate enrollment jumped 4%. UNC System President Peter Hans called the enrollment growth remarkable. “It reflects the determination of our students, the dedication of our faculty and staff, and the enduring value of public higher education,” Hans said in a news release. “Every one of those students is making a critical investment in their own future and in the future of our state.” 

Chancellor search: UNC President Hans will have more power to pick chancellors for the system’s schools. The UNC Board of Governors at its Sept. 17 meeting changed the chancellor selection process. Before, the board of trustees for each campus held a search and sent a list of finalists to the system president, who could reject the finalists and force a new search. Now, the president will add a candidate, who must be a finalist. Critics say the change would give the president too much influence, perhaps filling openings with friends or political allies. But Hans said he has every incentive to work with campuses. Some board members objected, saying candidates who weren’t cozy with the president might not let themselves be considered for an opening. BOG member Art Pope, along with members Leo Daughtry, Steve Long, and Dwight Stone, voted against the proposal. The change won’t affect current searches at East Carolina University or Fayetteville State University. 

School choice satisfaction: Parents overwhelmingly support North Carolina’s school choice programs, a new report from EdChoice found. EdChoice surveyed 1,261 N.C. parents who had at least one child in a K-12 grade in the past two school years. More than 80% of parents using the Education Savings Account or the Opportunity Scholarships were satisfied with the programs. The ESA and OSP parents tended to be more involved in their child’s education at home compared to traditional public school parents and are more likely to volunteer at their child’s school, the report found. A safe environment was the top factor for ESA parents when choosing a school, while OSP parents said academics was the most influential factor. 

Stadium games: Parents of college football players can watch their children play after Gov. Roy Cooper reversed course on his decision barring parents from attending games. The reversal comes a day after parents of N.C. State University football players delivered a petition to the Cooper administration, asking why they can’t watch a game in a massive outdoor stadium where social distancing would be easy. N.C. State is set to play Wake Forest on Sept. 19 at Carter-Finley Stadium. The stadium seats about 57,500 people. Cooper will let parents attend the game if they wear face masks and practice social distancing. Each N.C. State player will get two tickets. Wake Forest will get 100 tickets.