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State Board of Ed talks about "flat pathetic" teacher pay

State Board of Education member John Tate wants the board to back a resolution to bring teacher pay in the state to the national average.

Tate sprung his proposal on the board this week, calling teacher pay "flat pathetic." Teachers and state employees received one 1.2 percent raise in the last five years.

After years of concerted efforts to raise teacher to the national average, North Carolina was ranked 25th in 2008 by the National Education Association. The state has slipped since then, and is close to the bottom of national rankings.

"I feel like we have to send a message to our teachers as soon as possible," Tate said.

Joking about the school naming fight in Wake County

The controversy over the Wake County school board renaming West Apex High School as Apex Friendship High School made its way into today’s State Board of Education meeting.

It came up because an applicant seeking permission to open in 2014 wants to be called West Charlotte Charter High School. Some state board members were concerned that it might be confusing to parents because there’s an existing school called West Charlotte High School.

As board members talked about requiring the charter applicant to get a name change, State Board Chairman Bill Cobey noted how he had been reading in newspapers about a fight over school names. While he didn’t bring up Wake by name, there was no doubt about what he was discussing.

“Let’s not go to naming schools, please,” Cobey said to laughs from the crowd.

N.C. Public Charter Schools Association opposes separate charter board

The N.C. Public Charter Schools Association board of advisors is adding its voice to the chorus opposing creation of a governing board for charter schools separate from the State Board of Education.

State Board Chairman Bill Cobey, one of Gov. Pat McCrory's appointees, says he doesn't want a separate board and questioned its constitutionality. Senate Bill 337 passed the Senate largely along party lines, with Democrats opposed, and now sits in the House.

The bill would set up a charter school board to review and accept charter applications and make sure the schools comply with standards. The State Board of Education could overrule charter board decisions by a three-fourths vote.

The State Board has a charter advisory board that reviews applications and makes recommendations, but the State Board has the last word.

The association appears to be changing its position on the special board. The email Monday announcing the advisors' vote said "The Association had said it initially supported…."

And on April 3, the association sent out a press release thanking the bill sponsors, praising the legislation, and detailing more changes the association wanted.

But association executive director Eddie Goodall said the association never supported a separate charter board. "I don't think I was saying that," Goodall said. "It might have looked like that."

Senate passes bill creating charter school board

The state Senate passed a bill creating a separate regulatory board for charter schools by a vote of 32-17.

The charter school board would be responsible for handing out new charters and shutting down inadequate schools, diluting the State Board of Education's powers. State Board Chairman Bill Cobey opposes the bill and questions its constitutionality.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, an Archdale Republican and the bill's sponsor, said charters give parents choice. "When you have a choice, the free market works," he said.

Democrats said Republicans were over reaching.

"Keep this up and you're going to destroy the very thing you're trying to promote," said Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt, an Asheville Democrat.

The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

Bill Cobey to lead state education board

Former congressman Bill Cobey was elected chairman of the State Board of Education on Wednesday.

Cobey replaces Bill Harrison, a former school district superintendent who left the board earlier this year after his term expired.

R.L. "Buddy" Collins of Forsyth County was elected vice president. Equality NC, a gay advocacy group, tried to get Gov. Pat McCrory to withdraw Collins' appointment.

Cobey is a former chairman of the state Republican Party. He was sworn in as a board of education member along with five other McCrory appointees.

McCrory nominates three to state Education board

Former congressman and former GOP state chairman William Cobey is one of Gov. Pat McCrory's nominees to the State Board of Education.

The legislature plans to move quickly to approve the nominees before the State Board of Education meeting next week, at the governor's request. A joint session may come Monday or Tuesday, House Speaker Thom Tillis said.

McCrory nominated Cobey to an at-large seat.

Rebecca Taylor was nominated to fill the 1st district seat, replacing Jean Woolard. Taylor has worked in education for more than 35 years. She is a former special education teacher and now owns and operates Sylvan Learning Centers in eastern North Carolina.

Gregory Alcorn was nominated to fill the 7th district seat.

All three nominees' terms expire March 31,2019. Terms have expired for three current board members, including Chairman Bill Harrison.

Pat McCrory's closest transition advisors include big GOP donors, politicos

Pat McCrory's transition office released a list of top advisors consulting for the governor-elect as part of his working groups -- a list filled with prominent GOP donors and politicos.

Among the names: Bill Cobey, the former GOP chairman, is consulting on administrative matters; Fred Smith, a former state senator and developer, is consulting on environmental issues; and Les Merritt, a member of the state ethics board and former state auditor, is consulting on tax reform. (See full list below.)

The names are likely to reflect many that will work in McCrory's administration but don't represent all offering advice to the incoming Republican governor, the transition office acknowledged. Others are giving informal suggestions in conference calls and meetings but are not listed.

One glaring omission is the lack of leaders on two major topics McCrory promised to accomplish in the campaign: education and government transformation. A McCrory aide said the groups will commence after the Jobs and Economy team finishes their work, given their relation to each other.

Former NC GOP chiefs back Forest for Lt. Gov.

Dan Forest, a Republican candidate for the lieutenant governor nomination, announced he has support from two former state GOP chairmen, Bill Cobey and Linda Daves.

Cobey was chairman from 1999-2003, and Daves was chairwoman from 2006-2009.

"I proudly support Dan Forest for Lt. Governor," Daves said in a statement. "He is the face of the new generation of conservative leaders who our party so badly needs to energize our base and lead us to victory in November."

Rep. Dale Folwell of Winston-Salem and Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley are also seeking the nomination.

Quick Hits

* U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, former N.C. GOP chairman Bill Cobey have endorsed Tom Fetzer for state chairman.

* Readers of The Washington Post's Fix blog name Under the Dome, BlueNC as the best political blogs in North Carolina.

* New data from South Now: 44 percent of North Carolinians are moderate, 37 percent conservative and 17 percent liberal.

* Due to budget cutbacks, Charlotte Observer reporter Lisa Zagaroli no longer works for the McClatchy D.C. bureau. Dome wishes her well. 

What does the Environment Secretary do?

Oversees programs regulating water and air quality and protecting wildlife, wilderness and coastal areas.

Oversees programs regulating water and air quality and protecting wildlife, wilderness and coastal areas.

As head of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the governor-appointed secretary supervises state programs protecting the environment, managing state parks and forests and educating the public on natural resources.

It is one of 10 Cabinet-level positions appointed by the governor to head state agencies.

It is one of the major agencies, with 3,505 employees and a $329.8 million budget in 2007-08. The secretary's salary was $120,363 in the 2008-09 budget.

Howard Lee, who served as secretary from 1977 to 1981, was the first black head of the department and first black Cabinet appointee in North Carolina. The longest-serving secretary since 1971 has been Bill Ross, who led the department from 2001 through the end of Gov. Mike Easley's administration in 2008.

Two Republicans who served in the position, George Little and Bill Cobey, ran unsuccessfully for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2004.

The department has gone through substantial changes over the years.

In 1823, the N.C. Geological Survey was formed. In 1905, it was expanded and renamed the N.C. Geological and Economic Survey, the forerunner to the modern department.

A restructuring of Cabinet agencies in 1971 put most of the environmental functions under the N.C. Department of Natural and Economic Resources. In 1977, it was retitled the Department of Natural Resources and Community Development.

In 1989, the legislature combined parts of the N.C. Department of Natural Resources and Community Development and the N.C. Department of Human Resources into the N.C. Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources.

In 1997, health services were transferred back to the reorganized Department of Health and Human Services and the department was given its current name.

The department is outlined in general statutes under Article 7 of G.S. 143B.

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