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Teachers group pushes for DHHS salary investigation

The North Carolina Association of Educators called for an investigation Tuesday into raises granted Gov. Pat McCrory’s former campaign aides after the governor called for a freeze on wage hikes.

It’s the legislature’s job to examine “the glaring scandal over taxpayer-funded pay raises,’ said NCAE President Rodney Ellis at a news conference Tuesday morning outside the Legislative Building.

Public attention has focused on two 24-year-old McCrory campaign staffers, Ricky Diaz and Matt McKillip, who went on to work at the state Department of Heath and Human Services for salaries of $85,000 and $87,500.

McCrory has used cost overruns in Medicaid to explain why teachers did not get raises this year, Ellis said, yet the same agency that runs Medicaid is “granting huge raises for the politically connected.”

Morning Memo: Lawmakers return for overrides; elections board hears appeals

Lawmakers return to Raleigh on Tuesday to consider overriding vetoes of two immigration and drug-testing-for-welfare-recipients bills. House Republican leaders may think they have enough votes, but Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has been fighting to the end to sway them, using new media to get his points across and relying on old-fashioned endorsements.

The governor isn't the only one using the veto-session to highlight legislative issues. ***Get more on it all below in today's Dome Morning Memo, along with a holiday weekend news roundup.***

Morning Memo: New poll gives Hagan the edge; Hillary Clinton bashes NC voter law

U.S. SENATE POLL: Politico is offering a sneak peek at the latest U.S. Senate poll numbers in North Carolina this morning. Public Policy Polling shows Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan with an eight-point edge in hypothetical matchups against Republicans Thom Tillis and Phil Berger. Both legislative leaders, along with other possible candidates, have negative approval ratings with many voters still not sure what to think. The margin of error is 4 percentage points. Look for more numbers from PPP when the poll is released later today.

VOTER ID, ELECTIONS BILL SIGNED: The implications of Gov. Pat McCrory's signature on the elections bill that requires a voter ID at the polls is far-reaching -- and so is the coverage. Get a round up below -- including Hillary Clinton's comments on the bill, a new PPP poll showing it unfavorable and more. Also, a story from Boone shows Republicans taking over local elections boards will likewise mean major changes.

***The Dome Morning Memo continues below. Thanks for reading.***

Groups fight over a nonexistent lawsuit

The N.C. Association of Educators is threatening to sue over the voucher provisions in the state budget.

The budget includes $10 million to spend next year to pay private school tuition beginning in the 2014-15 school year for children from families that meet income limits.

There's no voucher program yet, and no lawsuit. But that' hasn't stopped the cross-talk between NCAE and voucher proponent Parents for Educational Freedom that's come in the form of letters to legislators.

NCAE President Rodney Ellis sent legislators a letter Monday saying the NCAE would "immediately pursue legal challenges" against "the constitutionality of taxpayer dollars to be used for private and for-profit schools."

Darrell Allision, president of Parents for Educational Freedom, responded with his own letter to legislators dated Wednesday calling the lawsuit threat "misguided at best."

Politicians, advocates react strongly to GOP budget plan

The Republican-crafted $20.6 billion state budget is eliciting strong reactions from across the North Carolina political spectrum. Much of it focuses on the education funding changes. One person yet to respond: Gov. Pat McCrory. But in the meantime, check out a roundup of statements below.

--Senate Democratic Leader Martin Nesbitt: “With this budget and last week’s tax bill, we can clearly see the Republican agenda: hoarding power in Raleigh and cutting vital services to the middle class in order to pay for massive handouts to the wealthiest 1% and out-of-state corporations. This is ‘big-government’ conservatism that prioritizes power over people and special interests and the super-wealthy over middle class families."

NCAE wins suit on law banning payroll dues deduction

A Wake County Superior Court Judge has thrown out a law banning payroll deduction for members of the N.C. Association of Educators.

Judge Paul Gessner held that dues deduction law "is permanently enjoined because it constitutes retaliatory viewpoint discrimination'' in violation of the Free Speech Clause of the state Constitution.

The measure was passed in a controversial post mid-night session last January by the Republican-controlled legislature after leaders made threats against the NCAE, which had backed Democratic candidates in the previous election.

NCAE to lobby Hagan, congressmen on fiscal cliff negotiations

A state teachers union representative will visit members of North Carolina's congressional delegation as part of an effort to avoid cuts to education spending and to advocate for an end to tax breaks given to the wealthy as negotiations over how to address the so-called fiscal cliff are lingering.

Mark Jewell, vice president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, will meet on Wednesday with Sen. Kay Hagan and Reps. G.K. Butterfield and Larry Kissell – all Democrats – to deliver a simple message: "The state budget for education has grown tighter, and the federal government has had to pick up," he said. "There's nothing left to cut outside of the classroom."

Jewell said he supports the Democratic push for tax breaks given to the wealthy to expire, saying that it's "time for everyone to pay their fair share to help public education."

The National Education Association, of which NCAE is a member, estimates the effects to North Carolina would be harsh:

  • $33.5 million in cuts, affecting nearly 45,000 low-income students;
     
  • $26.8 million in cuts, affecting nearly 14,000 students with special needs;
     
  • $14.1 million in cuts, denying nearly 1,700 the proven benefits of Head Start.

Jewell said those cuts specifically would be realized through federal funding provided to schools in low-income communities, programs for children with disabilities, and the Head Start Program.

NCAE backs McIntyre in 7th District race

The North Carolina Association of Educators is backing Rep. Mike McIntyre in the hotly-contested race to represent the state's 7th Congressional District.

McCrory not backing down from support of controversial charter school

The N.C. teachers association is hitting Republican Pat McCrory for his support of a  charter school company being investigated in Florida for using uncertified teachers and asking school employees to hide the practice.

The company under fire is K12 Inc, a for-profit, publicly traded company. Earlier this year, McCrory singled out a school being proposed by the company during a speech in Asheboro. “I am a firm believer in competition and support charter schools," McCrory said, according to local reports. "I am supporting a virtual charter school in Concord."

K12 Inc. is facing national scrutiny and lawsuits about its educational rigor, the most recent being an inquiry launched earlier this month in Florida after documents showed that company officials asked teachers to take credit for classes and students that they didn't teach.

Given the questions, is McCrory reconsidering his support for the school? A spokesman for the gubernatorial candidate said no.

Teachers union backs incumbents in Council of State races

North Carolina Association of Educators, a teachers union, has announced its support of six candidates in N.C. Council of State races in the upcoming election.

A release by NCAE announced that four Democrats and two Republicans won the union's support, but everyone selected is an incumbent.

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