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Goodnight bemoans state budget

Back in October, state Sen. Phil Berger raised more than $300,000 at a fundraiser at the Cary home of Jim and Ann Goodnight of SAS. Dome is thinking that Ann Goodnight, at least, may be regretting that decision.

In a letter to the editor in Tuesday's N&O, she laments the legislature's "glaring lack of support for education."

She calls the state budget "an embarrassment in its lack of investment in the skills and competititiveness of its people. This is a grievous mistake."

Berger rakes in $$$ at Goodnights'

Senate leader Phil Berger pulled in more than $300,000 at a fundraiser at the Cary home of Jim and Ann Goodnight of SAS on Tuesday, the state Senate Republican caucus reports. 

Berger, a Republican from Eden, had received close to $1 million in campaign contributions at the end of June, the latest reporting period. A little more than one-third of that amount came from political action committees.

Legislators urge strict review of proposed contracts

Legislators want a new look at how the state reviews and approves contracts after a state audit of four Health and Human Services contracts found problems with three of them.

Contracts with IBM, SAS and Public Consulting Group, which provide computer software or services to identify Medicaid provider fraud, recipient fraud, or provider overpayments, had problems, the audit found.

Legislators  said Wednesday they didn't like the terms of the initial contract with IBM, which paid the company based a percentage of Medicaid payments that the software indicated were improper and should be recovered.

Jeb Bush to visit Raleigh Nov. 1, doesn't 'anticipate' White House run

Jeb Bush, the former Governor of Florida and a vocal advocate of education reform, will be one of the keynote speakers at a November education forum in Raleigh.

The visit would be even more noteworthy if Bush becomes a GOP presidential contender. While Bush has said he's not interested in joining the crowded GOP field in the 2012 election, he sparked some buzz on Friday as a guest on Sean Hannity's Fox News show.

An audience member asked Bush whether he would consider running. Bush responded that he doesn't "anticipate" it.

"You never say never, but I never rule out being on Dancing with the Stars either," he said. "The 8-ball that I have on my desk — that I used to make the big decisions when I was governor — says ‘outlook not so good.’”

Bush is part of the lineup for the invitation-only "Building a Culture of Innovation Through Education," sponsored by SAS, N.C. State and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce.

House approves bill that expands use of school diagnostic software

The House approved a bill Tuesday that requires the state's schools to use a software tool to help diagnose students' progress.

The state has already made the system, called the Education Value Added Assessment System or EVAAS, available to schools. The bill now requires districts to use it or an equivalent program. The state and not local districts will pay for the software, which is owned by SAS. The House budget included $1 million for expanding the system.

Supporters say the system works and has shown improvements in student performance. Schools are already required to incorporate data and diagnostic systems in their improvement plans.

State Rep. Bryan Holloway, a King Republican and a former teacher, said he objected to forcing school systems to use the software.

"Now we as a state legislature are going to tell our superintendents, many of them have PhDs, our principals who have master's degrees, how they have to implement their school improvement plans?" he asked. "Someone has got to type that data in. Someone has to enter that data. I imagine it's going to be passed off to the teachers. They're not going to be thrilled to find out they have another duty added to their vast plate."

The bill passed the House 94 to 19 and now goes to the Senate.

UPDATE: SAS says the software does not require any extra work for teachers.

SAS applies its analysis to standardized test scores supplied by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, said spokesman Trent Smith.

Huckabee scheduled for SAS conference

Likely presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is coming to the Triangle to speak at conference sponsored by SAS, the software company.

Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, will give a speech April 22nd at the SAS Health Care & Life Sciences Executive Conference, Rob Christensen reports.

The Republican surprised many with a strong showing in the GOP presidential primary in 2008, and is widely expected to run again in 2012.  He is the host of Huckbee on the Fox News Channel.

Eight lawmakers headed to Singapore

Eight legislators and a handful of state education officials are headed to Singapore in about a week to see what that country does right in math and science education.

The trip will be the second delegation to Singapore in the ten years that the Public School Forum of North Carolina and UNC’s Center for International Understanding have been sending lawmakers and policy shapers to look at other country’s schools, Mark Johnson reports.

The last three trips: Ireland, China and, now, Singapore, have all focused on nations where education and economic development are closely aligned, said John Dornan, the forum’s president.

"Out of nine countries we’ve not seen anybody do what Singapore has done," Dornan said.

Students in Singapore consistently score among the best students in the world in math and science.

The lawmakers headed overseas are Reps. Marvin Lucas of Cumberland county; Tricia Cotham of Charlotte; Tim Moore of Cleveland County; Earline Parmon of Winston-Salem and Sens. Debbie Clary of Cleveland County; John Snow of Cherokee County; Bob Atwater of Chatham County and Ed Jones of Halifax County.

State school board Chairman Bill Harrison and Scott Rawls, president of the N.C. Community College System also are going.

The trip is being funded primarily by a grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund with additional money from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline and SAS. A Glaxo official is joining the trip.

SAS has no inside track

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan specifically mentioned Cary-based SAS as a company that could provide the federal government with software designed to prevent health care fraud.

Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, said the company doesn't have an inside track on getting a federal contract. She said she was using the company as an example.

"I only say SAS because they happened to share some of this information with me. Obviously being from North Carolina I had an opportunity to discuss this with them," Hagan told reporters in a conference call Wednesday. "This is not something in particular that we're doing on their behalf."

SAS has been the go-to reference for N.C. politicians pitching anti-fraud software. In 2003, Republican Sen. Robert Pittenger mentioned the company by name in a bill that sought to purchase software for the state.

As we've previously noted, Hagan received $4,000 in contributions from SAS CEO Jim Goodnight and his wife Ann Goodnight.

Fraud bill died in Hagan's committee

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan said from the Senate floor Tuesday that software could prevent billions in Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

It was part of a package of amendments Senate freshman advanced that were meant to lower health care costs by eliminating fraud, abuse and waste.

In 2003, a similar bill that would have purchased the same type of software for the state died in a powerful state Senate committee co-chaired by Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat.

Hagan said she doesn't specifically remember the bill. A spokesman said the software Hagan is advocating now is more advanced than the products available in 2003.

Stam pitched anti-fraud software

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan says the nation needs software to prevent health care fraud.

The pitch by Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, is probably going to make state Rep. Paul Stam mutter something about already telling us so.

Stam, an Apex Republican and House minority leader, filed a bill last session that would, you guessed it, require the state to implement software meant to catch Medicaid fraud.

Stam told reporters in March that $100 million worth of software could save $100 million in fraud every year. Stam's bill, which was co-sponsored by 10 House Republicans, stalled in the Democratic-controlled appropriations committee.

Stam's bill doesn't specifically mention SAS, which Hagan says has created suitable.

A quick check of campaign finance records shows that Stam has not received any contributions from SAS CEO Jim Goodnight or his wife, Ann Goodnight. Hagan received $4,000 from the pair in her campaign for her Senate seat, according to federal election records.

Update: Stam's proposal was included in the state budget.  

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