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Morning Memo: McCrory closes Latino outreach office

North Carolina’s Latino advocates are voicing alarm following the governor’s decision to eliminate the state’s office for Latino affairs. The closing of the Office of Hispanic/Latino affairs was sudden and caught many by surprise. The move appears to have exacerbated the already tense relationship between Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the Latino community, including criticism over a driver’s license plan for young immigrants.

Advocates says it sends a message that McCrory and Raleigh conservatives are less concerned with the needs of the Latino community. Paradoxically, it comes at a time when issues of deep concerns, like immigration, are at the political forefront and Republicans nationally are trying to appear more welcoming to Latinos.

***Thanks for reading the Good Friday edition of the Dome Morning Memo. Send tips and news to dome@newsobserver.com. More on the Latino office and other big headlines below.***

Morning Memo: McCrory, Foxx square off as legislature takes fast track

UPDATED: IS IT MAYOR PAT OR GOVERNOR PAT? Gov. Pat McCrory told two city of Charlotte staff members this week that state money for the light-rail extension to UNC Charlotte could be at risk if the city builds a controversial streetcar, according to a memo sent Thursday. Without the N.C. Department of Transportation’s $250 million grant, the $1.1 billion Lynx Blue Line extension can’t be built. As Charlotte mayor, McCrory, a Republican, championed light rail, which was one of his signature accomplishments. But he vehemently disagrees with using city property tax dollars to build a streetcar, and used the meeting in Raleigh to relay a message to City Council, according to the memo.

FOXX 'OUTRAGED' OVER WHAT HE CALLS A THREAT: “It’s particularly alarming that he would choose to deliver messages to city staff, particularly messages that contain threats," said Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, a Democrat and potential challenger to McCrory in 2016. “He is governor of the state, and there are a host of issues – tax reform, health care. Why the governor would choose to place focus on a transit project, particularly one contained in a transit plan that he voted to implement makes no sense,” Foxx said.

***This is the Dome Morning Memo a tipsheet on N.C. politics. Click "Read More" for other headlines and news.***

McCrory won't apologize, rejects he demeaned liberal arts

Gov. Pat McCrory bristled Thursday when asked about his recent inflammatory comments regarding liberal arts courses in higher education. "I never mentioned liberal arts in a negative way," McCrory asserted.

But just two days before, the Republican governor told a conservative radio talk show Tuesday that he is drafting legislation to shift education funding toward career-oriented fields and away from academic pursuits “that have no chance of getting people jobs.”

"If you want to take gender studies that’s fine, go to a private school and take it," McCrory told talk show host Bill Bennett. 'But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job."

A cacophony of students and professors reacted strongly, saying they felt insulted by the governor. The president of the UNC system responded, saying the universities should not be measured by jobs alone.

Asked about the reaction, McCrory refused to apologize and he declined to acknowledge his remarks on the radio.

Cartoon: McCrory as 'The Thinker'

Charlotte Observer cartoonist Kevin Siers casts Republican Gov. Pat McCrory as a headless 'Thinker' after his comments about higher education in North Carolina.

McCrory wants to revamp higher ed funding -- takes aim at UNC-Chapel Hill

UPDATED:Gov. Pat McCrory said he would propose legislation to overhaul the way higher education is funded in North Carolina, putting the emphasis on job creation not liberal arts and taking specific aim at the state's flagship university.

"I think some of the educational elite have taken over our education where we are offering courses that have no chance of getting people jobs," McCrory told conservative talk show host Bill Bennett, the former education secretary for President Ronald Reagan, during an interview Tuesday morning. (Listen to the audio here.

McCrory echoed a crack the radio show host made at gender studies courses at UNC-Chapel Hill, a top tier public university. "That's a subsidized course," McCrory said, picking up the argument. "If you want to take gender studies that's fine, go to a private school and take it. But I don't want to subsidize that if that's not going to get someone a job."

President Obama highlights North Carolina in his State of the Union address

UPDATED: In the State of the Union, President Barack Obama highlighted the achievements of Jackie Bray of Charlotte. The text is below:

"Jackie Bray is a single mom from North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic.  Then Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College.  The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training.  It paid Jackie’s tuition, then hired her to help operate their plant. I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity as Jackie did.  Join me in a national commitment to train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. ...Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, Orlando, and Louisville are up and running. Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers – places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing."

Thorp, college presidents meet with President Obama for tuition talk

UPDATED: President Barack Obama invited college leaders from across the country -- including UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp -- to the White House this morning for a meeting about the ever-rising cost of college tuition.

Thorp is one of three public university leaders invited, along with Freeman Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County and F. King Alexander, president of California State University at Long Beach, according to Insider Higher Ed. 

The rare meeting with the president, the publication reported, suggests renewed attention from the White House to the issue of college accessibility. The private meeting was scheduled on short notice.

The meeting comes just after UNC-CH trustees approved a sweeping plan to hike tuition next year by 16 percent for in-state students and 6.5 percent for out-of-state students. Thorp said the increase was necessary to accommodate cuts in state funding.

A university statement sent Monday afternoon added this: "Thorp was invited because of the White House’s interest in University programs including Carolina Counts, the campus-wide initiative to make campus operations more efficient; the Carolina Covenant, which provides a debt-free education to qualified low-income students; and the National College Advising Corps, which hires recent college graduates to serve as full-time college advisers in underserved high schools. The White House was aware of current discussions about proposed tuition increases."

Foxx bill loosens federal regulations on higher ed

Legislation to repeal new federal government regulations on higher education passed a House education committee Wednesday.

The bill, by U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Banner Elk Republican, would get rid of a federal requirement that states follow federal guidelines on which colleges and universities to allow to operate in the state. It also would eliminate a federal rule establishing a national standard for what defines a credit hour.

Foxx, a former community college president, said that faculty, universities and college accrediting organizations ought to be responsible for those decisions.

The bill passed the committee 27-11 with some bipartisan support. Its next step is a vote before the full House. The bill, HR 2117, is called “The Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act.”

UNC protesters reject plea deals

Charges against seven campus protesters will be heard in September after one had her case continued and the others rejected plea agreements this morning.

Haley Koch, a Morehead-Cain scholar, faces a charge of disturbing the peace for protesting former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo's speech April 14, Jesse DeConto reports.

Koch and another student held a banner in front of Riley Matheson, president of the campus chapter of Youth for Western Civilization, as he introduced Tancredo, a staunch opponent of mass immigration.

Her case and those of six other protesters in a second campus incident were scheduled for Orange County District Court this morning but will now be heard Sept. 14.

The other defendants protested at a speech by former U. S. Rep. Virgil Goode of Virginia, who also favors stricter immigration policies, April 22.

More after the jump.

Quick Hits

* The Appropriations subcommittee on health proposes "massive" cuts to state programs, some legislators call for tax hikes instead.

* Former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Mike Munger proposes an alternative way of thinking about the Apple incentives.

* Conservative columnist David Frum takes the rivalry between Carolina and Duke to a whole new level: Tuition. (Hat Tip: Jon Ham)

* Charlotte Observer columnist Jack Betts eulogizes Jim Stephenson, policy analyst for the N.C. Coastal Federation, who died Thursday.

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