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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.***

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."

N.C. trusts military, not Wall Street

North Carolinians trust the military and distrust Wall Street.

A recent survey by the Elon University Poll found that around 90 percent gave high marks to the military, small businesses, medical doctors and colleges and universities.

At least 75 percent gave high marks to the U.S. Supreme Court and public schools.

Around 70 percent also trusted organized religion and the White House.

Around 50 percent trusted law firms, banks, T.V. news, Congress and labor unions, though roughly equal numbers had no confidence in T.V. news, Congress, and labor unions.

The military scored the highest, with 3.9 percent saying they had no confidence, 25.8 percent saying they had some confidence, 68.8 percent saying they had a great deal of confidence and 1.4 percent saying they didn't know.

Wall Street did the worst, with 60.4 percent saying they had no confidence, 33.1 percent saying they had some confidence, 2.8 percent saying they had a great deal of confidence and 3.7 percent saying they didn't know.

The live survey of 356 North Carolina residents was conducted April 19-23. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.3 percentage points.

Other cuts in the state budget

What else would be cut in the state budget?

In a presentation today, Gov. Beverly Perdue proposed a number of cuts across state government:

* Delay state funding by delaying the adoption of math textbooks for grades 6 through 12 in order to save $38 million.

* Freeze teacher and state employee longevity payments for two years to save $170 million. The change would not affect employees' retirement calculations.

* Reduce legislative tuition grants, which give students money to go to private colleges in the state by $3.7 million, consistent with cuts the state's universities.

* Reduce funding by for child advocacy centers, foster care and adoption assistance, child support enforcement and education support for children adopted after age 12 to save $6.5 million.

* Reduce funding to Gov. Mike Easley's early education program More at Four by $1 million. The cuts won't affect children, since they eliminate funding for hundreds of unfilled slots.

* Reduce state funding to Gov. Jim Hunt's Smart Start early education program by $8.9 million.

Perdue and per-pupil spending

Gov. Beverly Perdue proposes to raise per-pupil spending $139.

At a presentation this morning, Perdue proposed raising per-student spending from $5,597 to $5,736, putting specifics on a pledge she first made at her State of the State speech.

As expected, Perdue would achieve that in two ways: Fewer students and more federal money.

The drop is partly caused by a change in kindergarten age requirements. The budget says overall enrollment is expected to decline by .79 percent.

Perdue also expects $581 million from the federal stimulus package to be used on education.

Overall, education spending would increase by $118 million in Perdue's budget, including $64 million for teacher pay raises, $6.7 million for dropout prevention, $4.7 million for more diagnostic testing of students and $3.5 million for underperforming schools.

At the same time, the state would cut funding for buying textbooks, replacing older school buses and running multicampus community college centers. It would raise fees on some continuing education courses.

Some more House bills

A few of the interesting new House bills:

H.B. 74: Spend 65% of School Funds in Classroom, Rep. John Blust

H.B. 75: Salary Funds/Spend Only for Salaries, Rep. Blust

H.B. 76: School Board Candidate Filing Fee, Reps. Rick Glazier, Doug Yongue

H.B. 78: Honor Jimmy Johnson, NASCAR Nextel Champ, Rep. Bill Owens

H.B. 83: Modify Out-of-State Tuition Exemption, Reps. Pricey Harrison, George Cleveland, Wil Neumann, Jennifer Weiss

On the Budget: Marilyn Avila

Marilyn AvilaRep. Marilyn Avila
Raleigh Republican
Second Term

What two things would you cut in the state budget? 1) Gov. Mike Easley's proposed 2008 budget included $15 million for lodge renovations at Lake Mattamuskeet in Hyde County. Other bills that session also sought to fund the ski lodge. "That type of expenditure really needs a second and third look," she said. "I'm not saying it wouldn't be beneficial years down the road, but we're in an extremely unusual financial situation at the moment. I don't think we can do that."

2) The University of North Carolina system had $99.6 million in capital projects in the final 2008 budget. "This is a sacred cow for a lot of people," she said. "I understand a lot of needs are there, but we have got to postpone these sorts of things so that we don't make other cuts in the budget that affect people's health care and (secondary) education. Those are going to be much more crippling to us."

Are there any taxes you would be in favor of increasing? "I couldn't answer that without thinking long and hard about it," she said. You have to understand that means I reach into somebody's pocket and take that dollar out that they need for their retirement or their kids or their medicine. That's absolutely the last resort."

Easley: Governor doesn't need meetings

Another example of Perdue-Easley tension?

Governor-elect Beverly Perdue said today she was going to revive the N.C. Education Cabinet, a group of education leaders that is supposed to get together to develop "a strategic design for a continuum of education programs."

This group met infrequently during Gov. Mike Easley's tenure. The governor is the cabinet chairman.

Easley's office sent a statement to Dome on Friday afternoon that says he didn't need meetings to make progress, Lynn Bonner reports.

"While different governors will have different processes, the goal is to provide every North Carolina student with a quality education so they succeed in the global economy," he said. "Formal meetings did not produce our nationally recognized Learn and Earn high school program."

The full statement after the jump.

Perdue: Reboot Education Cabinet

Gov.-elect Beverly Perdue said this morning she would reinvigorate the N.C. Education Cabinet, a group of education leaders representing the elementary grades to the universities, as she makes sure the state has a seamless pre-K to 20 education program.

The education cabinet, which met infrequently under Gov. Mike Easley, is a group set out by state law that is supposed to "develop a strategic design for a continuum of education programs" and study issues for the governor and legislators, Lynn Bonner reports.

Its members are the president of the UNC system, the state community colleges president, the state school superintendent and school board chairman, the president of the independent colleges and universities and the secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services. The governor is the chairman.

The state must improve its 70 percent graduation rate, said Perdue — "we've got to do better" — and make sure that Perdue said she will be accountable for the state's education system.

"The buck stops with me, purely and simply," she told a legislative commission on technology in education.

McCain backed comm. college bill

John McCain has supported legislation that would enable children of illegal immigrants to attend college, says the campaign of his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama.

McCain has co-sponsored The Dream Act in 2003, 2005, and 2007, which allows high school children of illegal immigrants to obtain permanent residency by attending college or serving in the armed forces, Rob Christensen reports.

During a visit to North Carolina over the week, Obama, an Illinois senator, said he favored allowing the children of illegal immigrants to attend community colleges.

The McCain campaign responded by saying it did not support amnesty or benefits, but did not specifically address the question of who can attend community colleges.

"The McCain campaign is trying to get away with something here," said Paul Cox, an Obama campaign spokesman. "They're trying to make voters think there is a distinction between the two candidates' positions where there is none."

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