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Friday Forward News Roundup

NC State Superintendent Advocates for Math Education Reform

At a House Select Committee on Education Reform meeting, North Carolina State Superintendent Catherine Truitt emphasized the need for legislative action to improve student math achievement. Truitt proposed measures including daily, grade-level math instruction from Kindergarten to 8th grade, supported by effective materials and policies, as well as partnerships like PRISM to enhance teacher support and student proficiency. The plan, echoing Truitt's previous statements, aims to change the narrative around math education and prioritize its importance in preparing students for future job demands, emphasizing the significance of early intervention and focusing on Algebra I readiness as a pivotal milestone. (North State Journal)

Wake County School Board Grants Stir Debate

This week, the split Wake County school board approved grant proposals enabling teachers to seek funds for LGBTQ projects and to purchase diverse books for schools, sparking debate among members. Republican board members raised concerns about potential agendas behind the grants, while Democratic members emphasized trust in teachers' discretion and the importance of providing diverse resources to students. The discussion reflects broader cultural tensions, including legislative actions such as the Parents’ Bill of Rights, with considerations of how to balance inclusivity with parental concerns about content appropriateness. (News & Observer)

North Carolina Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Leandro Education Funding Case

The North Carolina Supreme Court heard 80 minutes of oral arguments Thursday in the 30-year-long education funding case commonly known as Leandro. It is considering recent decisions regarding court-ordered education funding in the longstanding Leandro case. State legislative leaders are asking the court to void a series of lower court orders that led to a $677 million mandate for additional state education spending. Plaintiffs in the case argue that lawmakers are engaging in "obfuscation" and "recalcitrance" that delay providing an adequate public education to students across the state. At issue is a trial court order requiring additional state funding for education, challenged by state legislative leaders who argue that the trial judge lacked jurisdiction to mandate statewide spending. The debate centers on whether previous decisions in the case limit the trial court's authority to remedy problems within individual school districts. (Carolina Journal)

Union County Commissioners Vote to Cease Fluoridating Water Supply

After contentious debate, Union County commissioners voted 3-2 to cease adding fluoride to the county's water supply, despite assertions from pediatric dentists and health organizations about its effectiveness in preventing tooth decay. Advocates for discontinuing fluoridation raised concerns about potential negative impacts on brain development, citing a study indicating a possible link to lower IQ in children. However, others, including Commissioner Richard Helms, supported continuing fluoridation, citing personal experiences and trust in medical professionals. The decision reflects a broader debate over government intervention in public health measures and individual freedom of choice. (NC Newsline)

Durham Public Schools Adjust Pay Raises Amid Staff Concerns

Durham Public Schools decided to reduce raises given to some staff members and instead provide an 11% raise to all classified staff, totaling nearly 1,900 employees. The decision came after hours of debate by the Durham Board of Education, aiming to address fairness concerns among staff members following discrepancies in raises received last year. The move follows a month of protests and responses from staff, including bus drivers and teachers, sparked by emails indicating pay reductions due to errors in calculations. The protests led to school closures and the resignation of the superintendent, reflecting ongoing tensions within the district. (WUNC)

Comptroller's Report Exposes Flaws in DPS Salary Study, Unveils Miscommunication and Budget Shortfall

An outside comptroller's investigation into payroll chaos at Durham Public Schools found fundamental flaws in a salary study conducted by HIL Consultants, which recommended raises totaling $10.8 million but potentially costing up to $21 million. The comptroller's presentation reveals that the errors began in fall 2022 when former superintendent Pascal Mubenga engaged HIL Consultants to conduct a salary study aiming to align DPS' lowest-paid employees' salaries with market rates. The former CFO continued to use the lower figure in communications with the superintendent and the board until November 2023, when he alerted the superintendent of the budget shortfall. (Indy Week)

Fading Southern Accent in North Carolina

Research suggests that the iconic Southern accent in North Carolina may be fading as younger generations grow up and the state sees an influx of transplants. Linguists have observed a decline in the Southern drawl with each generation, noting changes in speech patterns and pronunciation, particularly among younger individuals. Factors such as population growth, increased mobility, and exposure to different dialects contribute to these shifts in language. However, while the traditional Southern accent may be evolving, it's not disappearing entirely, and aspects of it are still adopted by newcomers to the region. Similar trends are observed in other iconic regional dialects across the United States. Ongoing research aims to further explore how accents are changing in North Carolina and beyond. (ABC 11)

The Carolina Leadership Coalition Backing Democratic Reps. Brockman and Wray Draws Controversy

The Carolina Leadership Coalition, linked to Republicans, is supporting Democratic Reps. Cecil Brockman and Michael Wray in their primary challenges, highlighting their votes with the GOP on major bills. Brockman and Wray, known for siding with Republicans, faced criticism for their votes on the GOP budget, despite claims of securing resources for their districts. Critics argue the support from the coalition underscores their alignment with Republicans rather than their constituents' interests, with Brockman dismissing criticism as racist and emphasizing the need for representation beyond party lines, while Wray defends his record of aiding small businesses. (Charlotte Observer)

Summerfield Town Attorney Resigns Amid Controversies Surrounding Development Project and Town Manager's Contract Renewal

Summerfield's town attorney, Robert Hornik, has announced his resignation effective April 1, following the recent decision by the town council not to renew the contract of Town Manager Scott Whitaker. Hornik submitted his resignation letter, citing the fulfillment of the 30-day notice requirement. This move adds to the ongoing shakeup in the town government, which has been fueled by controversies surrounding a proposed development project led by developer David Couch. The project has faced opposition from residents and has drawn the attention of Sen. Phil Berger. Meanwhile, Whitaker has expressed concerns about the council's decision regarding his contract renewal, emphasizing the importance of transparency and good-faith negotiations. Councilman Jonathan Hamilton has issued a statement underscoring the need for careful consideration and respect in addressing the situation. (News & Record)

Federal Judge Denies HCA Healthcare and Mission Health's Motion to Dismiss Antitrust Lawsuit

A federal judge has denied HCA Healthcare and Mission Health's motion to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit filed by a group of local counties and municipalities, including Asheville, Brevard, Buncombe County, and Madison County. The lawsuit alleges anti-competitive conduct by HCA in the Asheville area and surrounding Western North Carolina counties. The plaintiffs claim that HCA's market power results in higher costs and compromised care, citing contract provisions that allegedly restrict competition and harm consumers. The judge ruled that the plaintiffs' allegations are plausible and fall within the statute of limitations, rejecting HCA's arguments to dismiss the case. Mission Health spokesperson Nancy Lindell stated the intention to vigorously defend against the lawsuit, while State Attorney General Josh Stein, who also filed a separate lawsuit against HCA, welcomed the court's decision, emphasizing the need to hold HCA accountable for increasing healthcare costs and decreasing quality in Western North Carolina. (Citizen Times)

One Christian Network Hosts Housing Crisis Forum in Wilmington Aiming to Address Affordable Housing Challenges and Find Solutions

The Housing Crisis Forum, hosted by One Christian Network in Wilmington, addressed the city's affordable housing challenges. Andy Jones, interim CEO of WAARM, highlighted that an income of $60,600 is needed to afford the Fair Market Rent in New Hanover County, contrasting with the average salaries of elementary teachers ($48,150), childcare workers ($22,410), and firefighters ($30,210). Discussions included initiatives like the Rental Rehab Loan program offering loans up to $200,000 with a 0% interest rate to create affordable housing. The forum also explored solutions like building accessory dwelling units and utilizing church properties for housing, emphasizing the need for collective action. (WWAY 3)

Monroe Pastor Faces Backlash Over Remarks on Women's Clothing and Sexual Assault, Issues Apology Amid Calls for Accountability

Pastor Bobby Leonard of Bible Baptist Tabernacle in Monroe is apologizing after facing backlash for controversial comments about women's clothing and sexual assault made in a sermon from August 2023. In the video, Leonard suggested that women wearing shorts invite sexual assault, stating that if a woman dressed in a certain way and was raped, he would vote for the perpetrator to go free. The resurfaced video has garnered over 3 million views online, prompting Leonard to post an apology message on the church's sign. However, Pastor Theo Schaffer from Grace Church Charlotte criticized Leonard's remarks as harmful and emphasized the need for healing and accountability. (Queen City News)

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