Under the Dome

Dome: Silence doesn't help schools, group says

STAFF WRITERSDecember 7, 2011 

Progress North Carolina, a liberal advocacy group, is taking aim at June Atkinson, the state superintendent of public instruction, for her silence on the issue of school budget cuts.

For months, the group focused on Republican state lawmakers - particularly House Speaker Thom Tillis - for slashing education funding by $400 million, cuts that led to teacher layoffs.

But Tuesday, as Atkinson appeared before a legislative committee, Progress NC sent a statement asking her for action. "As state superintendent, it's her job to be the state's biggest advocate for public schools," said Gerrick Brenner, the group's executive director. "Right now, June Atkinson is failing teachers and students, by not standing up to lawmakers who continue to hide behind false rhetoric after they slashed school budgets."

The statement comes as Atkinson weighs whether to seek another term as superintendent.

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Republican David Scholl, a member of the Union County school board since 2008, announced on Tuesday that he was running for the post.

Scholl said more control over education should be returned to local school systems.

"One size does not fit all, and our state Department of (Public) Instruction needs to acknowledge this," Scholl said in a written statement. "It must adjust its vision to encourage innovative school systems and principals to lead their schools, based on the needs of their students and community."

Scholl is president of Vista Ridge Business Services, which advises small businesses in using technology. He holds a bachelor's degree in finance from Miami University and a master's degree in instructional technology from East Carolina University.

Democratic Reps. Rick Glazier of Fayetteville and Tricia Cotham of Charlotte have said they will run if Atkinson decides not to seek re-election.

Among Republicans, Wake County school board member John Tedesco is considering running. Ray Martin, a teacher in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School System, had previously announced his candidacy.

Thinking about a veto

Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue was mum Tuesday morning on whether she will veto a bill repealing key portions of the Racial Justice Act.

"I'm working on it," the governor told reporters following a meeting of the Council of State.

"We are looking at the calendar, seeing if we do veto it, when (the legislature) can come back." But she indicated she had not made a decision.

The Republican legislative majority repealed the heart of the bill that allows convicted murderers to use statistical arguments to get off death row, by showing racial bias in prosecution and sentencing.

The bill had been passed in 2009, when Democrats were in control of the legislature, with strong support from civil rights groups. Perdue had strongly supported the bill then, but she is also a death penalty supporter.

She has 30 days to decide whether to veto the bill, which passed the legislature Nov. 30. Then the GOP lawmakers can attempt to override the veto. The measure is fraught with politics because Perdue faces a tough re-election fight next year.

Spring in the House

Controversial changes in North Carolina's school calendar could be reconsidered next year, House Speaker Thom Tillis said Monday night.

The Cornelius Republican also indicated that another voter ID bill could be offered in the spring legislative session, and he suggested lawmakers will seek more money for early childhood education.

Tillis made the comments at a town hall meeting of more than 100 people in Matthews.

Frank: 919-829-4698 or jfrank@newsobserver.com

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