RALEIGH — 2019 saw everything from fights over K-12 reading tools and hefty whistleblower settlements, to financial literacy legislation and record UNC system enrollment. The year closed with a controversial settlement that resolved lingering issues surrounding the Confederate statue known as “Silent Sam” but caused UNC Chapel Hill problems with some grant funding.
In the K-12 arena, the legislature took aim at requiring financial literacy courses for all high school students that include real-world skills and financial topics like 401(k) plans, and managing credit.
The state’s K-12 reading assessment tool, supplied by Amplify, was scrapped for a new product called Istation. The award of the $8.3 million five-year contract led to a series of complaints and a legal fight that is still unresolved.
House Bill 145 made the state’s temporary 15-point school performance scale permanent. A grade of “A” is now 85 and up, a B is 70-85, a C is 55-69, a D is 40-54 and F is any score under 40.
The School-Justice Partnership (SJP) initiative was launched by the NC Judicial Branch’s Administrative Office of the Courts to reduce the number of juvenile referrals to the court system.
Another teacher protest was organized on May 1, or “May Day.” The protest was not as well attended as the previous year and the president of the NC Association of Educators drew criticism for posting a doctored photo that made the crowd look larger than it was.
In higher education, Joseph Thomas blew the whistle on Duke University for the submission of fabricated and falsified data to obtain federal research grants and was awarded $33,750,000 out of a total $112.5 million settlement.
Left-leaning groups like the Young Democrat Socialists of America protested a conservative event on the NC State University campus that featured Lara Trump. The son of U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) was hit in the face with spray paint while promoting the event.
In other news from the Raleigh university, NC State’s 1,400-ton granite Memorial Bell Tower is getting roughly $6.5 million in restoration and upgrade work.
The UNC System saw a record year of enrollment of 239,987 — 1.3% higher than last year. Also, for the first time, NC State’s incoming female enrollment (50.3%) passed that of males.
Jenny Tung, associate professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University, was the recipient of one of the prestigious $625,000 McArthur Foundation Fellowship “Genius” grants.
UNC Chapel Hill denied allegations that a Duke-UNC CMES conference has anti-Israel and pro-BDS themes, after receiving a letter from the U.S. Dept. of Education questioning whether $235,000 in taxpayer funds used for the event was lawfully spent under Title IV. BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, and is a group, often accused of anti-Semitism, that aims to isolate the state of Israel economically.