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Education Top Story

Court of Appeals: State, not local districts, responsible for decrepit, segregated schools

Crumbling ceilings. Failing air conditioning and heating systems. Broken down school buses. Mold infestations. Rodents scurrying through the hallways. Students forced to traipse over sewage from flooded toilets. Dismal academic performance year in and year out.

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Environment Top Story

Oil and gas commission goes rogue, schedules illegal meeting to challenge fracking moratoriums

This story has been updated with comments from Jim Womack, who did not respond earlier to questions.

With energy companies anxious to start drilling, the two-year fracking moratoriums in Lee and Chatham County are expected to be challenged at a meeting of the state's Oil and Gas Commission this week. However, the legality of that meeting, scheduled for Wednesday in Sanford, is in question, as is the authority of the commission's purported chairman, Jim Womack.

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Environment Top Story

In supporting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a struggling nonprofit confronts a conflict of interest

For the 18 months, Gary Brown has been traveling through northeastern North Carolina like an itinerant preacher, singing the praises of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

“Atlantic’s decision to place its operations center in Northampton County is impressive and certainly welcomed,” he told the Roanoke-Chowan Herald in March 2016. “The project is critically important in serving the energy needs of residents, business and industry in the state and region, present and future. We appreciate the opportunity to be a part of that, and the trust they have placed in us.”

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Board of Education gets more time before possible transfer of power to Superintendent Mark Johnson

It will be at least another month before state Superintendent Mark Johnson can take over at the helm of the Department of Public Instruction, which leaves the Board of Education in charge of the state’s 1.5 million students and $10 billion budget.

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Education Top Story

Charter takeovers met with skepticism as director begins pitching model

Eric Hall, in the midst of a rainy drive to rural Robeson County to pitch North Carolina’s ambitious but controversial plan for a charter takeover of several low-performing schools, wants to set one thing straight.

“It’s not a takeover,” he says of the so-called Innovative School District (ISD) that he leads. “It’s about making conditions better locally.”

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Environment Top Story

Web of local money, political connections behind legislature’s decision to bypass DEQ in GenX clean-up

The fire is elusive, but the smoke is thick.

An analysis of professional and political relationships among major players in the GenX crisis shows the connections that led to a controversial state appropriation in House Bill 56, and a contract between the Cape Fear utility and a public relations firm.

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Environment

The people and political connections behind the controversial GenX appropriation

Several professional and political relationships are entangled in the House Bill 56 appropriation of $185,000 to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority. See full description below. Click here for a pdf version of the diagram. THE PLAYERS Companies ...
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Law and the Courts Top Story

More with less: With $3 million in the balance, initial AG cuts take effect

Changes from a $7 million budget cut to the North Carolina Department of Justice went into effect Sept. 1 and as expected, people are making do with less.

“The work is still getting done,” said Laura Brewer, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, adding that employees are committed to doing the work and serving the public.

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Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Author of new book on tragic 1991 Hamlet chicken plant fire: Little of substance has changed

Twenty six years ago, one of the worst industrial accidents in U.S. history rocked the tiny town of Hamlet, North Carolina.

Twenty five workers died and 55 were injured when a grease fire broke out at the Imperial Food Products plant, which made cheap chicken tenders for chain restaurants like Long John Silvers. The victims, mostly black and female, struggled to get out of the building but found the doors locked from the outside. The plant’s owner, Emmett J. Roe, kept the doors padlocked and the windows boarded because he thought his low-wage workers might steal chicken.

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Environment Top Story

Giant pork producer asks federal court to reinterpret new and controversial NC law, nullify existing nuisance lawsuits

For Murphy-Brown, a major victory in House Bill 467 was not enough.

The world's largest pork producer has petitioned a federal court to interpret a key part of the controversial law that could nullify 26 lawsuits brought by 541 plaintiffs against the company. While courts are often called upon to interpret laws, in this case, Murphy-Brown is asking a judge to essentially read lawmakers’ minds and divine their intent when they wrote and passed the law.

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Education Top Story

Testing debate is front and center again as state officials wrestle with new federal education law

A draft plan for meeting the nation’s new federal education law has some on North Carolina’s top school board expressing frustration this week, particularly when it comes to measuring schools’ performance.

“To grow the elephant, you don’t weigh it, you feed it,” Lisa Godwin, teacher advisor to the State Board of Education, complained Wednesday. “I do feel like we’re weighing the elephant.”

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Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Another Historical Commission member weighs in on monument removal

New member and descendant of Confederate leader says “In this case, you have to take a stand.” When David Ruffin was appointed to the North Carolina Historical Commission in July, he thought it would be “a fairly non-controversial assignment.” Instead, when Ruffin attends his first meeting as a board member on September 22, he’ll step into one of the state’s largest controversies – the question of how to deal with Confederate monuments on state property.

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Environment Top Story

Chemours discharging other chemicals besides GenX in Cape Fear River; EPA releases data to DEQ today

As the House was winding down its debate on controversial legislation regarding GenX funding, federal and state environmental officials publicly released disturbing new data about other chemicals from the Chemours plant entering the Cape Fear River and downstream drinking water supplies. The findings indicate the the company, a spinoff of DuPont, has not been forthcoming about the various chemical compounds it is discharging into the river.

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Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

State Historical Commission members stake out divergent positions in Confederate monuments controversy ahead of September meeting

When the North Carolina Historical Commission meets on September 22 to take up the controversy over Confederate monuments on state property, Dr. Valerie Ann Johnson will bring a unique perspective to the debate. Johnson is the Mott Distinguished Professor of Women's Studies and Director of Africana Women's Studies at Greensboro’s Bennett College and chair of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission. She is also one of only two Black members of the 17-member commission, which must approve any proposed removal, relocation, or alteration of the monuments.

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Environment Top Story

Lawmakers attempt to deflect blame, assail Cooper administration at special GenX hearing

On Wednesday afternoon, the legislature’s Environmental Review Commission looked to its legal staff, state environmental and health officials, and a UNC Wilmington scientist for answers to their questions about how GenX wound up contaminating the drinking water in three counties.

However, many of these same legislators failed to look at themselves.

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Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

The Confederate monuments controversy: What the law says; what historians say

Chapel Hill became the latest front in a battle over Confederate monuments Tuesday night, as hundreds gathered to protest the statue of ‘Silent Sam’ on the campus of the University of North Carolina.

The statue of a Confederate soldier, erected in 1913 as a tribute to UNC students who fought for the South during the Civil War, has drawn controversy for decades. But in the wake of deadly violence at a white supremacist rally over the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, VA and the toppling of a Confederate monument in Durham last week, the push to remove the statue has taken on new urgency.

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