OREGON BILLIONAIRE BEHIND THE PUSH FOR CHARTER SCHOOL TAKEOVERS IN NC: A school network founded by a wealthy Oregon resident is expanding quickly in North Carolina. John Bryan founded the charter network TeamCFA, which has 13 schools in North Carolina – more than in any other state. Arizona has four TeamCFA schools, and Indiana has two. In a letter posted to the network’s website in April, Bryan said his commitment of “significant economic resources” – contributions to politicians and nonprofit “social welfare” groups, and the engagement of investment advisers and others – helped win legislative approval of the controversial North Carolina law that will have charter operators take over up to five low-performing public schools. One goal, he wrote, was to “inculcate my belief in the libertarian, free market, early American Founder’s principles” into both the foundation and the individual schools.
NC CHURCH EXPORTS SLAVE LABOR TACTICS TO BRAZIL: Every day before work, Liliane Souza says, she and three dozen fellow workers at a Brazilian picture-framing factory affiliated with the Word of Faith Fellowship church were obligated to pray. When workers made a mistake, such as cutting a frame too short, she says they were screamed at and sometimes even hit to expunge the "devil" behind the error. And when Stylofino stopped paying its workers for months, Souza said the company's co-owners — members of a Brazilian branch of the U.S.-based church — had a ready explanation. "They said the business was struggling because we were sinners," she said. The business and its labor practices are under investigation by Brazilian authorities — just one of several inquiries launched into a pair of churches connected to Word of Faith Fellowship, a secretive evangelical sect based in Spindale, North Carolina.
RURAL NC COMMUNITIES FACING MASSIVE SHORTAGE OF TEACHERS: The TIP Teaching Scholars Award Program will give teachers a total of $10,000 over two years, along with extra coaching from the school and the university. Ten students who graduate from N.C. State in 2019 will be placed in one of five counties – Cabarrus, Johnston, Lenoir, Onslow and Wayne. Program leaders hope the initiative will help ease a teacher shortage in rural North Carolina school districts. The Johnston County system in the Triangle is short 18 teachers this year, and 32 percent of new hires last year were from out of state. Cabarrus County near Charlotte needs 13 more teachers, and Onslow County in the eastern part of the state needs 28. Some have pointed to low pay as a driving force behind the teacher shortage, but there might be additional factors, said Mary Ann Danowitz, dean of the College of Education at N.C. State. New teachers often aren’t familiar with the less-populated school districts, she said, and the idea of working in a new environment can be daunting.
POTENTIAL CATASTROPHIC DAMAGE BEHIND DUKE ENERGY'S RELUCTANCE TO RELEASE COAL ASH FLOOD MAPS: The company's modeling shows that structures near half of the 14 coal plants across the state would see potential impacts if coal ash dams failed. That includes 88 buildings in Stokes and Rockingham counties near the Belew's Creek plant. Near the Asheville plant, 47 buildings are at risk. Near the Allen and Marshall plants in the Charlotte area, 100 structures are listed in the inundation maps, with projected flooding ranging from less than an inch to 4 feet. They include properties on the shores of Lake Norman, where one worst-case scenario with both storm flooding and a dam breach would transform two peninsulas of homes into islands. Perkins said maps of those two plants in particular show the impact of a dam failure would be much more serious than the 2014 coal ash spill in the rural area along the Dan River, an event that triggered a series of legislative actions to close the decades-old waste pits.
ORANGE COUNTY FACEBOOK PAGE FEATURES ANTI-IMMIGRANT BIAS AGAINST ASIAN-AMERICAN CANDIDATE: Voters in a North Carolina town are defending an Asian-American candidate for city council following criticism on social media targeting her background and campaign platform. The Herald-Sun of Durham reports Hongbin Gu was criticized on the Orange County Local Facebook group. One man posted that he found it “stunning” that “homegrown Americans” were facing opponents like Gu for political office in Chapel Hill. A woman criticized Gu for focusing on diversity in her campaign. At least 14 people have responded, including one who said that, given the comments, people like Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright could not have been secretary of state. The 49-year-old Gu, who has lived in the U.S. for 22 years, said when people have preconceived ideas, everything is colored by that, adding that it was “unfortunate.”