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Carolina Journal Radio No. 923: Cooper, Robinson to offer contrasting N.C. visions

Carolina Journal Radio / Donna Martinez and Mitch Kokai
The Truth Network Radio
January 25, 2021 8:00 am

Carolina Journal Radio No. 923: Cooper, Robinson to offer contrasting N.C. visions

Carolina Journal Radio / Donna Martinez and Mitch Kokai

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January 25, 2021 8:00 am

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson could present very different messages to N.C. voters and taxpayers in the years ahead. The two men previewed a divergent path during their public swearing-in ceremonies in Raleigh. While Cooper complained about the COVID-19 pandemic, racism, unaffordable health care, and unequal opportunity, Robinson emphasized the state’s successes. He pointed to his own story as North Carolina’s first black lieutenant governor. Rick Henderson, Carolina Journal editor-in-chief, assesses the contrast between Cooper and Robinson. Prospective Asian-American students sued the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill over its admissions policies. The suit came as no surprise to Kenny Xu, a political commentator and author of An Inconvenient Minority. The book documents similar race discrimination lawsuits challenging admissions policies at Ivy League schools. Xu shares highlights from his work. He compares the Ivy League story with the situation at Chapel Hill. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby has taken his oath as the top officer in North Carolina’s judicial branch of government. During his first speech as chief justice, Newby shared details of his judicial philosophy. He also explained why court personnel need to work hard to reopen courtrooms in the wake of COVID-19. Major N.C. universities have problems with pervasive sex discrimination. But it’s not the type of discrimination you might expect when you hear those words. Adam Kissel, former deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs at U.S. Department of Education, documented the problem in a recent report. Kissel shares highlights of the report prepared for the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges since last spring for parents of school-age children in North Carolina. Some of them turned to “learning pods” to help address students’ struggles with online learning. Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation, assesses families’ experience with learning pods and other innovations sparked by COVID-19.


From Cherokee to Kuretuk, from the largest city to the smallest town, and from the statehouse to the schoolhouse, it's Carolina Journal Radio, your weekly news magazine discussing North Carolina's most important public policy events and issues.

Welcome to Carolina Journal Radio, I'm Mitch Kokai. During the next hour, Donna Martinez and I will explore some major issues affecting our state. Prospective Asian American students sued UNC Chapel Hill over its admissions policy. We'll chat with the author of a new book titled An Inconvenient Minority. He explains why this suit is similar to others targeting Ivy League schools. That suit focuses on racial discrimination, but major colleges in North Carolina also display clear cases of sex discrimination. That's according to a recent report you'll learn details. North Carolina has a new state Supreme Court Chief Justice. You'll learn about his judicial philosophy, along with his desire to get courtrooms open again. Plus, we'll discuss how North Carolina families are coping with learning pods sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those topics are just ahead. First, Donna Martinez joins us with the Carolina Journal headline. North Carolina's two top statewide elected officials are now getting to work. Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, and Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, a Republican, were sworn in earlier this month. But these two leaders hold very different views, and of course are of opposing political parties.

It could make for some very interesting debate ahead. All of it to be followed by Carolina Journal. Rick Henderson, editor-in-chief of Carolina Journal. Rick, welcome back to the show. Thanks, Donna. So, as Andrew Dunn reported for Carolina Journal, these two have very different views of the state, and it kind of came out in their remarks at their swearing-in ceremonies as well. Right. Governor Cooper is going to be very much the calm state of the course. We have to get through the pandemic, and North Carolina's best days are ahead of us, but we have to get through everything that's going on with COVID-19 first. It was almost somber, and Mark Robinson's was much more enthusiastic, upbeat, we can conquer anything, which very much is the character that he has demonstrated throughout his campaign, and now as he becomes Lieutenant Governor as well.

It's a stark contrast. Now, they have already had a first official meeting, a council of state meeting, and apparently the two personalities came out. That's right. Mark Robinson was very much himself at the meeting, but he was not at all bombastic. He was just extremely upbeat, admitting, well, I'm still trying to learn my way around here.

I'm still hiring staff. I'm still getting my feet wet here, but really getting ready to roll, and essentially saying that he had a lot of hopes for what was going to happen in the term to come, and plan to work as actively as possible to generate some enthusiasm in the General Assembly for his agenda, and to see what he can do within the limitations of the office of Lieutenant Governor, which are pretty strict. Right, right. That job is one where you typically just make of it what you want it to be. It's a really a big bully pulpit, which based on his personality, and how he's campaigned, and how he came to the public for being a person who made a name for himself in the Triad area before a city council, it sounds like a position that actually he might really relish to be able to speak out on lots of things. Yes, I think he'll have that opportunity to do that.

I think he'll take the advantage of those opportunities to do that. The contrast is very stark between the role and the relationship that Governor Cooper had with Dan Forrest, and the relationship that Pat McCrory had with Dan Forrest. Now, both Governor McCrory and Lieutenant Governor Forrest were Republicans, but also Governor McCrory basically gave Dan Forrest a fairly large portfolio of issues that he could work on.

He didn't have any direct control over them, but certainly was allowed to investigate them, to look into them, to go around and do some fact finding, to use the bully pulpit, to argue for expanded school choice, for deregulation, for lower taxes, for boosting the economy through the private sector, through the marketplace, not so much by using government incentives and things like that. So that was different than what's happened with Cooper and Forrest, who were very much at odds. And now with Cooper and Robinson, it will be interesting to see who tries to contain whom in this case, because I would imagine that Governor Cooper is probably going to try to ignore Mark Robinson as much as possible.

But Mark Robinson is someone who probably will not be easily ignored. Speaking of Governor Roy Cooper, he is starting his second term. He has a much, much different personality than the new lieutenant governor does. And of course, he has been much more public for the past nine months or so because of the press briefings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But prior to that, he was just incredibly low key. So these two really couldn't be much different. What do you expect from Governor Cooper in his relationships, not only with the lieutenant governor, but with the General Assembly? This is going to be a fascinating term for the General Assembly, this particular session, because it will almost certainly consume most of the year.

They are supposed to get the budget out by June 30th for the next fiscal year, the next biennium. But because of redistricting reform, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that the state is still going to be dealing with rolling out the vaccine, with deciding how to handle schools and colleges and things like that, more than likely the early months, the General Assembly's term is going to be consumed with that. And that will certainly affect how Governor Cooper handles his agenda as well. So there will be opportunities for them to work together on some issues.

And I would imagine they will on some of the COVID issues. They're going to butt heads on the limits of the Emergency Management Act. I'm sure they'll butt heads on some spending matters, which is a concern because we don't yet have, at least as of this taping, we don't yet have our budget projections from either the state budget office or from fiscal research division of the legislature. And that's really important because they don't have much money they have to spend precisely. So that's going to slow down any kind of formulation of the budget.

So Cooper's going to probably have to probably keep his head down as much as possible. How much he will directly negotiate with the legislature remains to be seen. He did a lot of his negotiation before the cameras previously, not a lot of actual work of him going over and talking to them or inviting them over to the mansion or to his office. So we'll see if that changes now because Republicans actually have a bit more strength in the General Assembly overall than they had before the election. Let's talk more about the Emergency Management Act that you mentioned. Now, you had said earlier that when it comes to the lieutenant governor's role, it's kind of nebulous.

And the person who holds the office makes of it what he wants it to be. The governor's office, of course, there's quite a description in the North Carolina Constitution. And we have seen Governor Cooper really interpret the Emergency Management Act and the role of the governor in a very muscular way, essentially that he has sole power to do certain things in a very long duration. Will you see the lieutenant governor speak out about reining in the powers of the governor, not just Roy Cooper, but of any governor of North Carolina? Yeah, that's going to be a big part of what the lieutenant governor does in the next session. And the challenge that anyone has in trying to rein in the Emergency Management Act is that first of all, Governor Cooper is going to veto it.

And so it will require an override of his veto, which will be very difficult to do. There may well need to be some sort of constitutional amendment, which would then give each side something if there were some sort of way of amending the Constitution to limit the governor's emergency powers so that it would apply equally whether a Democrat or a Republican were in control of the General Assembly and or the executive mansion. But yeah, that's going to be a big issue because the governor has just simply gone to the Council of State for concurrence, as most provisions of the Emergency Management Act require, when it was to his advantage.

And when it was to his disadvantage, he didn't. He just cited provisions of the Emergency Management Act that seemed to give him a little more flexibility to act unilaterally. Pretty interesting because there has been a lot of pushback, as you know, during the pandemic to the robust use of that act without the approval of the Council of State. One wonders if there's an appetite during the pandemic to address that or to wait until things have subsided.

The public health crisis is over before the General Assembly would want to even get into it. Quite possibly. But what we may also see is we may see more court cases and we may see more action by the courts, either at the federal level or the state level, because in the federal courts now, the U.S. courts are starting to get a little bit impatient with governors who are just unilaterally shutting down their states without going for some sort of additional oversight. All of it covered by Carolina Journal at Rick Henderson is editor-in-chief. Thank you, Rick.

Thank you, Donna. Stay with us. Much more Carolina Journal radio to come in just a moment. Tired of fake news?

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Welcome back to Carolina Journal Radio, I'm Mitch Kokay. A lawsuit against UNC Chapel Hill challenges the way the university uses affirmative action in undergraduate admissions. A group called Students for Fair Admissions argues that UNC uses race illegally.

The process gives preference to Black and Hispanic students over White and Asian American students. Watching this case with a great degree of interest is Kenny Hsu. He is a commentary writer and author of a forthcoming book about similar discrimination cases involving Ivy League schools. Welcome to the program.

Thank you so much for having me, Mitch. Your expertise on this topic is not in the UNC case, but before we get into the cases you've looked into, what's happening now on the Chapel Hill campus has some similarities to what took place at Ivy League schools? What you need to know about the UNC Chapel Hill admissions case is that it's being sponsored, the plaintiffs are the same organization that are sponsoring the Harvard case. The nationally known Harvard case where Students for Fair Admissions sued Harvard University for discriminating against Asian Americans, they're bringing the same lawsuit to UNC Chapel Hill, which has adopted the same or similar race-conscious admissions policy that they're accusing UNC of discriminating against Asian Americans. Okay, so there are some similarities. Now let's get into the area that you have spent a lot of time researching and are putting together in book form. Tell us how you first got involved with this case of the Ivy League discrimination.

Sure, absolutely. You know, I was raised in a highly educated community when I was young. I was raised in Princeton, New Jersey. Everybody around me wanted to go to Ivy League colleges, so obviously people viewed college admissions with a certain level of interest. And it was always very obvious to the Asian American community that Ivy League's discrimination required them to achieve higher levels on standardized test scores and grades in order to get any traction with them whatsoever.

It was always obvious. But when the case captured the national attention, I think in 2018, when the US District Court took up the case, Students for Fair Admissions versus Harvard, that's when I started to think about the larger consequences of the diversity ideology that is being used by these schools to advance a system where they can legally discriminate against a certain minority group. And basically the argument, and you correct me if I'm wrong, but the basic argument is if we had a colorblind system, these admissions offices would allow, admit more Asian American students in, and the system that they use keeps Asian Americans out to the extent that they're trying to bring in more other types of minority students.

Yes, that's a good point. There's a framework of theory now, especially among, you would call it the educational crowd, that is starting to suggest that Asian Americans are not people of color for the purposes of policy. In that sense, blacks and Hispanics are the people that are victimized that need to be given preferences, and whites and Asians are the ones who should have to make those trade-offs. Now, Harvard's policy saying that there is no, which actually it's funny, the District Court agreed with, which said that there is no race-neutral workaround to increase its diversity in its populace. I would challenge that because I would give the example of the University of California system. Under Proposition 209, which bans race preferences, which actually was just recently in the 2020 election reaffirmed despite a popular challenge, actually the UC system is one of the most diverse in the nation, has one of the largest concentration of Latinos, largest concentration of blacks, largest concentration of Asians as well, and they ban race preferences. We're speaking with Kenny Hsu, who is a commentary writer and author of a forthcoming book about discrimination cases involving Ivy League schools. Before this Harvard case reached national prominence, do you think many people outside of the Asian American community who were the victims of this or who were the targets of this policy, did they realize this? Most times you hear about affirmative action, you think, okay, whites discriminated against blacks for years and years.

This is a way to help deal with that. Asian Americans, I think for most people, probably weren't even part of their calculation. Right.

Right. And I think it's part, I think in terms of Asian Americans in politics, Asian Americans have never achieved the level of political, you could call it charisma or success that other minority groups have. I think that is only starting to change, but the groundwork for that is being laid out with this case. But I would say that an example to use of another minority being targeted historically through affirmative action policies are Jewish Americans because Harvard has a history of exclusion, not just against Asians, but also against Jewish Americans. In the 1920s when Jewish Americans started to really come and apply to these top schools, Harvard enacted a policy where they would judge people on their so-called character and their so-called personality and determine that Jewish Americans did not have the so-called leadership traits that would enable them to become a Harvard person.

And so they limited Jewish applicants even back then, and they're doing the same thing with Asian applicants today. So a lot of people who are listening to us will have read about this case in the paper. What sorts of things are they going to find in your book that will help flesh out this story? That's a good question.

I think you're going to find a couple of things. You're going to find psychologically what happens when race preferences is widely known and ingrained within a certain community. So when Asian Americans know, and as we have for over 20 years, it's an open secret that Harvard and elite colleges and even places like UNC, which is an elite IV, kind of a public IV, would do these kinds of policies against them. It affects us psychologically. It affects the way we look at ourselves. It makes us say, okay, well, maybe this isn't the society of the American dream that our parents came and immigrated to this country to live at, the idea that you should be treated on the basis of the content of your character, not the color of your skin. That ideal is in danger. So I investigate a lot of the lasting, long-lasting consequences of the left's diversity ideology in our culture. And what do you hope comes out of all of these suits? There's the Harvard suit, the UNC suit, perhaps others in the future if other schools are engaging in the same sort of thing.

What do you hope is the ultimate outcome? I think it should, at the very least, give us pause about the racial narratives that we are enacting upon ourselves today as a culture. I think there is this idea that if you are white, you're privileged. If you're black, you're oppressed in this country.

And there's a systematic narrative. But what are you going to do with Asian Americans? Asian Americans are not white people. They have vastly different experiences. A lot of them came to this country with no money. And yet they have been able to achieve a modicum of academic and socioeconomic success that people would traditionally attribute to white people. So what are you going to do with this inconvenient minority, so to speak? Well, it's certainly a very important topic and one that you will hear much more from out of Kenny Hsu.

He is writing a book on the discrimination cases involving Ivy League schools. We're also seeing a similar case right now involving UNC Chapel Hill. Kenny, thanks so much for joining us. Thank you so much, Mitch.

It's great talking with you. We'll have more on Carolina Journal Radio in just a moment. If you love freedom, we've got great news to share with you. Now you can find the latest news, views and research from conservative groups across North Carolina all in one place. North Carolina conservative dot com. It's one stop shopping for North Carolina's freedom movement. At North Carolina conservative dot com, you'll find links to John Locke Foundation blogs on the day's news. Carolina Journal dot com reporting and quick takes. Carolina Journal radio interviews, TV interviews featuring CJ reporters and Locke Foundation analysts, opinion pieces and reports on higher education from the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, commentary and polling data from the Civitas Institute and news and views from the North Carolina Family Policy Council.

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I'm Mitch Kokay. The North Carolina court system has a new leader, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby. He won the job after unseating appointed Chief Justice Sherry Beasley by roughly 400 votes in the November election. Newby shared his philosophy and top priorities after taking the oath of office. I have served with four chief justices and 13 associate justices, not counting the two colleagues that will join us today.

Through all these experiences, the lessons I've learned and through the ongoing contributions of my colleagues on this court and throughout our legal and judicial system, I humbly undertake to lead this branch. My Polar Star is our constitution. It begins with we the people.

It's a social contract. As our Declaration of Independence reminds me, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all are created equal and endowed by our creator, endowed by God with certain inalienable rights, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and that government is instituted among people to protect our fundamental rights and freedoms. As Lincoln famously said, we're a government of the people and by the people and for the people. So much of our constitutional principles date back to 1215 in the Magna Carta, Article I, Section 18, open court provision, and Article I, Section 19, which is our law of the land provision.

Both draw heavily from the Magna Carta. Article I, Section 18, which is, again, emphasized by Article IV, Section 9, says the courts shall be open and that justice shall be administered without favor, denial, or delay. Section 19 talks about our due process guarantee as well as our equal protection. That is the constitutional requirement. The courts shall be open. And open courts available for all the citizens is not a luxury. It's a mandate.

Nonetheless, how do we operate in the midst of our global and, yes, local pandemic with regard to COVID? That is the great stress of our times as we seek to protect the public health of our courthouse personnel and fulfill our constitutional mandate. Because of this, I believe that all people in our local courthouses should have a priority with regard to the vaccines to fulfill our constitutional mandate that the courts shall be open. The goal of each one of these justices as well as every official of our justice system is equal justice for all. That's Chief Justice Paul Newby of the North Carolina Supreme Court in his first speech after taking office.

Newby serves as the top elected official in North Carolina's judicial branch of government. We'll return with more Carolina Journal radio in a moment. You're doubling down on freedom.

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I'm Mitch kokai. North Carolina universities have problems with pervasive sex discrimination. It's not the type of sex discrimination you might expect when you hear those words. A new report from the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal documents the problem its author joins us now. Adam Kissel is a former deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs at the US Department of Education.

He's also held senior posts with the Foundation for an Individual Rights in Education, the Charles Koch Foundation, Philanthropy Roundtable and Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy. Some people might read your report's title and think, oh, there's some problem with discrimination against women. That's not what you're talking about. Well, it's discrimination in favor of women and against men. And in some cases, at some universities, it's even discrimination in favor of girls and against boys, or programs that bring those kids to campus. So generations ago, some of the schools that we're talking about were all male, they went co-ed.

And then something happened between 50 years ago and today where the discrimination turned in the opposite direction. And now there are programs in the business schools, in the STEM fields and elsewhere, that limit or exclude men entirely from the program, and are only for women or advertised in such a way that they are really clearly shown to be just for women. Your report looks at some major schools in this state. The three largest public universities in North Carolina are UNC at Chapel Hill and at Charlotte, and NC State.

The two largest private universities in the state are Duke and Wake Forest University. And when I looked at the programs that are available to men or women or both, I saw it all five of them, quite a large number of programs that are limiting men or excluding men while they're open or advertised really for women. So that's tens of thousands of students, as well as faculty and staff, in some cases, who are affected by these limitations.

So we're talking about just the first five that I looked at, the biggest five. I think if we went down the list at the rest of the UNC system, other public institutions and other private institutions in North Carolina, we'd find a lot of the same thing. It's really disappointing that when I use the word pervasive, I use it intentionally because it's a disappointing finding that the state is rife with sex discrimination.

And the discrimination is clear, not something hiding beneath the surface? Well, the name of the program, in many cases, has the word women in it, or it will say women of color, or it will say girls, or it will be an acronym where one of the letters in the acronym is about women or girls. So there's really no question if you're a boy or a man, or you're the parent of a boy thinking, is this program for me? And the program is called Women in Leadership. And you go to the registration page and it says, this is for women who want to learn more about leadership, that you're really not supposed to register.

You're not supposed to be there. In fact, in some cases, if you tried to register, they'd probably say you're not allowed. We're chatting with Adam Kissel, author of the Martin Center report titled Pervasive Sex Discrimination at North Carolina Universities. Some people are going to say these programs are good.

Women have been historically underrepresented. You say these programs are against the law. It's against federal law in the sense that if you're getting any federal aid from the U.S. Education Department and you're violating Title IX, the education amendments of 1972, which say no one may discriminate on the basis of sex, if they're getting federal money, then you can't be doing that. And so you have a choice. You can say, I would rather discriminate and not take federal money, but that means you're not participating in the student loan program. It means you're not participating in grant programs. So it's a very high cost to you if you say, I would rather discriminate.

Nobody chooses that. In fact, the only institutions that have Title IX exemptions are doing it on religious grounds. And you could argue whether or not they discriminate or they're living out their religious ideals. But if you're a secular institution and you want to have a program that's for girls only, you can't do it and also take federal money. Now, you can't discriminate on the basis of sex in state law, so far as I know, probably also at the county level, probably also at the city level. And even if all of those let you do it, I bet every single one of these universities has a very strong statement against discrimination on the basis of sex as its own policy. And it's violating its own policy by having these programs. Beyond your report, you filed complaints involving four of the five universities.

That's right. When I worked at the U.S. Education Department, I learned how the federal government works a little bit and I learned how the Office for Civil Rights works a little bit. And I understood that OCR, the Office for Civil Rights, takes complaints about discrimination very seriously. So if you send in this discrimination complaint, they are going to take it seriously and work with the complainant and the institution to resolve it. So I filed a complaint about sex discrimination against four out of those five universities. The only reason I didn't file against Duke University was that Mark Perry, an AEI scholar and professor himself, had already filed one. And there's the National Coalition for Men Carolinas that had already filed against UNC for some of the programs, but I found a dozen more that needed to be adjudicated by OCR and that needed to be brought to the attention of the public through this report, as well as the federal government. So it's important for listeners and viewers to know that if you are seeing sex discrimination on any campus and you can document it, then you should send in that complaint. And if you go to the Martin Center's report at the end, you can see the link where it gives you a way to start that complaint process.

It's actually very simple. You just email your complaint and the documentation and a form saying you want your name available or not available and then you're done. So it's worth doing for the sake of equity and equality for men and women. But also, if you see something that's discriminatory on the basis of race, color, ethnicity and so on, not religion, because that's not within OCR's purview at the federal level, you should file complaints there, too. Is there a way for universities to address this goal of helping women without running afoul of the law? Well, you can tell the difference very quickly and easily if you know what to look for between a university who has had a general counsel through the programs that are designed mainly for women and gotten the language right and the participation rules right and one that hasn't.

I don't think any of those five universities that we've been talking about have had that happen. But just to take an example, a college I looked at today in New York, you look at the programs that are designed to be about helping women. And it says open to everyone. The name of the program might say, while the name of the program says women in business or women in leadership, we really want to invite everyone who has an interest in women in leadership. That way, if you're a man and you want to go, you can go. And it might be 99 percent or 100 percent women who go to some event.

And at least they know that they have men have not been limited or excluded. So universities can very easily have programs that focus on women that are not exclusive to women and discriminate. It's an important report and one that has spawned complaints against a number of North Carolina's largest public and private universities. Its title is Pervasive Sex Discrimination at North Carolina Universities. Its publisher, the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. The author is Adam Kissel.

He's a former deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs at the U.S. Department of Education. Thanks for joining us. Thanks for having me.

I appreciate it. We'll return with more Carolina Journal radio in a moment. Real influence.

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I'm Donna Martinez. They're called learning pods and their use is expanding as parents seek out ways to make sure that their kids are actually learning during covid-19, a time, of course, when many kids have been forced into online learning, an environment that may well work for some, but not for all. Dr. Terry Stoops is the director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation. He's been following this issue during covid-19 and joins us now to talk about it.

Terry, welcome back to the show. Thank you. What is a learning pod? How does it work? Well, there's some disagreement about exactly what constitutes a learning pod, but generally it is when one or more parents get together with other families and provide some sort of educational opportunity for the children in the respective families. Now, it could be that the parents are the ones that are actually conducting the instruction. It could be that those parents pull their resources and hire a teacher to provide the instruction.

And sometimes it could be in person or in other times it could use online resources and virtual education to provide instruction. So there is really no definite definition of what a learning pod is, except for the fact that it is an informal arrangement that is parent driven and parent created for the benefit of one or more families. As we have dealt with the covid-19 pandemic for nine, 10 months now, you've been following closely what's been going on with parents trying to educate their kids and school systems trying to determine are they sending kids to online learning?

Are they coming back to school or what? What have you found as to the prevalence of these learning pods being developed? Well, that's the million dollar question because we really don't know how many pods there are out there or how many students are engaged in this sort of instruction. And mostly that's because if they have registered themselves as home schools, then those are numbers that are only released in July of every year. So we'll maybe see a large increase in home schools that are reflected in the learning pods, the increase in learning pods, the use of learning pods. If they register themselves as private schools, we're in the same situation that we won't know those numbers until July. And it may be hard for us to differentiate between a conventional private school and a private school that is functioning as a pod. So we really don't have good numbers about this. We can assume that there are probably a few thousand students, maybe even more in North Carolina that are engaging in this type of instruction.

The main place you find out about it is on social media. If you go on Facebook in particular, you can see that there are people that are recruiting students for learning pods that are talking about their learning pods and talking about how beneficial they have been for their children. It sounds almost like you are describing homeschooling, but it's just got a different name to it and people now have been sort of nudged, forced, pushed into trying to find an option like this because of COVID-19. Is it really just more of an outgrowth of homeschooling?

Well, I think it's inspired by homeschooling. North Carolina's homeschooling statute only allows a homeschool to have no more than two families. So if there is a pod that has more than two families, then technically it would be a private school. But we also have co-ops that many homeschool students engage in. These are basically cooperative enterprises where homeschool families get together and they provide services for each other's children. It could be that some of these pods are functioning as co-ops in the larger homeschool community. And that's why it gets so difficult in defining what these are because there are so many of these different arrangements that parents have, especially homeschool parents have, to be able to provide a rich education for their children. And this is a great thing, by the way.

This is really what we want. Parents so engaged in their child's education and so willing to provide alternative arrangements for that education that they're coming up with creative solutions for their child and for the children of other families. I think this is a really great development. And I believe truly that it's an outgrowth of North Carolina's rich, expansive homeschool environment.

You're right. It's tough to define, tough to quantify, but it really is exciting because what it says to me, at least, is that parents, because they've been forced to have this one-on-one relationship with their kids in terms of education because of COVID-19, they're suddenly discovering things about their kids and they're discovering resources. And Terry, could this be sort of the tipping point, so to speak, that will push the school choice movement in North Carolina even further down the road of opening up opportunities for more parents? Yeah, I believe the key here is that many of those that are having pandemic PODs that have their children enrolled in some sort of POD-like arrangement are well-to-do parents. They're families that can afford to have a parent stay home or can afford to hire a teacher or a virtual instruction for their children. And these are parents that usually are able to afford houses in neighborhoods where their children are assigned to great schools. So these are usually parents that don't have much of a need for school choice, don't even have to think about school choice because they live in good neighborhoods, their kids are going to good schools, and then suddenly they're forced to find avenues for school choice. And now these parents are recognizing the importance of school choice because in the school choice debate, we always talk about how necessary it is for low income, for special needs students, and North Carolina has done a great job of providing educational options for those children. But usually those that are in the upper income brackets don't think about choice because they don't have to. This has forced them to recognize and appreciate school choice and hopefully in the future become staunch advocates of school choice. That's such an interesting point.

I hadn't thought of it that way, but that's important. So going forward, Terry, as we come out of the pandemic, hopefully soon as things get back to quote normal for our lives, do you think that these parents will go back to their regular routine since they won't be forced to deal with their child's education day in and day out? Or are they going to say, you know what, maybe I should get behind some of these changes that would allow my family or the neighbor down the street or the neighbor who lives in a neighborhood where they're not well-to-do to be able to have those choices to do what's best for their kid? I think you will see some that will end up sending their kids back to school just because of the burden that a pod can place on a family, even in the financial burden especially. But I think that and anecdotal evidence tells me that parents that have had their children in pods are seeing a transformation in their child, a transformation for the better. Not only are they learning, but their emotional state is much better.

They're much more engaged. Simply put, they're happier. And I think a parent that sees their child that's happy in a situation in a pandemic pod is going to be more likely to find an alternative arrangement where they can continue to be that successful, not only academically, but emotionally. Because as parents, that's really what we care about is making sure that our entire child's experience is positive, not just that they have a great education and learn what they're supposed to.

So I think that's the real key. And I think children are happy. I think parents are happy.

And it's the source of that happiness that is going to lead them, I believe, to pursue educational options in the coming school year. Thank you, Terry. Thank you.

That's all the time we have for the program this week. On behalf of Mitch Kokai, I'm Donna Martinez. Hope you'll join us again next week for another edition of Carolina Journal Radio. Carolina Journal Radio is a program of the John Locke Foundation. To learn more about the John Locke Foundation, including donations that support programs like Carolina Journal Radio, send email to development at or call 1-866-JLF-INFO.

That's 1-866-553-4636. Carolina Journal Radio is a co-production of the John Locke Foundation, North Carolina's free market think tank, and Carolina Broadcasting System, Incorporated. All opinions expressed on this program are solely those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of advertisers or the station. For more information about the show or other programs and services of the John Locke Foundation, visit or call us toll free at 1-866-JLF-INFO. We'd like to thank our wonderful radio affiliates across North Carolina and our sponsors. From all of us at Carolina Journal Radio, thank you for listening and please join us again next week.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-31 10:23:58 / 2023-12-31 10:40:47 / 17

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