by Chris Fitzsimon
Governor Pat McCrory doesn’t seem too bothered by all the scandals at his Department of Health and Human Services or the troubling missteps by HHS Secretary Aldona Wos.
McCrory told a crowd of business leaders in Jackson County this week that he stood behind his cabinet and said he would hold them up against the board of directors of any private corporation in America. He singled out Wos specifically for praise, saying “Aldona Wos is working for one dollar a year and here she is being attacked and attacked and attacked and it just amazes me.”
McCrory is apparently not amazed that Wos incorrectly and startlingly blamed Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin for the decision not to expand Medicaid in North Carolina when it was McCrory and the General Assembly who decided it.
That’s something you would think the cabinet secretary in charge of Medicaid would understand. McCrory is also not amazed that Wos initially hired a woman to run the early childhood development division who didn’t believe in public early childhood programs. She resigned before she her first day on the job.
And McCrory is apparently amazed that people would find it odd that Wos hired two 24 year old former McCrory campaign staffers and gave them huge raises last spring and is now paying them both more than $85,000 a year to work at HHS.
Wos put one of them in charge of policy for the entire department despite no having experience or education in health care or human services.
Then there are the sputtering systems developed to process Medicaid claims and food stamps, both of which have serious glitches that are causing problems for medical practices and low-income families.
McCrory remains the only person in Raleigh who is not troubled at all by the scandals in HHS and the head scratching comments by the secretary.
That is the amazing thing, not that Wos is being attacked, but that McCrory refuses to even consider that he made a mistake in appointing her and needs to find somebody else to do the job—whether they are personally wealthy enough to work for a dollar a year or not.
Trouble in voucher land?
A state legislator recently made it clear that he is not too excited about North Carolina getting into the voucher game, allowing public money to pay for part of the tuition for students attending private or religious schools.
That wouldn’t be surprising if the comments came from a traditional opponent of school privatization efforts.
But it was Republican Senator Jerry Tillman, the co-chair of the Senate Education Committee, who made the remarks recently to his hometown paper, the Asheboro Courier-Tribune.
Tillman said he did not support the voucher scheme included in the budget passed by the General Assembly that will divert $10 million from public schools to unaccountable private academies. Here is how the paper reported it.
Tillman’s complaint is that private schools of this sort have no oversight. The state will be giving them public funds but has no control over them.
“People say it’s great that vouchers can go to some of these Christian schools,” he said. “But I ask them, do you want to see money go to a Catholic school? Do you want to see it go to a Muslim school, one that teaches Islam? The way the law is written now, it can.”
That might be a bizarre way to put it, but Tillman’s point is that the private schools spending public dollars will have zero oversight or accountability. News accounts of voucher schemes in other states have found that taxpayers support schools that teach students all sort of bizarre things, including that dinosaurs roamed the earth with humans a few thousand years ago.
The folks on the Right have no answer when you bring up the accountability question, other than say it’s all up to the parents.
But parents can already enroll their children in schools that teach them blatantly false versions of history or science if they want, but the rest of us shouldn’t have to pay for it.
It’s no secret that voucher supporters like Rep. Paul Stam want to widely expand the voucher program to eventually make it available to all students.
Let’s hope Tillman is part of a bipartisan group that doesn’t allow it.
— Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch, an independent project of the N.C. Justice Center.