Saturday News: Wheels are coming off the bus


BATTLE CONTINUES OVER MARK JOHNSON'S ISTATION READING ASSESSMENT CONTRACT: The company that lost out on a new multi-million dollar contract to test the reading skills of North Carolina elementary school students is appealing the decision and asking that the new contract be put on hold. Amplify Education Inc. asked the state Department of Information Technology on Friday to throw out the three-year, $8.3 million contract that State Superintendent Mark Johnson awarded to Istation to test K-3 students. Last week, Johnson upheld his decision to pick Istation instead of continuing to use Amplify’s mClass program. “Today Amplify filed a Request for Administrative Hearing with the NC Department of Information Technology, which has the final agency authority to issue a decision on the DPI contract award,” Larry Berger, Amplify’s chief executive officer, said in a statement Friday. “Also, we asked DIT to stay, or pause, the contract award to Istation before the start of the school year, while the protest is under consideration.

LAYOFF OF VIRTUAL SCHOOL TEACHERS COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED: Teachers at the online school said they were shocked to learn the news this week that they will not be able to work the fall semester due a state law that requires they take a break in service each year. But a spokeswoman for the N.C. Office of State Human Resources said the online school could have told teachers about the potential layoffs in May but opted not to. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, which oversees the virtual school, disagreed with that timeline. "NCVPS was not notified about the possibility of an immediate mandatory break in service for our teachers until July," Graham Wilson, a spokesman for State Superintendent Mark Johnson, told WRAL News. Jill Warren Lucas, OSHR's communications director, stood by her agency's timeline. "If there is an internal communications problem at DPI, the superintendent would have to address that," Lucas wrote. On Friday, Johnson's staff members wrote to the North Carolina General Assembly's education leaders to suggest a possible solution to the issue.

ENO THE EMU STILL ON THE RUN AFTER MORE THAN A MONTH: Officials in Orange County are looking for an emu on the loose that was last spotted jumping on the hood of a car before running away. News outlets report that officials say the emu, nicknamed Eno, was sighted over the weekend. Orange County Animal Services spokesperson Tenille Fox says it’s believed to be in the Hillsborough area. An Orange County government Twitter account posted an emu’s mugshot Friday with the word “wanted” in red letters. Officials say it’s been on the run for about five weeks. They don’t know where the flightless bird escaped from. Fox says people shouldn’t try to catch it, but instead call animal services. Fox says owning emus is legal in Orange County. She says they’re often kept on farms and don’t usually run away.

TRUMP'S LATEST ROUND OF CHINESE TARIFFS COULD COST U.S. HOUSEHOLDS $200: The latest tariffs President Donald Trump plans to impose on Chinese goods would cost U.S. households an average of $200 a year, some economists estimate, and would start to bite consumers and retailers just as the holiday shopping season begins. That cost would come on top of the roughly $830 cost imposed per household from Trump's existing tariffs, according to a New York Federal Reserve analysis. Trump plans to tax $300 billion of Chinese imports at 10% starting in September with the goal of accelerating trade talks with Beijing to favor the United States. The new tariffs would be in addition to 25% tariffs Trump has imposed on $250 billion in Chinese products. Those are mostly industrial goods. By contrast, the new tariffs would target products used by American consumers, like shoes, clothing and cellphones. By Friday, Trump's new planned tariffs had triggered worries, especially among retailers, about the consequences. Retail stores, many of which have been struggling, would have to make the painful choice of either absorbing the higher costs from the new tariffs or imposing them on price-conscious customers.

RACISM HURST MORE THAN JUST FEELINGS, IT CAUSES MAJOR HEALTH PROBLEMS IN CHILDREN: A policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics is the first it has issued to its members on the dangers of racism. Doctors involved in the report said the current political and cultural atmosphere makes the work more urgent. “If you look at what’s in the news today, in social media, on Twitter, there’s so much kids are exposed to,” said Jackie Douge, a pediatrician with the Howard County Health Department who co-wrote the statement. “As much as you want to keep it in the background, it’s not in the background. It’s having direct health effects on kids.” Their report comes at a time when racism is dominating headlines, driven by racist tweets from President Trump, which have inspired chants at his rallies, and also by the rise of white nationalism. Other pediatricians welcomed the report, which drew on 180 key studies and includes specific recommendations, and said the danger to their patients has become acute. “There was a time not too long ago under another president when I think we as a society were talking about living in a ­post-racial age. That’s changed pretty dramatically,” said Nia J. Heard-Garris, a pediatrician at Northwestern University. “It’s a new age of racism.”