Hijacking teacher licensure: Documents reveal early plan to insert merit pay reform into PEPSC’s work despite lobbying concerns

A newly obtained Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) document provides an early glimpse of the Human Capital Roundtable’s secret effort to move all North Carolina teachers from an experience-based pay scale to merit pay.

According to the May 31, 2019 draft Roundtable Action Plan document, which is marked “Internal Only” and “Please Do Not Distribute,” the number one goal of the Roundtable was to “Create a Performance-Based Educator Licensure System.”

The Department of Public Instruction’s Dr. Tom Tomberlin would be “manager” of the project and would “coordinate and execute the Roundtable’s plan to redesign North Carolina’s teacher licensure requirements and processes.” 

Tomberlin’s responsibilities included drafting a preliminary proposal, gathering feedback from “state leaders and affected stakeholders” and then “finalizing the plan for PEPSC review.”

Dr. Tomberlin is DPI’s Director of Educator Recruitment and Support.  He is a member of the Human Capital Roundtable, but he most definitely does NOT serve on the PEPSC Commission. 

Dr. Patrick Miller, who was likely added to the Human Capital Roundtable because he chaired PEPSC and could provide the Roundtable with access to the commission, was designated a “helper” for Tomberlin. 

According to the Roundtable Action Plan, Dr. Miller’s role was to “serve as the key shepherd of the redesign plan through the Commission and State Board of Education.”

The newly unearthed document flies in the face of the Human Capital Roundtable’s public narrative that its members are “simply following PEPSC’s work and support its foundational ideals.”

That was the disingenuous external messaging suggested by marketing firm Eckel and Vaughan when teacher backlash against the deeply unpopular merit pay scheme began this past spring.

It’s important to understand that the Human Capital Roundtable, whose origins are murky at best, did not have any legal authority to recommend changes to licensure or teacher preparation in North Carolina.

PEPSC, on the other hand, was created by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2017 to study and make recommendations on licensure. 

The Roundtable Action Plan makes it clear that, from the very beginning, the Human Capital Roundtable intended to hijack PEPSC’s legislative mandate and get the commission to take up its proposal to scrap the experience-based pay scale which North Carolina and all the other 49 states use and replace it with a highly experimental merit pay model.

The Roundtable Action Plan was prepared and circulated by SREB among Human Capital Roundtable members for feedback.

At least one of them was a little queasy about it.

Tom West is a member of the Human Capital Roundtable who, in his day job, serves as VP for Government Relations and General Counsel for North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU). 

In response to the draft action plan, West cautioned that much of what was proposed in the document might qualify as lobbying–which would legally require the Roundtable to register as a “lobbyist principal” under General Statute 120C:


The PEPSC Commission is scheduled to meet on November 10 and is expected to hold a vote on whether to approve the Human Capital Roundtable’s merit pay proposal and send it on to the State Board of Education for consideration.

Contact information for PEPSC Commission members and State Board of Education members is here:  https://tinyurl.com/PEPSCcontact

You can view the Roundtable Action Plan in its entirety below:


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