Kris Nordstrom, a public education fiscal analyst in the General Assembly's nonpartisan Fiscal Research division, resigned from his job effective Friday, according to a General Assembly spokeswoman. Sources say the move was not voluntary. (Nordstrom declined to comment for this story.)
Nordstrom, who holds a master's degree in public policy from Duke, worked at the General Assembly as a legislative staffer for nine years. Legislative sources say Nordstrom was generally regarded as good at his job and was candid in offering his opinion regarding fiscal data to lawmakers.
"Kris Nordstrom was an excellent analyst. I can't think of a finer fiscal analyst in the division," says Rick Glazier, a former state representative who is now executive director of the N.C. Justice Center. Glazier worked closely with Nordstrom on education policy during his time in the legislature.
Legislative sources (who would not go on the record) speculate that there was tension between Nordstrom and lawmakers in the state House and Senate over education policy, as well as with members of Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger's staff.
A source tells the INDY
the recent disagreement
between the Department of Public Instruction and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger's office over diverting $2 million in funding from the Excellent Public Schools Act to compensate for the $2.5 million cut to North Carolina's education department may have been a contributing factor. In October, the state budget director told DPI not to pay employees' salaries with money from the state's Excellent Public Schools Act.
In January, DPI tried to move money from the act—intended to help students with reading—anyway, according to a News & Observer
This source says Nordstrom, however, was not responsible for the proposal to pay DPI salaries with that money, and that he actually advised Senator Berger's staff to make a special provision on how to spend that money to avoid such a situation.
School-performance grades, which the General Assembly began assigning in the 2013–14 school year, were also a matter of contention, the source adds. Nordstrom questioned the purpose of school-performance rankings, since instead of identifying where students were learning and achieving, performance grades function more to identify which schools poor children attend.
Legislative sources say that it’s likely that Senator Berger would have had to OK any decision to let a staffer go. Senator Berger has not yet responded to the INDY's
request for comment. Paul Coble, the General Assembly's director of legislative services, told that INDY
that, as a rule, his office does not comment on personnel issues.
Lawmakers who spoke to the INDY
this week say it’s rare to see a legislative staffer leave so abruptly, especially given that the short legislative session, which opens April 25, is just around the corner. After Coble was hired as the director of legislative services last August, longtime research director Walker Reagan left his position in November
for reasons that are not clear. In 2011, Marilyn Chism, who was head of the Fiscal Research Division, was reportedly fired
"To the extent that the perception exists that legislative staffers are intimidated to offer their opinions to lawmakers, it is a sad day for the government of this state," Glazier says.
This post was updated to add information about Nordstrom’s dealings with legislative leaders.