After resigning during her third year as president of the University of North Carolina’s 17-campus system on March 1, Margaret Spellings has found her next job. She will work for a Texas nonprofit developing a plan for the future of the state.
Spellings, who spent much of her life in Houston, told The News & Observer she’s moving to Dallas next week to work as a consultant to non-profit organization Texas 2036, which focuses on six public policy areas: education and workforce, health and human services, infrastructure, natural resources, justice and safety, and government performance.
In November, Spellings sat down with members of the media to discuss her then-recent resignation announcement, her thoughts on Silent Sam and her time in North Carolina. Read excerpts of that conversation here.
According to the organization’s website, Texas 2036 uses data, research, resources and leaders to inform Texans and political institutions on how to ensure that the state of Texas remains the best place to live and work through and beyond the state’s bicentennial, or 200-year anniversary, in the year of 2036.
Spellings told The News & Observer that she’s excited about her position at Texas 2036 because it will allow her to get back to the kind of work she used to do as domestic policy adviser and as the U.S. Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush. In that role, she implemented the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act.
Texas currently has a prosperous economy with an unemployment rate at a historic low of 3.7 percent in October, according to TribTalk, a publication of The Texas Tribune. The state’s warm weather, low cost of living and growing economy has attracted nearly 1,000 new residents per day in 2018 and is expected to include 13 million new residents by the year 2036.
Despite its current level of economic success, the state is projected to enter an era of diminishing prosperity onset by increased housing costs and higher degree requiring jobs, according to TribTalk.
Texas 2036 was founded in 2016 by Tom Luce, a Dallas-based attorney who served as an assistant Secretary of Education under Spellings during the Bush administration, amid growing concerns that the opportunities of Texas would cease to exist for future generations if the state did not carefully plan for its future.
Luce told The News & Observer that he hopes Spellings will become the permanent leader of the nonprofit.
“In the real world, you don’t change those systems overnight, and it takes a long-term plan, and it takes developing the coalitions for that plan,” Luce told the News and Observer. “Margaret is the perfect person to lead that effort. She’s got the policy experience, the bipartisan background to be able to do that, and I think we’re just very fortunate that we were able to persuade her to, what I call, come home.”
At the time of publication, The Daily Tar Heel had not received a response to a request for comment from Luce.
Spellings unexpectedly announced her resignation as the UNC-system president in October 2018. She is one of several UNC administrators to resign in the wake of the toppling of Silent Sam.
"All leaders are for a time," Spellings said in October. "I came into this position knowing that the most lasting contribution I could make was to help create a culture of higher expectations for the citizens of this state, and we have done just that."
As president of the system, Spellings rallied for making college more affordable for students and making it easier to transfer from a community college to a four-year institution. In 2016, Spellings established a set tuition plan across the UNC system, which guaranteed tuition rates to be the same throughout four years of constant enrollment at one of the UNC-system universities.
In fall 2018, Spellings launched the N.C. Promise Tuition Plan, which decreased semester, in-state and out-of-state tuition at Elizabeth City State University, UNC-Pembroke and Western Carolina University.
Spellings came under fire in late 2015 after sending a memorandum to UNC-system university chancellors instructing that they comply with House Bill 2, which required transgender individuals to use their birth sex's restroom. Spellings’ actions were criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, Lambda Legal and Equality N.C.
"I've just concluded that my three-year anniversary in March was really the right time for me," Spellings said at a press conference following the announcement of her resignation. "I've given it my all, made a lot of contributions together with this board and the people that work in this university and the people in the system office, and it's the right time for me."
At the time of publication, the UNC-system office had not issued an official statement regarding Spellings’ latest appointment at Texas 2036.
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