NC JUSTICE NEWS: Low Teacher Pay + Medicaid Expansion + Crucial Conversation with Diane Ravitch

March 12, 2013

LOW TEACHER PAY: NC is 46th in the nation in teacher salary

Last week's State Board of Education meeting revealed an absolutely staggering fact: it takes 15 years for a teacher with a Bachelor's Degree to make $40,000. This information goes hand in hand with recent reports showing that North Carolina is 46th in the nation in teacher pay and dead last in raises over the last 10 years.

Time after time, legislators say that the most important person in a class is the person standing in front of the room. Teachers did receive a 1.2% raise last year but that was only after four years of receiving no raises and mounting criticism.

Perhaps the saddest collision between low teacher pay and deepening cuts happens when teachers buy classroom supplies. The legislature should be responsible for paying teachers what they are worth and ensuring that each classroom has everything it needs for the teacher to be effective.

Being 46th in the nation in teacher pay should be shocking to North Carolina residents and legislators alike. A teacher should not have to wait four years for a 1.2% raise, and he or she certainly should not wait 15 years to reach a salary $40,000. The state expects teachers to create good world citizens and a workforce to help rebuild North Carolina’s economy. The least it can do is pay teachers so that they can also participate in the economy.

MEDICAID EXPANSION: Gov. McCrory rejects expansion behind closed doors

Last Wednesday, behind closed doors in a private event closed to the press and the public, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill blocking North Carolina from accepting billions of federal dollars to provide health care for 500,000 North Carolina residents.

It's revealing that the Gov. signed a bill that will prevent North Carolina from adding groups of low-income residents to Medicaid insurance out of sight of the public eye. After all, McCrory didn't have to sign this legislation. He could have vetoed the bill or let it take effect without his signature. Actively rejecting the expansion sends a powerful and painful message to thousands of individuals and families across NC.

Rejecting the Medicaid expansion — which would have largely been paid for with federal dollars in the first three years — means more North Carolinians will be forced to delay getting necessary health treatments when they're sick. Rural hospitals will continue to struggle with federal cuts and the financial pressure that accompanies treating uninsured patients. By signing this bill into law, Gov. McCrory helped extend harmful health disparities and made times that much harder for many families that are already struggling.

DIANE RAVITCH: Public education expert to appear at Crucial Conversation

NC Policy Watch, the NC Justice Center's Education & Law Project and Public Schools First NC will host a very special Crucial Conversation on March 21, featuring Diane Ravitch, America's leading spokesperson for public education.

What is the future of public education in the United States? Where once we viewed and treated public schools as both an essential “common good” institution and a critical bulwark of our democracy, today they are increasingly marginalized, an attiude that has resulted in privatization, vouchers, unfettered charter schools and re-segregation.

Fortunately, more groups and individuals are standing up to resist these trends, and fewer are more effective than Diane Ravitch. From 1991 to 1993, Ravitch was Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of President George H. W. Bush. From 1995 until 2005, she held the Brown Chair in Education Studies at the Brookings Institution and edited Brookings Papers on Education Policy.

Don't miss this chance to hear one of America's forefront thinkers on education policy. The luncheon will be held on Thursday, March 21 at 12:00 p.m. at the Marbles Kids Museum, 201 E. Hargett Street in Downtown Raleigh. Click here to register.

FAITH, FAIRNESS AND TAXES: Who will be affected by changes in NC tax code?

In light of current discussions around changing the state tax code, exactly who will be affected by proposals is of paramount importance to the overall fairness of the tax system.

On Monday, March 18, faith leaders, theologians, divinity students and advocates will join together for a discussion at Wake Forest University on “Faith, Fairness & Taxes.” The event will be hosted by the NC Justice Center, Wake Forest University School of Divinity, Institute for Public Engagement at Wake Forest University, and the NC Council of Churches.

Professor Susan Pace Hamill of the University of Alabama School of Law and a nationally recognized leader on faith and fair taxation will serve as the keynote speaker. Hamill has served as Professor of Law at the university since 1994, focusing on tax law, business, and ethics. She has a J.D. from Tulane University and a masters in theological studies from the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, and has been featured in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal for her work on state and local tax law, and how it relates to faith.

RSVP here for the event.

DEFENDERS OF JUSTICE AWARDS: Nominees and Save the Date - May 9, 2013

Join the NC Justice Center on Thursday, May 9 for the 15th Annual Defenders of Justice Awards. Each year, the Justice Center presents its DOJ Awards to honor individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions in the fight against poverty in four areas that reflect the scope of the Justice Center’s work.

The 2013 honorees are:

  • Legislative Advocacy: Wayne Goodwin, NC Commissioner of Insurance
  • Litigation: Phil Lehman, NC Office of the Attorney General and the Mortgage Foreclosure Unit, Legal Aid of NC
  • Policy Research and Advocacy: Equality NC
  • Grassroots Empowerment: A. Philip Randolph Institute

The event will be held at the Carolina Club at UNC Chapel Hill's George Watts Hill Alumni Center. Stay tuned for more details on tickets and sponsorship opportunities.

WAGE THEFT IN NC: Rampant issue harms workers, communities, economies

Wage theft is a rampant issue in North Carolina that harms workers, their families, communities, and local economies. And it's an issue demands stronger laws and better enforcement mechanisms to make it easier for workers to receive what they are owed and keep employers from harming more workers.

Wage theft occurs when an employer underpays or fails to pay wages to workers — either through failing to pay minimum wage or overtime, revoking employees’ tips, making illegal paycheck deductions, misclassifying employees as independent contractors, or simply failing to pay promised wages. Employers robbed NC workers of at least $33 million between 2007 and 2011 — likely an underestimate.

Two new reports released last week revealed that wage theft is particularly widespread in low-wage industries, which also happen to be the state’s high-growth industries. Many workers don't know that wage theft is illegal in North Carolina or that there are avenues for recourse. Some of the worst wage theft occurs with immigrant workers, who are threatened with or fear being reported to U.S. officials.

Lawmakers need to make remedying wage theft a priority. They can focus on creating laws that make it easier for workers to make claims and have access to quick, effective ways to recover lost wages. It will benefit workers, their communities, and the state as a whole.

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