NC JUSTICE NEWS: Oppose Constitutional Amendment + Aftermath of Orlando + Education Roundup

June 21, 2016

SB 817: Constitutional amendment threatens North Carolina's future

North Carolina’s budget debate in 2016 has been severely limited by the harmful idea that decisions should be guided by a flawed formula, not the needs of communities or pragmatic approaches to investing for the greater good.

Last week, the Senate moved forward a measure that will threaten North Carolina’s future by locking in a low and arbitrary income tax rate. Senate Bill 817 would amend the state constitution to limit the ability of income tax revenue to support thriving communities. The bill:

Such changes to our state Constitution would hurt, not help, the economy by hamstringing the ability of the state to invest in the building blocks of economic growth and prosperity. These amendments would harm the economy every day, making it harder and harder to pay for things like schools and higher education. By failing to make the investments needed to position the state to compete and innovate, the flawed spending limit and income tax cap will restrict our ability to grow new industries, capitalize on efficiencies in technology or the delivery of services, and build the human capital necessary to grow. And limiting access to the rainy day fund in times of emergency leaves North Carolina without a fallback when the next recession hits.

We elect our legislators to use their judgment to make North Carolina a stronger state – not to hamper their ability to build and support thriving communities. Sign the petition and tell lawmakers to reject constitutional changes or TABOR-like legislation that would put in place arbitrary formulas and ineffective restrictions on spending and tax decisions.

ORLANDO: Another massacre, another failure to make change
From Chris Fitzsimon, director of NC Policy Watch:
There’s simply no way to make sense of the tragedy in Orlando that left 50 people dead and 53 others wounded. It just doesn’t seem possible that one human being could commit such an unspeakably horrific act against fellow human beings in cold blood for whatever twisted motive emerges from the current investigation.

It seems that way every time this happens, when a man opens fire in a movie theater in Colorado or an elementary school classroom in Connecticut or an African-American church in Charleston. It simply doesn’t make sense. Neither does the fact that we continue to make it easier for it happen again and again.

Nothing changes after we are horrified and we find out that the shooter was seriously mentally ill or identified with foreign terrorists or domestic hate groups or maybe was tortured himself by a lifetime of agony and abuse and self-loathing.

Sometimes the victims are targeted because they are gay. Sometimes they are targeted because they are African American. Sometimes it’s impossible to know why they were targeted.

But ultimately it doesn’t matter. They are all human beings murdered where they dance, where they worship, where they learn. And nothing changes. There are vigils and funerals and speeches and wall to wall news coverage and experts of all sorts weighing in. And nothing changes.

Read more at NC Policy Watch.

EDUCATION ROUND-UP: Voucher changes and Senate math bill

From controversies over school funding to Achievement School Districts, there has been no shortage of eventful developments in education throughout this legislative session. Follow education reporter Billy Ball at NC Policy Watch and on the Progressive Pulse as he brings us the latest on these developments.

Two have stood out in recent weeks as the session winds down and legislators propose their various budgets and last minute changes to our education system.

Take the Senate’s budget proposal to make changes to the Opportunity Scholarship voucher program, which provides public funding for vouchers of up to $4,200 per year to eligible students with a family income of less than 246.05% of the federal poverty level. Annual increases in the program's funding would cost North Carolina taxpayers over $170 million over the next five years, with costs increasing each year, as the program “matures” and the initial cohort of private students carries their scholarships from K-12.

Yet the Opportunity Scholarship Program contains no meaningful accountability measures, so it is unclear what benefit North Carolina’s citizens are receiving in exchange for these increased costs. Policymakers have no way to determine whether the changes proposed will hurt or harm educational delivery for North Carolina’s students.

Another development has been HB 657, an education bill that would unnecessarily disrupt teaching and learning by making misguided changes to the math course of study. HB 657 would require schools to offer two distinct courses of study for math – the current integrated course of study (Math I, II, and III) as well as the old course of study (Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II).

HB 657 would be a logistical nightmare for schools, costing the state tens of millions in taxpayer dollars by abandoning past state investments and requiring new spending on teacher training, curriculum and test re-development, and new textbooks all designed to support two separate courses of study. Moving students away from the integrated math course of study would have a harmful impact on student achievement, as an integrated approach has led to improved outcomes for students on standardized assessments, higher scores on the ACT, and reduced the achievement gap for underserved students.

DAPA DECISION DAY: Join us for rally, teach-in when decision is made

Immigrant families nationwide can expect to hear a decision sometime soon on the DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) court case, Texas v. US, from the US Supreme Court.

On Decision Day, join us in Downtown Raleigh at 5:30 p.m., regardless of the outcome. Please invite your friends, coworkers, and community members. If we win, we will celebrate and have a brief Teach-In on the DAPA program and next steps for our state. If we lose, we will gather anyway and rally together to highlight our commitment to keep fighting for immigrant justice statewide.

  • Date: Same day that we hear a decision from the US Supreme Court
  • Time: 5:30pm – 7pm
  • Location: Nash Square, the park at the corner of Dawson and Martin Streets in Downtown Raleigh
  • On Social Media: Use the hashtags #ReadyForDAPA #DecisionDay #‎FightForFamilies #‎UnfreezeDAPA #FamiliasUnidas #LiberaDAPA
  • Questions: Leave a message at (919) 675-2409.

PAID FAMILY LEAVE: Tell legislators that dads need family leave

Father's Day has come and gone but it's not too late to tell North Carolina legislators to support policies that benefit mothers and fathers alike.

All working parents deserve the support they need to welcome a new child, take care of an ailing spouse, or recover from serious illness. However, a whopping 88% of working people have no access to employer-provided paid leave, meaning that when their families need them most, they have to choose between being there and paying the bills.

Despite the importance of this issue for working parents, the North Carolina General Assembly has refused to consider legislation providing moms and dads with paid family medical leave. It’s time for legislators to stop paying lip service to families on Father’s Day and instead provide them with the support they need.

PAYDAY DEBT TRAPS: Support a strong rule to stop these predatory practices

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently released proposed rules that, if strengthened, could rein in the worst abuses of payday and car title lending. Thankfully, North Carolina protects against abusive payday and car title loans, but the CFPB still needs to hear from you.

Add your voice now to stop the debt trap!

Payday loans notoriously carry 300+% APR (annual percentage rate). Strategically located in low-income neighborhoods, payday lenders intentionally trap borrowers in debt that they cannot escape. The average payday borrower is trapped by ten transactions in a year.
Though payday lenders were forced out of our state 10 years ago, we still need a strong national rule. Payday lenders will use a weak rule to seek a green light to come back into North Carolina.

Support a strong rule to stop these predatory practices.

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