NC JUSTICE NEWS: Vouchers Ruled Unconstitutional + Wrong Choices for NC + A Fair Economy for All: Poll

August 25, 2014

VOUCHER PROGRAM: Judge rules NC program is unconstitutional

On August 21, Judge Robert H. Hobgood ruled that North Carolina's voucher program violates the state’s constitution. “The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything,” Hobgood said.

In his ruling, Judge Hobgood detailed the many reasons why the program ultimately failed constitutional muster, saying that it:

  1. appropriates to private schools grades K-12, by use of funds which apparently have gone to the university system budget but which should be used exclusively for establishing and maintaining the uniform system of free public schools;
  2. appropriates education funds in a manner that does not accomplish a public purpose;
  3. appropriates educational funds outside the supervision and administration of the state board of education;
  4. creates a non-uniform system of education;
  5. appropriates taxpayer funds to educational institutions that have no standards, curriculum and requirements for teachers and principals to be certified;
  6. fails to guard and maintain the rights of the people who privilege the education by siphoning money from the public schools in favor of private schools; and
  7. allows funding of non-public schools that discriminate on account of religion.

Twenty-five plaintiffs from across the state filed a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court on December 11, 2013, challenging the constitutionality of the school voucher law passed by the General Assembly last year. The large and diverse group of plaintiffs who joined in the lawsuit, sponsored by the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), and the North Carolina Justice Center, reflected North Carolinians' growing alarm at the legislature's attacks on public education.

WRONG CHOICES FOR NC: Few positive policies passed during session

Instead of supporting policies that improve the lives of North Carolina families, the NC General Assembly passed many policies throughout the 2013-2014 legislative session that could negatively affect many North Carolinians at a time when many are suffering from economic hardship.

It's sobering to see all of these issues listed in one place, particularly while the state is shedding jobs and failing far too many of our workers who are simply absent from the labor force. Yet one can also look at these facts as a roadmap to a better North Carolina for all, should anyone take the time to focus on better choices and policies for our state.

POLL: North Carolinians support raising minimum wage, economy for all

North Carolinians of all political stripes support raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing access to paid sick days and establishing local living wage ordinances, according to a new poll released last week from Public Policy Polling. The poll revealed that nearly two out of every three voters support a state law that would guarantee access to paid sick days, and even more (63 percent) support establishing living wage standards in our cities and counties.

Interestingly, the poll respondents were largely center-right. Most poll respondents identified as conservative, yet only 29 percent supported “relying on the private market to set wages without public intervention.” Fifty-eight percent of voters support raising North Carolina’s minimum wage above the current $7.25 per hour standard, and 51 percent of “somewhat conservative” respondents and 42 percent of “very conservative” respondents support local living wages as a way to build "an economy that works for all."

The poll also showed that the majority of those surveyed value quality over quantity when it comes to job creating. Half of the poll respondents were more concerned that jobs actually paid a living wage rather than there being enough jobs. In the face of still-modest job growth and a boom in low-wage work post-recession, such a finding suggests policymakers should focus on policies that create good, quality jobs in order to build an economy that works for all.

What's encouraging about these results -- particularly after reviewing the decisions by lawmakers that negatively affect North Carolinians -- is that there is strong support for policies help build an economy that works for everyone. They're interested in a policy direction that will not only ensure that everyone who wants to work can do so but also that North Carolina's hard workers aren't living in poverty. See the complete poll results here.

HENDERSON COMMUNITY FORUM: The 2nd year of the Affordable Care Act

Join the Health Care Access Coalition, Senator Angela Bryant, Representative Nathan Baskerville, and former Congresswoman Eva Clayton for a special educational forum and community conversation on the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and the health benefits exchanges.

As the Affordable Care Act is being implemented in our state, North Carolina lawmakers have blocked the Medicaid program from being expanded. This means that 500,000 working adults will remain uninsured in 2014. Join in the conversation with the NC Justice Center to discuss the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, how Medicaid expansion would help the community, and implementation of the online marketplace, including Special Enrollment Period opportunities. Refreshments will be served.

The event will be held on Thursday, September 4 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. at the Shiloh Baptist Church, 635 S. College Street in Henderson. Call or email today to reserve your place: Senator Angela Bryant (919-733-5878 or bryantla@ncleg.net) or Nicole Dozier (919-856-2146 or nicole@ncjustice.org).

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