NC JUSTICE NEWS: A Windfall for Charter Schools + State EITC in Jeopardy + New Healthcare Coalition
March 8, 2011
CHARTER SCHOOLS: Bill would let charters rob traditional schools
The importance of a strong, supported public school system has never been more evident than during the current difficult economy. But public education now faces formidable setbacks in the form of state budget cuts and Senate Bill 8, the proposal to lift the state’s 100-school cap on charter schools.
Senate Bill 8 would take tens of millions of dollars from traditional schools and give it to charter schools, even if those charters don't take on any additional students. For example, Durham Public Schools now faces the possibility that $10 million could be siphoned from the district’s budget under Senate Bill 8 – and that's on top of state and federal cuts.
Under Senate Bill 8, school districts would lose valuable funds and support systems that are instrumental to empowering the future workers of North Carolina. Someone will have to pay for this shortage. Teachers, students, school boards and counties will feel the effects of Senate Bill 8 long after the current state elected officials leave office.
Some state House members and an array of education officials presented an alternative to Senate Bill 8 in a news conference yesterday. The alternative eliminate the cap on the number of charter schools, but it would also institute more accountability for charter schools and would prevent them from accessing certain public-school funds.
Charter schools are not the magic bullet to fix education in North Carolina. They should exist as alternative, supportive measures to the traditional school system, not as separate vacuums for public funds and high-achieving students. Lifting the cap on charter schools and rewarding an experimental model that is still evolving is premature—it would only set in place measures that could fundamentally change public education in North Carolina.
- NC Justice Center: Legislative Bulletin - Senate Bill 8 would create tax-dollar windfall for charter schools
- Progressive Pulse: Democrats propose alternative to charter schools dereg bill
- Durham Herald-Sun : Board wants charter bill vetoed
- Progressive Pulse: House dems label charter school bill an "assault on education"
- WRAL: Charter bill criticized by Perdue, NC House Dems
- Asheville Citizen-Times: Clearing up myths about success of charter schools
HEALTH CARE: Join Citizens for Responsible Health Care
The bill Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC wrote in an effort to take over health reform in North Carolina is being heard this morning in the House Health and Human Services Committee. Today's meeting will tell us if Blue Cross is going to aggressive push this bill and if the majority legislators are going to let it happen.
The bill would give Blue Cross considerable power over the new health benefits exchange, which the state must create as part of health reform. The exchange is supposed to be an independent agency and a consumer watchdog, but this bill would turn the exchange into a vehicle for maximizing Blue Cross's market dominance and profits.
- Take Action! Write a letter to the editor of your local paper calling for Blue Cross Blue Shield NC to stop its anti-consumer efforts.
- NC Justice Center: Blue Cross bill to gut reform being heard on Tuesday, write a letter to your local newspaper
- WFAE: Tension builds over plan to implement health reform in NC
- Center for Public Integrity: NC consumer advocates seeing red over bait-and-switch by one of the Blues
- NC Justice Center: Legislative Bulletin - North Carolina needs an open, accountable, pro-consumer health benefits exchange
If you care about ensuring North Carolina has a competitive health exchange that serves consumers, join Citizens for Responsible Health Care. Groups that have already signed on include AARP North Carolina, NC Association of Educators, NC Council of Churches, and the NC State AFL-CIO.
- NC Justice Center: NC Health Report - Join Citizens for Responsible Health Care
- WRAL: Groups: Insurance firms shouldn't play role in health reform
Governor Perdue deserves support and appreciation for her veto of House Bill 2, an ill-conceived anti-health-care bill. The bill was an attempt by Republicans to challenge federal health reform, but it would have hurt North Carolinians in need of health coverage and could have endangered federal health-care funding for the state. Thankfully, Governor Perdue ignored the political games and instead focused on what is best for the people of North Carolina.
- NC Justice Center: Statement from NC Health Access Coalition on Gov. Perdue's veto of H2, the anti-health care bill
- Raleigh News & Observer: Perdue vetos health overhaul opt-out backed by GOP
- Governor Perdue's YouTube Channel: House Bill 2 veto
STATE EITC: NC's working families need you to take action today!
A bill to increase taxes on low- and moderate-income working families could get a hearing before the House Finance Committee this week.
House Bill 93 would increase taxes on 12% of non-elderly families in North Carolina. Legislators are considering this tax increase on working families even as they that contemplate lowering taxes on profitable corporations and letting expire the temporary surcharge on high-income earnings.
House Bill 93 would eliminate the refundable nature of the state Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides an important tax break to more than 800,000 low- and moderate-income working families in North Carolina.
Refundability is important because:
- It ensures those most in need—primarily low-wage workers with children—get the most from the credit.
- It offsets some of the sales and property taxes working families pay. The less money a family makes, the greater a share of its income it pays in these other taxes. The EITC makes the tax system fairer.
- It puts $52 million into local economies. Families tend to spend their tax refunds in close to home, creating the economic activity needed to jumpstart the state’s economy and put people back to work.
- Take Action! Tell the House Finance Committee to protect the State EITC and vote against House Bill 93
- NC Justice Center: Legislative Bulletin - Strengthen the State EITC, Don't Dismantle It
- Progressive Pulse: Why the Earned Income Tax Credit helps working families throughout NC
COMMUNITY COLLEGE: Access to federal loans essential
House Bill 7, which is scheduled for its third reading on the House floor today, would make it harder for many students to afford that much-needed post-secondary education.
This bill—and its counterpart Senate Bill 74, which is being heard before the Senate Appropriations Committee today—would allow individual community colleges to opt out of the federal student loan program. Some college leaders say they don't want to participate in the program because if a high percentage of students default on federal loans, the school could face sanctions. So rather than manage that risk through a number of proven programs, they want to force students to pay for school with more expensive loans, such as high-interest credit cards.
If the governor’s proposed increase is implemented, tuition at North Carolina’s community colleges will have increased by 40 percent since the start of the Great Recession (2007-2008). North Carolina needs more workers with post-secondary credentials if it is to add jobs and get its economy moving. Expanding access to the federal student loan program from the current 21 campuses to all 58 community colleges would provide students with an affordable tool to pay for their education expenses.
- NC Justice Center: BTC Brief - Unmet Financial Need: Expanding access to federal loans to improve college completion
- Progressive Pulse: Nesbitt: Legislation would deny college kids opportunity (video)
- NC Justice Center: BTC Reports - Opening Opportunity's Door: Financial aid for NC community colleges builds prosperity
- NC Policy Watch: Making higher education even more unaffordable
BAN THE BOX: Durham is leading the way
The Durham Second Chance Alliance, a coalition of advocacy groups, service providers, faith-based organizations, community leaders and residents, are hoping that the City of Durham will lead the way in "banning the box" throughout North Carolina.
Today, supporters of the Ban the Box movement will gather for a press conference at Durham City Hall, in support of fair hiring ordinances for individuals who were formerly incarcerated. Second Chance Alliance’s Ban the Box campaign calls for the elimination of questions about past convictions on employment applications. Durham County and City recently committed to removing the question about criminal history from their job applications. Now, the Second Chance Alliance hopes to spur this practice into fair hiring ordinances, so that the Ban the Box campaign can survive even in the face of changing town leaders and politicians.
With thousands of individuals in Durham County that are on probation or parole, or have criminal convictions, many residents find themselves facing unfair hiring and housing discrimination. The Second Chance Alliance argues that a person’s conviction history should only be considered if it directly affects a person’s ability to do a specific job. Banning the box, on the other hand, will contribute to public safety by promoting stable employment, particularly in low-income communities. Individuals with jobs will be less likely to return to a life of crime, as they thrive as productive members of their families and communities.
- Raleigh News & Observer: Durham takes felony question off applications
- Durham Herald-Sun: City, county to drop criminal record query
- The Durham News: Boxed out of work
- NC Justice Center: Ban the Box - For a second chance at Fair Employment
EDUCATION: Depriving students of access makes no sense
Some state legislators want to prevent undocumented students from attending North Carolina’s community colleges and universities—even though those students pay out-of-state tuition and are therefore a source of revenue for schools.
Full-time in-state tuition for community college is about $5500 per year. Out-of-state tuition is between $8000 and $10000 for a full-time student. So, undocumented students pay more than others in North Carolina, bringing costs down.
And educating these students—many of whom have graduated from North Carolina public schools—makes sense for the state’s economy. About two-thirds of the jobs of the future will require some kind of post-secondary education. North Carolina will need an educated workforce to stay competitive—so keeping young people who want an education out of school is short-sighted and foolish.
- Take Action! Dream Activist: North Carolina says no to HB 11
- News 14: Latino community fears legislative bill could hurt future
- NC Policy Watch: Immigrant higher ed proposal - A bill in search of a problem
- The Durham News: House Bill 11 a step backward
LEGISLATIVE ACTION: People of Color Lobby Day tomorrow
Tomorrow, hundreds of citizen lobbyists from around the state will gather in Raleigh for the People of Color Legislative Day. As Rev. William Barber, president of the NC NAACP, put it:
"March 9 is not just a day for black, brown, and white people to gather and lobby their elected officials. It’s a day for people of good will of all colors—a diverse quilt that includes black, brown, white and all shades in between—to lobby for an anti-racist, anti-poverty policy agenda that will improve the lives of people of color and our community as a whole and advance the common good."
- NC Association of Community Development Corporations: People of Color - HKonJ Justice and Unity Legislative Day
- NC Policy Watch: "People of Color lobby day" - More important than ever