NC JUSTICE NEWS: Defenders of Justice and More

October 6, 2009

DEFENDERS OF JUSTICE: Awards Dinner this Thursday

Bob Edgar, President and CEO of Common Cause will be the keynote speaker at the Justice Center's Defenders of Justice Awards Dinner. Join us this Thursday at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham.
Purchase your tickets today!
This year's honorees are:

State Sen. Floyd McKissick, Jr. of Durham for being an effective champion of the disenfranchised, securing legislation that strengthens fair housing rights, and advocating fervently for the groundbreaking Racial Justice Act
State Rep. Pricey Harrison of Greensboro for her passionate support of low-income families and communities on such issues as healthcare, quality education, the environment, campaign and ethics reform, consumer protection, workers’ rights, and the need for a fair tax system
Angaza Laughinghouse, president of NC Public Service Workers Union, Local 150, for his commitment to advocating for and organizing workers so they can secure better working conditions, fairer pay and the right to collective bargaining

AARP North Carolina for being an aggressive voice for the needs of older adults, particularly those struggling to make ends meet, and for securing numerous legislative victories that have improved the lives of its members and their families
John Alan Jones and Chris Olson of Martin & Jones for using their impressive legal skills to pursue cases that expand consumer protections so all North Carolinians can pursue effective recourse for unfair business practices
Please join us for this celebration of North Carolina's progressive champions. Buy Your Tickets Today!
POVERTY: "Poverty Day" numbers show deepening crisis
According to last week's "Poverty Day" release of census data, North Carolina's working families hadn't even recovered from the last recession before the most recent recession caused unemployment and poverty to increase.
The Census' American Community Survey (ACS) recorded a slight increase in the share of North Carolinians living in poverty between 2007 (14.4 percent) and 2008 (14.6 percent). Significantly, the poverty rate is higher now than it was in 2000 (13.1 percent), showing that working families have not recovered from the last recession, let alone begun to cope with this one. The total share of North Carolina's children living in poverty also increased between 2007 (19.2 percent) and 2008 (19.5 percent), and it is way up from 2000 ( 18.1 percent). North Carolina has the 16th highest total poverty and child poverty rates in the nation.
The bleak picture painted by these numbers is actually an understatement because the data only covers 2008, before the current recession really hit hard. So far this year, North Carolina has lost 220,000, and the state's unemployment rate has soared to 10.8 percent (compared to 6.6 percent in August 2008).
"North Carolina's working families continue to face a painful struggle to provide basic needs like food and health care," said Meg Gray, policy analyst with the NC Justice Center's Budget & Tax Center. "Policy makers should take these numbers as an opportunity to enhance support for North Carolina families in crisis."
WAKE COUNTY: The Future of Education Hangs in the Balance
Today, voters in Wake County will choose new members to their Board of Education. Of the nine-member board, four seats are on the ballot. The big issue of this election is the Wake County school board's long-standing commitment to maintaining balanced and diverse student populations. Wake County is the nation's 23rd largest school district and is often noted as one of the better urban school systems in the country, thanks in large part to the school district's commitment to socioeconomic diversity.
The district's reassignment policy states that no school should have more than 40 percent of its students eligible for the federal free or reduced lunch program, which is available to children from low-income families. The policy also sets a goal that no school should have more than 25 percent of its students performing below grade level on state exams. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights highlighted Wake County’s reassignment policy as a national model for closing persistent racial achievement gaps and improving student achievement for disadvantaged students.
Growth, not the diversity policy, is the reason for half of the 24,000 reassignments that will happen over the next three years. The Wake County school system recently released a report showing that 86 percent of students attend a school within five miles of their homes, 99 percent within ten miles. Neighborhood schools are commonly the most segregated, lowest performing schools, which leads to devastating effects for the students in those communities.
So if you're in Wake County, get informed and go to the polls today. The future of education in your community depends on it!
HEALTH CARE: The Cost of No Reform
A new report from the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation examines the costs of failing to enact health reform for North Carolina. The study uses projections under worst-case, intermediate-case, and best-case scenarios. Every scenario is disasterous.
In the best case, Medicaid and children’s health insurance spending will rise from $8.6 billion to $14.6 billion in 2019. In the worst case, spending will hit $18.5 billion in 2019. Total uncompensated care will rise from $2 billion in 2009 to $5 billion in 2019 in the best case projections. The number of uninsured will increase from 1.7 million in 2009 to 2.4 million in 2019 in the worst case and 2 million in the best case. For North Carolina health reform is more than a moral imperative, it’s a financial imperative.
Thanks to everyone who attended the Crucial Conversation featuring former health insurance executive Wendell Potter. If you missed his eye-opening speech, check out the links below.
Research & Publications: