July 30, 2013
FUTURE OF EDUCATION: Final budget delivers blows to teachers, students
At yesterday's 13th — and presumably final, at least in its current form — Moral Monday event, thousands of North Carolinians gathered to protest the policies of the NC General Assembly. The state's teachers were there in spades, speaking out against a budget that contains more than $500 million in cuts to public education.
Such cuts means no raises for already underpaid teachers, larger class sizes, cuts to supplies and teacher assistant jobs, and the loss of tenure and supplemental pay for advanced degrees, while introducing a school voucher plan that sends millions of public dollars to private schools. Worse yet, the budget cuts were delivered at a time when North Carolina is dead last in teacher salary growth.
Instead of investing in schools and other building blocks of a strong economy, lawmakers chose to leave room for tax cuts for corporations and wealthy — cuts that will cost $524.4 million in lost revenue over the next two years. As a point of comparison, that much money could keep 1 in 5 teacher assistant jobs, prevent cuts to need-based aid for low-income college students, keep the Teaching Fellows Program, and protect salary supplements for teachers with Master's degrees, not to mention a 1 percent salary increase for all teachers and state employees in the 2014 fiscal year.
North Carolina's two-year budget fails to invest in teachers, students, and public education system, plain and simple. Building a strong economy means building a workforce that can meet the needs of competitive businesses and put our state on a path towards prosperity. Investing in education does just this. Instead, the budget gap of nearly half a billion dollars will have North Carolina feeling the repercussions of these cuts for years to come.
FINAL DAYS AT NCGA: McCrory signs bills at end of a long, brutal session
North Carolina's legislators signed off last week on what has been a devastating legislative session for nearly every North Carolinian — unemployed workers, teachers, people of color, women, voters, and low-income families, among many, many others. Our full legislative recap will be released in the upcoming weeks but here's a refresher on what our lawmakers have been up to:
- The NC General Assembly passed and Gov. McCrory approved a budget that fails to invest in the future of our state.
- Last night, Gov. McCrory signed a bill imposing harsh regulations on abortion throughout the state, despite explicitly saying during his gubernatorial campaign that he would not sign anything to further restrict abortion.
- Gov. McCrory said yesterday that he would sign a bill that would result in the harshest voter suppression in the country — although it appears he's not 100% familiar with the bill's details, which would cut a week off of early voting, eliminate straight party ticket voting, end pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, eliminate same day voter registration, and ban paid voter registration drives, among other stipulations.
- In mid-July, lawmakers approved a final tax plan that cuts taxes for the wealthiest and eliminates the state Earned Income Tax Credit, a valuable and often lifesaving tool for low-income working families.
And this is just in the past two weeks. None of this is hugely surprising, which may be the saddest fact of all. But it's a huge disappointment for North Carolina.
There is still a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, should lawmakers choose to do the right thing. Lawmakers could still reverse the unemployment insurance cutoff that affected 70,000 people earlier this month. State leaders would need to reach out the federal Department of Labor and renew an agreement about the extended benefits. It's unlikely. Yet the unemployment cliff is very real, and after such a brutal session, the very least lawmakers could do is try to correct some modicum of the damage they have inflicted on North Carolinians over the past seven months.
The Nation: North Carolina passes country's worst voter suppression law