NC JUSTICE NEWS, October 12, 2010: Victory for Students + State Budget Worries + What Congress Didn't Do

October 12, 2010

EDUCATION RIGHTS: Students get a win in NC Supreme Court

Last week, the state Supreme Court ruled in King v. Beaufort Co. Board of Education, that school administrators must offer alternative education to long-term suspended students unless they can justify the denial of alternative education with an "important or significant" reason. The ruling is a victory for students. Prior to this ruling, there was little scrutiny by state courts of such decisions by school administrators. The case was litigated by the Duke Children's Law Clinic and Advocates for Children’s Services (Legal Aid), and the Justice Center filed a "friend of the court" brief in the case on behalf of nine individuals and groups advocating for children in North Carolina.

The ruling will play a vital role in protecting the educational rights of thousands of students, especially minority children. Consider that in the 2008-09 school year, North Carolina schools handed out 3,579 long-term suspensions, with 2,062 going to black students. Depriving these students of alternative education placements during long-term suspension guarantees they will fall behind and increases the likelihood they will drop out. As a result of this ruling, more of these students will get the opportunity to continue their education, which means they will have a chance to get back on the right track.

 

 

BUDGET: How will ruling on special funds affect the budget process?

In a 3-3 decision, the NC Supreme Court let stand a lower court’s ruling that former Gov. Mike Easley acted improperly when he moved money from the Highway Trust Fund into the state’s General Fund. That happened in 2002, when the state faced a $1 billion shortfall and needed the money to balance the budget.

The ruling applies only to that 2002 incident. Governor Perdue, who’s facing a shortfall of about $3.5 billion next year, says she doesn’t feel constrained by the ruling. But frankly, there isn’t much money left in the state’s various special funds to raid.

North Carolina faces considerable challenges in the coming year, but not insurmountable ones. Revenue reform—modernizing the state’s tax system in order to raise desperately needed money in a fair way—must play a central role in balancing the budget and preserving the state’s investments in core public institutions and vital services.

 

THE FEDS : What Congress hasn't done to help working families

Speaking of helping the nation recover from the recession, let’s take a look at what Congress has done recently… or rather, what it hasn’t done. Congress let expire the popular and successful TANF Emergency Fund, which got people into jobs by helping to fund key work supports and by subsidizing employment. They delayed action on extending the improvements to the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit that were part of the 2009 Recovery Act. They didn’t vote on what to do about the Bush-era tax cuts—even though everyone agreed they should be extended for 98% of the population (it’s disagreement about that last 2%--the richest families in the country—that held things up).

Your senators and representatives are now back in North Carolina, campaigning for the November election. If you see them, let them know that putting people out of work by letting the TANF Emergency Fund expire was unacceptable, and extending the tax credit provisions in the Recovery Act needs to be their top priority when they return to Washington.

 

CONSUMER PROTECTIONS: Banks halt foreclosures

Remember when the nation’s banks promised to help people stay in their homes and to do whatever they could to ease the foreclosure crisis? So far, only a small fraction of homeowners have received help from the banks. And now it turns out that foreclosure processors have been approving documents without properly reviewing them, which means thousands of foreclosures could be invalid.

The Justice Center’s consumer advocates have been confronting this issue for more than two years now. Attorneys for the trusts that own many mortgages are required to provide little evidence in court that they have the right to foreclose on a home. Challenging a trust’s right to foreclose is one tool our advocates use to help families keep their homes.

 

It’s hard to know now if the documentation issue will just slow down the process or if it will actually prevent the foreclosure of hundreds of thousands of homes. Either way, the Justice Center’s attorneys will continue fighting for homeowners.

 

HEALTH REFORM EVENT: Next Tuesday in Durham

Partnership for a Healthy Durham is sponsoring a summit today for those interested in learning about how health care reform will affect them. The Justice Center’s Adam Linker will speak on reform’s impact on small business. The summit will also address how reform is affecting health care for children, seniors and those with chronic health conditions.

--> Tonight, 5pm - 7pm
--> Durham Regional Hospital's Auditorium
--> Flyer for event
--> Register online or call 919-403-4DRH (4374)

The Congregational Nurse and Health Ministry Program of the Shepherd’s Center of Greater Winston-Salem invites you to attend an educational forum about the new federal health care reform. Adam Linker will be there to provide an overview of the new law, describe how it will affect different members of the community, and explain when the various components of the law will take effect.

--> "Making Sense of the New Health Care Law"
--> Thursday, October 14, 7pm - 8:30pm
--> Fellowship Hall at Knollwood Baptist Church, 330 Knollwood St., Winston-Salem
--> Contact Sam Matthews at (336) 748-0217 or smatthews@shepherdscenter.org

And check out the op-ed in today's News & Observer by NC Health Access Coalition Director Adam Searing – Pricey medicine and its price.

 

Foreclosure documentation challenges prompted Charlotte-based Bank of America to expand its moratorium on foreclosure sales to all 50 states. (BofA had instituted a moratorium in 23 states, but NC Attorney General Roy Cooper came down hard on the bank for continuing with foreclosures in its home state). Other lenders, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Ally Financial Inc.'s GMAC mortgage unit, have taken steps to stop some foreclosure-related actions in North Carolina and other states. Last week, AG Cooper asked 13 large mortgage servicers to halt foreclosures in North Carolina until they prove their processes are legal. Those lenders have until today to respond.

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