NC JUSTICE NEWS: Saving NC Pre-Kindergarten + Workforce Development + Secure Communities

August 16, 2011

MORE AT FOUR: Perdue’s order gives Pre-K program a second life

Last week, Gov. Bev Perdue made a political move that didn't just advance an agenda or further accentuate party lines. It simply aimed to improve the future lives of thousands of children across North Carolina.

The governor issued an executive order to eliminate all admission barriers preventing at-risk children from participating in the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten Program, formerly known as More At Four. The order called for the Department of Health & Human Services to maintain its Pre-K education standards and all but reversed cuts made in the legislative budget, ones that could have had a severe impact on the quality and reach of this valuable early childhood education program.

The order further supports a ruling last month by Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, which maintained that access to high-quality prekindergarten was necessary to protect “the individual right of every child to have the equal opportunity to obtain a sound basic education.” Pre-K should be free to at-risk children and Perdue’s order goes one step further to make sure it is so. Expanding early childhood education could lead to substantial and long-lasting improvements in the lives of at-risk students, many of whom fall behind permanently if they aren’t given the proper building blocks of education at a young age.

Lawmakers have the opportunity to not only maintain but expand the program to reach 60,000 at-risk children that DHHS has identified as being eligible for North Carolina Pre-K. But they also need to act appropriately during future budget debates. Further cuts next spring could deny thousands of children these programs, and it’s time to make sure the same fight doesn’t repeat itself, year after year after year, continually denying children their right to a "sound, basic education."

NATIONAL WORKFORCE WEEK: Support workforce programs

Workforce development has never been more vital to the future of North Carolina’s economic future or to the millions of workers across the U.S. who continue their long and arduous hunt for employment. Programs under the Workforce Investment Act, community college certificate courses and job retraining opportunities have all been instrumental in helping individuals further their education and expand their skill set in an increasingly competitive work environment.

Despite this, Congress cut more than $1 billion in funding for workforce programs in the fiscal year 2011. They did so at a time when job openings remain unfilled because members of the workforce weren't able to expand their skill-sets and training due to marginalized workforce development programs.

To honor and highlight these vital programs, more than 25 national organizations are hosting the National Workforce Week of Action from Aug. 15-19 to raise awareness about the importance of maintaining workforce development, both in North Carolina and beyond.

These programs are often overlooked and underappreciated, but by participating in the National Workforce Week of Action, you can make a huge difference in ensuring workforce development is expanded and made available to workers across the U.S. The fight doesn’t end at the close of this fiscal year – workforce investments are at risk of being cut back even further in 2012. Make the call. Write the letter. Oppose funding cuts for workforce development and help America get back to work.

SECURE COMMUNITIES: A “fundamentally flawed” program

This morning, a report was released addressing the controversial Secure Communities program. At best the program is considered problematic. At worst, it has proven to be destructive and an overall egregious form of so-called "immigration reform."

Though the program allegedly focuses on high-level dangerous criminals by linking ICE’s database to those of local law enforcement agencies, data released this spring showed that 1 in 4 individuals deported in the country under Secure Communities haven’t been convicted of a crime.

The report’s findings are at once surprising and predictable. The report calls Secure Communities a “fundamentally flawed program that is beyond repair," explaining how law enforcement officials have found the program does the exact opposite of what it’s meant to accomplish. Instead of making communities more “secure,” it in fact threatens public safety by distracting policemen and women from their primary functions and destroying trust within immigrant communities. Since the police become the enforcers of immigration laws, individuals become more fearful of coming forward and reporting crimes. Secure Communities will lead to the “Arizonification of the country,” the report says, citing the divisive and destructive nature of Arizona’s immigration laws.

The National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) worked with other organizations to compile expert testimonies from individuals working in law enforcement and detention agencies, as well as from individuals and families whose lives have been directly affected by the Secure Communities program.

Secure Communities has been proven time and again that it requires close evaluation and even dismantlement, so that it may inform changes to other programs within ICE. In May, President Obama called our immigration system as “broken.” Investigating and preventing the spread of the Secure Communities program could be one of the first steps in developing comprehensive immigration reform.

LAROQUE SPEAKS: Press conference will address investigation

On Tuesday morning, N.C. Rep. Stephen LaRoque will finally take to the public stage to address allegations set forth in NC Policy Watch’s in-depth investigation of questionable management and financial dealings at the lawmaker’s federally-funded public charities.

The press conference will be held in LaRoque’s hometown of Kinston, at the Kinston-Lenoir County Visitors and Information Center, technically a public building. But it remains to be seen whether LaRoque will in fact keep it as such, having already told NC Policy Watch that they would not be allowed to attend the conference.

NC Policy Watch discovered that since 1997, LaRoque received between $100,000 and $195,000 in annual compensation as executive director of two non-profits. Since 1997, East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company have received $8 million in federal funds as part of a USDA economic development program for rural parts of the state.

LaRoque received such compensation often without the knowledge of board members, who are now demanding answers. Last week, Robert Masters, a Kinston-based board member of the East Carolina Development Company, told NC Policy Watch that the matter required further investigation and that “questions need to be asked.”

CRUCIAL CONVERSATION: Prof. Kenneth Thomas

A lot of people think they understand what works and what doesn’t in the field of economic incentives. Professor Kenneth Thomas of the University of Missouri at St. Louis – a political scientist, author, and economic development expert – is one of those rare individuals to have actually conducted the hard research back up his conclusions.

Join NC Policy Watch and Professor Thomas on Wednesday, Aug. 31 for a Crucial Conversation event that will address economic development subsidies, and what the record in the U.S. and abroad tells us about spending public dollars to grown private businesses.

Don’t miss this chance to hear from a recognized national expert on this most vexing and controversial subject. The event will be held at the Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building in Raleigh at noon, and will include a box lunch in the total cost ($10). Click here to register for the event. Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com with any questions.

 

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