NC JUSTICE NEWS: School Closings + Racial Economic Disparity + American Jobs Act

October 4, 2011

SCHOOL CLOSINGS: Institutions for deaf, blind will be forced to close

Of all the cuts mandated by the state budget this year, the cruelest seem to have been saved for some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Last week, students from the Governor Morehead School for the Blind gathered in Raleigh to plead for their school to remain open. Morehead is North Carolina’s only school for the blind. Yet if Morehead remains open, the existing state budget cuts would force the closing of either the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf in Wilson or the North Carolina School for the Deaf in Morganton.

It seems unconscionable to shutter any of the schools. Come next July, however, one of the three schools will close. Services will be consolidated, and many students will be forced to relocate if they don’t wish to return to school in their local districts.

It’s preposterous that the fates of deaf and blind students are being pitted against each other because of decisions made in the General Assembly. These schools fill a critical need for children to learn in a safe, nurturing setting.

RACIAL DISPARITIES: High black, Hispanic unemployment

Racial disparities in income and unemployment are alive in well in North Carolina and the U.S., according to recent data, ones that have only been exacerbated by the Great Recession. While the poverty rate for North Carolina increased significantly to 17.5 percent in 2010, the poverty rate for African American North Carolinians was more than ten percentage points higher than the state figure, and the rate for Hispanic or Latino North Carolinians stood at 33.9 percent. That translates to 1 in 4 African Americans and 1 in 3 Latinos in the state who are living under the federal poverty level. In 2007, when the Great Recession first began, both African American and Hispanic state residents' poverty rates were more than twice as high as white residents' poverty rates.

The Economic Policy Institute released analysis yesterday showing racial disparities in North Carolina's metro areas as well. From 2009 to 2010, unemployment among African-Americans in Charlotte jumped by 4.2 percentage points. That is the fifth-largest jump among the country's largest metro areas. In 2007, Charlotte ranked 15th among metro areas for the unemployment rate of African Americans.

The significant and disproportionate impact of the Great Recession on workers of color is driving severe economic hardship in these communities and requires a targeted policy response by lawmakers. North Carolina needs a thoughtful dialogue between our policy makers, as well as job creation that is targeted to communities facing prolonged economic distress.

MARRIAGE AMENDMENT: Poll finds opposition to amendment

North Carolinians may have their own personal opinions when it comes to same-sex marriage. But a new poll from Elon University shows that a majority of our state’s citizens oppose writing discrimination into North Carolina’s constitution, which is precisely what a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman would accomplish.

More than half of those surveyed oppose a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, according to the poll, even if only 29 percent supported civil rights or partnerships, but not full marriage rights. Most remarkably, the number of people who would prefer to see no legal recognition for same-sex couples has in fact decreased since pollsters began asking the same question two years ago – from 44 to 34 percent. Similarly, 33 percent of individuals support full marriage rights for all citizens, versus only 21 percent in March 2009.

If the numbers are any indication, support for all citizens and opposition to a discriminating constitution will only continue to drop. With any luck, these changes will be enough to reject the amendment this spring.

AMERICAN JOBS ACT: What the act aims to accomplish

Over the past three years, the state and local workforce in North Carolina has shrunk by more than 26,000 jobs, with most of those cuts coming from schools, community colleges and universities across the state. Competition between workers is extreme, with unemployed workers outnumbering available jobs 5 to 1. And to make matters worse, recent reports have exposed hiring practices that discriminate against unemployed workers, an additional injustice on top of what already seems like an impossible situation.

In the midst of this economic and employment turmoil sits President Obama's recent push for the American Jobs Act and the promise of some real solutions to these grave issues. The American Jobs Act will:

  • Provide $35 billion to state and local governments to create and preserve jobs. North Carolina would receive over $900 million, enough to restore more than half of all state and local jobs lost in the last 3 years
  • Include a provision that would make discriminating hiring practices against unemployed workers unlawful.
  • Invest $30 billion for modernization and renovation of public schools and community colleges.
  • Invest $50 billion to repair the country's crumbling, roads, airports, and railways.

According to estimates by the White House, the Jobs Act would provide North Carolina with more than $1.6 billion for infrastructure investment, allowing our state to rebuild its public school and community college infrastructure and increase transportation spending. The Act would get construction workers off the sidelines and put them to work while getting a nice return on investment leading to better long-term economic growth and competitiveness.

CORPORATE TAX AVOIDANCE: Rules put revenue, services at risk

In June, state lawmakers enacted House Bill 619, which placed restrictions on the ability of the NC Secretary of Revenue to shut down abusive corporate tax shelters used by large corporations to elude paying millions of dollars in taxes owed on profits earned in North Carolina.

Apparently, that wasn't quite enough for advocates of corporate tax dodging. Based on a recent report by officials with KPMG – a corporate accounting firm with a questionable history on abusive tax shelters – it seems that these advocates wish to take the bill one step further by absolving corporations from paying taxes owed on past tax-shelter abuses as well.

Amending North Carolina’s new corporate tax rules to apply retroactively to prior tax years could put $400 million in paid and unpaid state corporate tax revenue at risk. The resulting loss of revenue from such rules would be a job-killer for North Carolina, triggering even more harmful cuts to public schools, community colleges and universities, heath care, and other vital state-funded services that North Carolinians and businesses across the state depend on for support.

Lawmakers must respond accordingly to protect the interests of everyday North Carolinians over big, multi-state corporations. At the very least, lawmakers should refuse these calls to weaken corporate tax rules retroactively, which would only result in a windfall for a few corporations and inflict major harm on North Carolina’s public investments.

CAMPAIGN FOR BETTER CARE: Lunch for older adults, caregivers

Join the NC Justice Center and AARP NC on Wednesday, November 2 for the next Campaign for Better Care community luncheon and make your voice heard on one of the most important, complex issues in North Carolina today.

The Campaign for Better Care aims to make improvements in the health system for vulnerable, older adults, and build a strong, lasting consumer voice for better health care. Come and share your experiences about what you think needs to be changed in our health system, and take advantage of the expertise offered from the AARP and the Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP).

The free event will be held from 11:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at the Northeast Regional Library in Wilmington. To reserve your space, contact the disAbility Resource Center at 910.815.6618 or Nicole Dozier at nicole@ncjustice.org or 919-856-2146. For more information, visit the NC Justice website.

 

Research & Publications: