NC JUSTICE NEWS: Stop Attack on Unemployed Workers + New Immigration Policy + Charter School's "Factory of Excellence"

January 29, 2013


North Carolina has the 5th highest unemployment rate in the country, with three unemployed job-seekers for every available job. There is no doubt that NC families need help, but instead they find themselves under attack simply because they are out of work.

North Carolina legislators are proposing unprecedented and extreme changes to our Unemployment Insurance system. The Legislature will soon take up a bill that will put NC at the bottom of the barrel in terms of its unemployment insurance system. Lawmakers are proposing to cut the maximum benefit amount by 1/3 to $350 per week, cutting the maximum weeks of benefits from 26 weeks to a sliding scale of 12-20 weeks, and slashing benefits for workers who lose their job because of health reasons or family reasons, among other dangerous cuts.

In addition, the bill will cut off federally funded extended benefits that over 80,000 workers now receive as of July 1, 2013. These benefits are 100% funded by the federal government and bring an estimated $25 million a week into North Carolina to help families try to make ends meet.

Now is the time to call, e-mail, contact Governor McCrory and Legislators and tell them to stop the madness. Click here for more background on the North Carolina General Assembly's extreme and misguided proposal to gut our state's unemployment insurance system. Action on this bill will happen quickly and so it is critical that you make your voice heard if you disagree. Take a stand to STOP the attack on unemployed North Carolina workers and their families.

NEW IMMIGRATION POLICY: Positive steps but concerns remain

Members of Congress are talking seriously about substantial changes to our nation’s outdated and broken immigration laws. The framework released today from eight Senators contains some very positive steps — and also includes some ideas that are of great concern.

Reform should both keep families together and create a functional path to citizenship. Yet there is very little in the 5-page Senate framework about keeping families together as a major goal of this reform effort. The Senators’ framework does not create an immediate path to citizenship for the many millions of immigrants who currently have no “line” to get in. Rather, it creates an entirely new legal limbo called “probationary legal status” that defers many of the details until later for some other future Congress to address.

For low-income immigrants, it is not clear that the Senate framework offers a reasonable ray of hope for citizenship anytime soon. The disparity between how low-income or lower skilled workers are treated versus higher skilled workers is troubling. Caregivers, service employees, and those who clean houses and office buildings should have the same path to a green card in a timely fashion as those who graduate with advanced degrees from US universities.

This proposal represents a good starting point but legislation is needed that provides a reasonable path to citizenship in a timely way. It is unclear whether this proposal would do so, or whether its provisions would merely cause more dreams to be deferred into the uncertain future.

CHARTER'S QUESTIONABLE SUCCESS: A "factory of excellence"?

A Winston-Salem charter school has become an unlikely basketball powerhouse in recent years, but the success of Quality Education Academy's boys basketball team rests on a strategy prohibited at most public schools — recruiting top players throughout the nation and world.

NC Policy Watch's Sarah Ovaska investigates QEA's behavior, which "offers a window into the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s struggles to hold charter schools accountable as the schools become a larger piece of the state’s public education system." The N.C. Policy Watch investigation finds that two-thirds of the players on QEA’s basketball rosters from 2008 to present came from other states and nations to attend the K-12 school.

"Their educations were subsidized by taxpayers who sent $13.2 million in state, federal and local funding to the school for the same time period," Ovaska writes, "according to state education estimates and budgets provided by the school." The investigation also finds that the N.C. Department of Public Instruction failed to follow up on its own 2011 probe into funding and enrollment issues at the charter school.

Read the complete report here.

TAX REFORM PROPOSAL: Already a flawed plan in Kansas, Oklahoma

North Carolina policymakers are embracing a new tax plan that would eliminate personal and corporate income taxes, and rely on the sales tax to raise most of the more than $12 billion in lost revenue. Similar proposals have been presented in other states, and history shows that this type of tax plan could result in great financial hardship for our state.

Changes to our tax system, as outlined by the Civitas Institute and Arthur Laffer’s consulting firm, would mean a huge shift in the tax load to poor and middle-income North Carolina taxpayers and generous benefits to the wealthiest individuals. In the Raleigh News & Observer, Duke University's Nick Carnes notes that other states have made similar efforts to enact huge income tax cuts. Kansas now faces a projected $800 million budget deficit. Oklahoma attempted similar tax cuts in 2012, but the effort was unsuccessful. Carnes notes that Oklahoma has added 12 times as many jobs as Kansas since May 2012.

The "one-size-fits-all-state-level" strategy has been tested, and the results are not encouraging. North Carolina needs reform that has been tailored to our needs and can support our future prosperity.

HKonJ SAVE THE DATE: Historic March on Jones Street - Feb. 9, 2013

Six years ago, the North Carolina NAACP began building a multi-racial, multi-issue alliance of progressive organizations in North Carolina to form the Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly Coalition (HKonJ-PAC). The movement — made up of over 125 member organizations — will continue its anti-racist, anti-poverty and anti-war agenda with its annual march on February 9.

The 7th Annual HKonJ march will take place on Saturday, February 9, 2013. Armed with the historic shout “We the People Shall Not Be Moved: Forward Together Not One Step Back!”, HKonJ aims to unite individuals from all walks of life. Citizens will march in support of voting rights, equitable education, collective bargaining, affordable housing, health care, environmental justice, and the protection of the rights of immigrants.

Assembling will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning at Shaw University on South Street in Raleigh. The march to the General Assembly will begin at 10:30. Visit the HKonJ website for more information and details on the HKonJ 14-point agenda.

DEFENDERS OF JUSTICE AWARDS: Make your nomination today

The Defenders of Justice (DOJ) Awards are given by the Justice Center to honor individuals or organizations that are making significant contributions in the following areas: Litigation; Research and Policy Development; Public Policy Advocacy and Grassroots Empowerment. Recipients will be honored at our annual event this spring, either in late April or early May.

Eligible nominees must be based in North Carolina. If you would like to nominate an individual or organization in one of the following categories, please complete this nomination form and return to Melissa Wiggins at no later than January 31, 2013:

  • Litigation – Representing clients in high-impact cases that protect and expand the rights of low-income groups and individuals.
  • Policy Research and Advocacy - Conducting and disseminating research and development alternatives to existing policy.
  • Legislative Advocacy – Working with traditionally underrepresented populations to define and shape public policies.
  • Grassroots Empowerment - Developing programs designed to help community based organizations or individuals be leaders within their own communities. These organizations or individuals will have examples of programs that have been successful.

Stay tuned for more details on the Defenders of Justice Awards over the next few months.


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