NC JUSTICE NEWS: Teacher Appreciation Day + Governor's Budget + Merrick Garland Nomination

May 3, 2016

HOUSE BILL 2: Fight for repeal continues as court confirms bill violates Title IX

The recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit confirms both the right of transgender students to use public school bathrooms that align with their gender identity and that North Carolina's toxic House Bill 2 is in direct violation of Title IX, putting North Carolina’s public school federal funding at risk.

Supporters of the bill have loudly argued the bill’s opponents were exaggerating the potential impact on public education. But the ruling in favor of student Gavin Grimm against his high school’s discriminatory restroom policy expressly shows HB2 violates Title IX, in turn jeopardizing federal education funding.

It was ill-advised for our General Assembly and the Governor to pass HB2 without waiting for the court to issue its opinion about whether transgender students’ right to use the bathroom of their gender identity was protected by federal law. They made a hasty response to the Charlotte public ordinance in the form of the so-called “Bathroom Bill” – which is harmful to LGBTQ residents, threatens the rights of our local government, and strips North Carolina of its anti-discrimination laws – instead of introducing a period of thoughtful public comment and evaluation.

Once again, we call on lawmakers to end this painful and destructive period that has succeeded only in publicly endorsing discrimination in and causing mounting economic harm to our state. It is time to repeal this poorly vetted, unconstitutional bill that now puts the future of our public schools at risk.

Check out NC Policy Watch's ongoing coverage of HB2, and meet Hunter Schafer, a Raleigh teenager, proud transgender advocate, visual artist at N.C. School of the Arts, and the latest addition to a pivotal legal challenge for North Carolina’s House Bill 2. Last month leaders with the ACLU of N.C. announced the addition of three new plaintiffs— Schafer, as well as Beverly Newell and Kelly Trent, a married lesbian couple from Charlotte—to their case against the controversial legislation.

TEACHER APPRECIATION DAY: Educators, lawmakers call for big reforms

Yesterday was National Teacher Appreciation Day, and educators and lawmakers marked the occasion by calling for big reforms in public education. Billy Ball of NC Policy Watch reports:

N.C. Sen. Dan Blue, the Democratic leader in the Senate, remembers Dorothy Washington, his high school English teacher and an educator in his former home in Robeson County for a half-century.

Rep. Graig Meyer, a Democrat from Orange County, still keeps an aging, brass school bell on his legislative desk to remind him of one of his most beloved teachers.

And Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, a Democrat who represents eight counties in the northeast corner of the state, doesn’t have to look far for her inspiration when it comes to education. Smith-Ingram is a former high school math and science teacher.

All shared their personal stories on National Teacher Appreciation Day during a press conference geared to push the public school agenda with lawmakers in the N.C. General Assembly back in session and expected to consider some of Gov. Pat McCrory’s school budget proposals as early as this week.

The N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE), the state’s largest teacher advocacy organization, offered a laundry list of demands for legislators that largely echoed the sentiments of the group’s full legislative agenda. Among its requests, the group notably called for lawmakers to increase teacher pay and per-pupil spending to the national average (N.C. ranked a dismal 42nd and 46th, respectively, at last count), restore master’s and longevity pay bonus checks and overhaul the state’s controversial, A-F school performance grading system to place a greater emphasis on student growth, rather than student performance.
Make sure to take a moment and thank a teacher you know this week, whether it's the one working with your child every day, a beloved high school English teacher, or a family member.

GOVERNOR'S BUDGET: Proposal is limited by costly income tax cuts

In his budget proposal, Governor McCrory is pursuing small, targeted investments to promote child well-being and support improved educational outcomes thanks to unanticipated revenues available due to a recovering national economy and the lower than anticipated costs in Medicaid. These additional investments represent only a small fraction of what is needed to help those who are struggling in today’s economy.

It is certainly unclear how the Governor will sustain any new public investments with the already scheduled phase-in of additional cuts to the personal and corporate income tax and the heavy reliance on Medicaid “savings” as a primary source of dollars. He is already limited by the costly income tax cuts implemented since 2013 that primarily benefit wealthy and profitable corporations, which result in at least $1 billion less in revenue each year. This makes it impossible to build into the budget much-needed pay increases for all teachers and state employees and make the smart investments that will support a high quality of life and allow North Carolina to compete.

The tax cuts force bad choices like providing bonuses versus salary raises, selecting only certain public employees and not everyone to receive a pay raise that will also boost local economies, and keeping in place many of the tuition increases and fee increases that have been implemented over the years. It is, however, very important that the Governor has chosen to seek even this modest reinvestment over more tax cuts that would primarily benefit profitable corporations and the wealthy, shift the tax load onto middle- and low-income taxpayers, and only further distance North Carolina from achieving our potential.
Here are some highlights about how the Governor's budget proposal affects key policy areas:

The General Assembly should choose reinvestment over tax cuts for the wealthy or arbitrary spending targets as well and commit to building an economy that works for everyone.

CRUCIAL CONVERSATION: Merrick Garland's nomination & SCOTUS' future

It’s been well over a month now since President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. To date, however, Senate Republicans (including Richard Burr and Thom Tillis) have remained adamant that Garland’s nomination will not even receive a hearing – much less an “up or down” confirmation vote.

To veteran constitutional law expert Professor Michael Gerhardt, this is an important and disturbing turn in the history of the Court and the politics surrounding it. As Gerhardt has explained in a variety of national publications, Garland is one of the most distinguished and well-prepared nominees in Supreme Court history. If senators follow through with their plans to ignore the nomination, it will have important implications for the future of the Court.

Join NC Policy Watch as Gerhardt examines the Garland nomination, what we can expect from a divided Court comprised of just eight justices and what the Senate blockade might mean for future presidents and nominees.

Professor Gerhardt is Samuel Ashe Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law at the UNC School of Law. He specializes in constitutional conflicts and has been active as a special counsel, scholar, adviser, expert witness, and public commentator on all the major conflicts between presidents and Congress over the past quarter century. He is the only legal scholar to participate in Supreme Court confirmation hearings for five of the nine justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court, having served as Special Counsel, advisor or expert witness on confirmation hearings for Justices Stephen Breyer, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Jr., Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

The luncheon will be held at noon on Tuesday, May 10, at the Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh. Space is limited – pre-registration required. Register at this link.

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