NC JUSTICE NEWS: Work Policies for Women + Connecting Skills to Industry + Privatizing Education

October 30, 2012

WOMEN AT WORK: The continued search for sensible policies

Women and their place in the current economy have been at the forefront of recent political debate. Yet as Sabine Schoenbach — a policy analyst with the NC Justice Center's Workers' Rights Project — points out in a new opinion piece in The Winston-Salem Journal, the conversation is far from over, and far from reaching full clarity.

"While it’s heartening to see the topic of women’s economic security finally enter the public discourse, it’s clear that misconceptions about women’s contributions to and obstacles in the labor force remain.

Women make up nearly half of the workforce in North Carolina and nationwide, and the share of women who have college degrees has doubled over the last 20 years. Yet, as was pointed out in the second presidential debate, women still make less money than men with similar education and professional experience. A recent report released by the North Carolina Council for Women showed that the median annual income for women is $7,000 less than for men, and this gap is even greater for women of color. In North Carolina, women with some college education or associate’s degrees earn less than men with only high school diplomas.

America needs to have a serious conversation about equal pay and discrimination. Federal policies such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which provided better access to protections by extending the time for filing an equal-pay charge of discrimination, are a step in the right direction. And the Paycheck Fairness Act, an expansion and strengthening of the 1963 Equal Pay Act, would make definitive progress in addressing pay disparity."

Read the rest of the column here.

POST-SECONDARY PROGRAMS: How to connect skills to industry

As early as 2020, more than 60 percent of all jobs in North Carolina will require post-secondary education. In order to ensure that our future workers have skills for employment in high-growth, high-wage industries, it will be crucial to make sure these workers have access to job training and workforce development services. More importantly, a new report from the Budget & Tax Center finds, North Carolina will have to make sure these programs and services line up with industries that have the potential for future growth.

In order to reach the 60 percent target of working-age adults with post-secondary credentials — such as community college or certificate programs — there would have to be a 4.5 percent increase each year in the number of individuals who participate in these programs. Yet right now, only 38.5 percent of the state's adult population has an associate's degree or higher and just 20.1 percent of every 10,000 residents have some kind of certificate.

The report points out that making sure workers have access to these certificate programs can positively influence both labor and social outcomes, particularly if the programs are tailored to the specific demands of the labor market. Workers with post-secondary education have lower levels of unemployment and higher prospects for career mobility — they earn $3,600 more than workers with just a high-school diploma, and those with a bachelor's degree earn $22,000 more each year.

In short, North Carolina will need to ensure that its workforce has the skills demanded in growing industries — both local and national ones that have long-term employment growth and stable job gains.

PRIVATIZING EDUCATION: Ensuring equal access to quality education

Lucy Hood, NC Policy Watch's education reporter, helped cover a symposium last week entitled "Privatizing the Public Good: Emerging Trends in K-16 Education," which offered experts on both sides of the privatization debate:

"The inherent tension that exists between individual liberty and the common good has played out in myriad ways for America’s schoolchildren," Hood writes. "It’s been the fault line for everything from school finance decisions to desegregation disputes, and it’s at the core of the debate over charter schools and voucher programs."

At the event, experts pointed out that the sharp decline in the quality of education for minority and low-income children has been a driving force in recent trends toward the privatization of public education.

"The upshot for many," Hood added, "was that the various forms of privatization are here to stay. The challenge, some said, is to ensure that the array of new configurations — whether they’re charter schools, virtual schools, or publicly funded voucher programs — provide all students with equal access to a quality education."

Read more on privatization and other education news here.

CAMPAIGN FOR BETTER CARE: Luncheon in Mooresville

Join the NC Justice Center and AARP NC on Wednesday, November 14 in Mooresville for the next Campaign for Better Care community meeting and make your voice heard on one of the most important, complex issues in North Carolina today.

The goals of the Campaign for Better Care are to:

  • Make improvements in the health care system for vulnerable older adults
  • Build a strong and lasting consumer voice for better health

Be sure your voice is heard! You can share your experiences and tell us what you think needs to change in the health care system. You will also learn about important programs from AARP, the Seniors' Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP), and others who will be available to answer your questions.

The free event will be held from 12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. at the South Iredell Senior Center in Mooresville, NC. To reserve your seat, contact the Senior Center at 704-662-3337 or or Nicole Dozier at or 919-856-2146.