NC JUSTICE NEWS, May 5: Paid Sick Days, Personal Education Plans, More at Four, Immigration


PAID SICK DAYS: Healthy Families and Healthy Workplaces Act gets hearing today: show your support
The Healthy Families and Healthy Workplaces Act (HB 177), which would guarantee paid sick days for all North Carolina workers, will be heard in the House Commerce Committee today, May 5. 
Members from the NC Paid Sick Days coalition will be speaking in favor of the legislation, and supporters are invited to attend. The hearing occurs 15 minutes after the legislative session ends for the day in room 1228 of the state legislative building.
The hearing comes the day after a new study found that guaranteeing North Carolina workers paid sick time would save millions of dollars and provide direct economic benefits to both employers and employees that far outweigh any costs. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., analyzed the costs and benefits of paid sick days and found:
  • 50 percent of workers (1.635 million private sector employees) will benefit directly
  • Benefits for employers, largely from reduced costs of employee turnover, will total $418 million annually.
  • The weekly cost of the policy for newly covered workers will be $6.39 per worker. Savings to businesses will be $8.69 per worker, for a net savings of $2.30 per worker per week.
  • Workers will save $9 million annually on medical costs and short-term nursing home stays for relatives.
EDUCATION: New report: More at Four is among the state's best investments
Current legislative proposals to alter the administration, eligibility criteria and funding levels of More at Four, North Carolina's nationally lauded education program for at-risk four-year olds, risk undermining one of the state's best investments in the future, a new report says.
"The More at Four program prepares kids to succeed in school and in life. It is universally recognized as one of the most effective programs of its type," said Steve Jackson, a policy analyst with the NC Justice Center's Budget & Tax Center and author of the report. "This is an absolutely critical program that helps the neediest North Carolinians, and one that pays for itself many times over."
The state's More at Four program provides free, high-quality preschool to tens of thousands of at-risk 4-year-olds. Proposed changes currently under consideration include cutting program funding, changing rules for who is eligible and altering the way More at Four is administered.
Any such changes, Jackson writes in the report, carry risks. Policymakers should ensure that any changes "need to protect child welfare first," he said, and refrain from hasty action.
The state's More at Four program has won national honors. A report released this month by Rutgers University's National Institute for Early Education Research declared the North Carolina initiative as good or better than any such program in the country. North Carolina's was one of just two More at Four programs in the nation to meet all 10 of NIEER's benchmarks on early learning standards and other program criteria.
Targeted programs like this one, said Jackson, are proven to produce extensive economic and social benefits.
"High-quality pre-kindergarten programs targeted at low-income children at risk of later academic failure are proven to have net economic benefits," Jackson concludes in the report. "A dollar spent today can save many more dollars later in welfare, education, health and justice-related expenditures."
EDUCATION: Important reform to Personal Education Plans would create more parental involvement
A crucial reform to involve parents more in the education of at-risk students will be heard this morning by the Education Committee of the NC State Legislature.
North Carolina schools are required to develop personal education plan for every student at risk of academic failure. But t he current statute stops short of requiring parental notice and/or involvement. House Bill 804 is a minor modification that requires schools to provide parents with some type of notice once their child has been identified as at-risk of academic failure. 
Rep. Tricia Cotham, D-Mecklenburg, introduced HB 804 because as a teacher, she knows the unfulfilled potential of personal education plans. Research has proven that parents are the key to improving educational outcomes for at-risk students. Even more so, we know that parents in North Carolina are concerned about their child's education and have a right to notice of such academic intervention. 
The Education Committee will hear the bill at 11 a.m. today, Tuesday, May 5, in room 643 of the Legislative Office Building. Supporters are encouraged to contact their legislator: even one phone call in support can make a difference.
IMMIGRATION: Actions Across North Carolina on May 1st, International Labor Day, Call For Fair Immigration Reform
On May 1, several events across North Carolina honored international Labor Day. Those who participated continued a tradition of workers and immigrants standing together for labor rights, comprehensive immigration reform and other issues of common interest.

A recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center finds that low-income Latinos are routinely the targets of wage theft, racial profiling and other abuses driven by an anti-immigrant climate. "North Carolina has shamelessly become ground zero for local immigration enforcement, which contributes to a tense environment for immigrants in our state," said Tony Asion of El Pueblo, Inc. The first step towards shifting the current climate is to implement a sensible and humane fix to an immigration system everyone agrees is badly broken.

Supporters of immigration reform participated in traditional and non-traditional actions on this May Day. Some of these events included a silent vigil in Asheville in support of those targeted by unjust immigration laws, a community awareness event in Charlotte and statewide actions including blogging, phone banking, e-mail blasts and mass dissemination of information through Spanish-language radio to keep the Latino community engaged and up-to-date on immigration policies and possibilities for significant changes.

"The marches and demonstrations for immigrants' rights and workers' rights in recent years have inspired us tremendously. We believe in the power of immigrant communities, ordinary American citizens, and allied organizations to create positive changes this year," said Dani Martinez-Moore, Coordinator of the NC Network of Immigrant Advocates at the NC Justice Center.

Raids in workplaces and neighborhoods and local law enforcement agents zealously searching for noncitizens to deport are terrorizing immigrant workers and dividing families. All this is happening without making North Carolina any safer and without fixing the real problems with our immigration system. "We already marched, we already voted. Today we seek immigration reform to finally bring millions of workers, students, neighbors and friends out of the shadows and finally put an end to the senseless raids and deportations," said Irene Godínez of El Pueblo, Inc.

Immigrant and Latino voters turned out in record numbers in 2008. There is a great deal of interest in seeing the President work with Congress to make good on his campaign promise to move comprehensive immigration reform forward this year.  The May 1 rallies and events are just an expression of that continued hunger for reform.  "We can no longer ignore the immigration issue and pretend that the 12 million undocumented people are not here," said Stacey Bonilla of Bonilla Community Services. "We must confront this challenge and finally fix our archaic and broken immigration system."


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