NC JUSTICE NEWS: The Living Income Standard 2014 + Budget Debate Toils On + Common Core Controversy

June 11, 2014

BUDGET DEBATE: How does the NC House proposal measure up?

Details of the North Carolina House budget are emerging today. It’s the final proposal to be added to the mix of those contributed by Gov. McCrory and the Senate in the last few weeks. Despite some progress, the House proposal, much like that of the Senate proposals, leaves too many vital public services operating at diminished levels. While the House budget appears to improve, ever so slightly, on that of the Senate's, Indigent Defense Services and child care subsidies are two areas negatively affected by the House.

The NC Senate's budget, passed two weekends ago, quickly put into perspective just how much ordinary North Carolinians will have to pay for last year’s tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthy and profitable corporations. It seems the House budget does little to correct this. State spending under the Senate budget would be 6 percent, or $1.4 billion, under the last budget enacted prior to the Great Recession; the House fares slightly worse, with spending 6.5 percent or nearly $1.5 billion under the pre-Recession budget. Yet there are more North Carolinians than ever to serve, protect, and care for, from students to senior citizens.

Budget writers from every area of the North Carolina legislature are facing the consequences of tax changes enacted last year. State lawmakers created a structural deficit in which revenues are falling short of what we need to meet critical needs across budget areas. What’s driving those revenue shortfalls? That would be last year’s tax cuts, which will drain available revenues to the tune of $437.8 million in the 2015 fiscal year. Yet rather than halting future tax cuts that will go into effect in January of next year, the House, Senate, and the Governor all chose to keep these tax cuts in place despite diminished revenue.

We’ll be keeping an eye on how the House budget shapes up. Stay tuned at NC Policy Watch’s Your Soapbox feature, where North Carolinians tell their own stories on how they will be affected by the budget, and the NC Budget Magnifying Glass, where our analysts look at how budget proposals' impacts on schools, child subsidies, older adults, economic development, and more.

LIVING INCOME STANDARD: Many NC families don't make enough to get by

One in five North Carolina families does not earn enough to afford basic necessities. The Budget & Tax Center’s Living Income Standard (LIS) for 2014 finds that a family of two adults and two children must earn more than $52,000 annually to afford food, child care, health care, transportation, and taxes. More than one-third of such families earn less than that, and more than three-fourths of those with one adult and two children fall below the standard, which varies by family size. In order to meet the LIS, adults in an average four-person family would need to earn a combined $25 an hour working full-time. Yet if current employment and industry trends continue, fewer and fewer jobs will meet this standard.

Under the official—but outmoded—federal measure of poverty, a family of four would only be classified as needy if it earned less than $23,550. However, this doesn’t take into account expenses like child care, or the fact that cost of living can vary wildly from place to place. The 2014 LIS looks at what is actually needed to make ends meet, and provides a clearer picture of the challenges faced by a growing number of North Carolinians.

Restoring the promise of well-paying jobs with benefits is one of the central challenges confronting our state. Policymakers have the tools to help create such jobs, including raising the minimum wage, ensuring that work pays for everyone by reinstating the state Earned Income Tax Credit, investing in education and skills training, and requiring taxpayer-supported jobs to meet a living income standard.

The only way North Carolina can build a strong middle class is with the ability of working families to make ends meet. Far too many are struggling as costs rise and low-wage work increases, impacting the state’s overall economy.

If you live in Charlotte, join us for a community forum on the LIS on June 18. Register here.

COMMON CORE: New legislation proposes new academic standards for NC

As lawmakers examine North Carolina’s means of academic standards, it’s crucial that their legislation protects, not undermines, these high academic standards.

Last week lawmakers on the House Education Committee approved legislation that would create an Academic Standards Review Commission, which would conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics. Senate Bill 812 would essentially replace the Common Core State Standards, a set of guidelines detailing what students should know and can achieve in these two academic areas.

The legislation would prohibit any engagement in a new mechanism to compare North Carolina’s academic performance with students in other states, and authorize the creation of a review commission made up of parents, educators, and stakeholders that would review and recommend alternative standards. Such tasks are usually handled by the State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction, and it’s unclear how the commission would work with the State Board in the process.

Common Core is a controversial measure on a national scale. Yet broad agreement exists that it's an improvement over the previous set of standards. It’s vital to the future of North Carolina’s students that this new commission modifies—rather than replaces or abandons—the Common Core Standards. The new legislation must ensure that the state avoids reverting to the older, inferior set of standards that were in place prior to the Common Core, and keeps standards consistent to avoid disruption, instability, inconsistency, and the loss of the vast amount of resources that have been allocated to put the Common Core standards into place.

MORAL MOVIES: Film series brings "Freedom Summer" to cities across NC

You’ve heard about Moral Mondays, but what about Moral Movies? The NC Justice Center is proud to be a collaborator, along with the NC NAACP and Working Films, on the Moral Movies film series, which is bringing award-winning documentaries to cities across North Carolina to jumpstart community dialogue and action on social, economic, and environmental issues.

Moral Movies will take place the last week of each month from April through July in Wilmington, Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Greenville and Durham. The NC Justice Center will host all of the July screenings of the documentary Inequality for All throughout the state.

The next round of screenings, featuring Freedom Summer, will take place on June 24th and 26th across the state. Over 10 memorable weeks in 1964, more than 700 student volunteers joined with organizers and local African Americans in an historic effort to shatter the foundations of white supremacy in Mississippi, the nation’s most segregated state. The summer was marked by sustained and deadly violence, including the notorious murders of three civil rights workers, countless beatings, the burning of thirty-five churches, and the bombing of seventy homes and community centers. Freedom Summer highlights an overlooked but essential element of the Civil Rights Movement: the patient and long-term efforts by both outside activists and local citizens in Mississippi to organize communities and register black voters — even in the face of intimidation, physical violence and death. Watch the trailer here.

Moral Movies is a collaboration among national nonprofit Working Films (based in Wilmington), the NC NAACP, and allied organizations across the state. For the full four month schedule and more information about the series please see the Working Films blog.

Hosted by The Mountain People’s Assembly
Freedom Summer: Thursday, June 26th, 7pm
Jubilee! 46 Wall St. Asheville, NC 28801

Hosted by the NC Association of Educators (NCAE)
Freedom Summer: Tuesday, June 24th, 7pm
NCAE, 301 S McDowell ST. Suite 1200, Charlotte, NC 18204
Parking is available in the lot beside the building and your parking pass will be validated

Hosted by the Durham People’s Alliance
Freedom Summer: Thursday, June 26th, 7pm
Hayti Heritage Center 804 Old Fayetteville St. Durham, NC 27701

Hosted by The Beloved Community Center
Freedom Summer: Tuesday, June 24th, 6pm
International Civil Rights Center and Museum, 134 S Elm St. Greensboro, NC 27401

Hosted by Pitt County NAACP
Freedom Summer: Tuesday, June 24th, 7pm
Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 131 Oakmont Dr. Greenville, NC 27858

Hosted by Action NC
Freedom Summer: Tuesday, June 24th, 7pm
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh, 3313 Wade Ave. Raleigh, NC 27607

Hosted by The Black Arts Alliance and the New Hanover County NAACP
Freedom Summer: Tuesday, June 24th, 7pm
New Beginning Christian Church, 3120 Alex Trask Dr. Castle Hayne, NC 28429

NEW JOBS CZAR: NC Policy Watch investigates latest McCrory appointment

The Raleigh businessman and “change agent” selected to steer the McCrory administration’s privatization of the state’s job recruitment efforts came into the high-profile job with no economic development background and a checkered work history.

Richard “Dick” Lindenmuth, 69, will be taking charge of an entirely new method of economic development in the state by leading a quasi-public group funded with a mix of private and public dollars.

The McCrory administration and Republican-led legislature are still hammering out the details of how to oversee and run the proposed public-private partnership, a nonprofit company that would be overseen by a board of directors appointed by political and business leaders.

The privately-run group was initially envisioned to take over a broad range of the state’s economic development duties, but the scope has narrowed to include job recruitment and marketing of the state.

A dozen other states have handed their job recruitment duties off to similar setups, and seen mixed results from the venture. States like Florida, Indiana and Ohio have seen controversy envelop the public-private groups over unmet targets, a pay-to-play culture and accusations of governors using the groups to reward campaign supporters. Read more at NC Policy Watch.

Research & Publications: