NC JUSTICE NEWS: Public Charter Schools Board + Relief for Caregivers + Lasting Impact of Gideon vs. Wainwright

April 2, 2013

PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS BOARD: Contact lawmakers about problematic bill

On Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 10:00 a.m., the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee will hear Senate Bill 337 which creates the North Carolina Public Charter Schools Board.

This bill would:

  • Create a new board to govern public charter schools which receive public money despite the fact that the North Carolina Constitution requires that the State Board of Education is responsible for the administration and supervision of public schools. Creating this new board specifically for charter schools would create a dual system of schools which will receive public money in violation of our Constitution.
  • Eliminate any requirements for teacher certification or college degrees to teach in a charter school, meaning anyone with a pulse and the inclination to teach can be hired to teach in a charter school. A Duke study shows that low-income and minority students are likely to get the least qualified or least experienced teachers. There is every reason to believe that this will continue under Senate Bill 337.
  • Lack conflict of interest protections for members of the Public Charter Schools Board even though corporations provide money and land for charter schools. Without any protections against conflicts, there is a great potential for fraud, abuse and impropriety.

Send a message to the North Carolina Senate that they must not pass Senate Bill 337. Click here to review talking points which you can discuss with your legislator.

LEGACY OF GIDEON VS. WAINWRIGHT: NC's new wave of public defenders

NC Policy Watch courts reporter Sharon McCloskey recently wrote a compelling story about North Carolina's public defender corps and the new wave of public defenders coming of age just as the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision guaranteeing poor people the right to counsel, Gideon v. Wainwright, turns 50:

Kevin Tully has seen plenty in his 25 years as a public defender, both from clients and from the young attorneys he manages as head of the Mecklenburg County office. But nothing quite matches the time recently when three of his junior public defenders—fresh out of a training session at the Southern Public Defender Training Center—told him that the office wasn’t doing its job. Using PowerPoint as back-up, they nervously preached about how public defender offices around the country had become complicit in a criminal justice system more concerned with efficiently processing defendants than with any respect for their individual rights.

“There’s not a lot of business cultures where the new people can sit the boss down and say, ‘we’re not doing it right, we’re not meeting the mission of this office,’” he said.
But they were right, Tully admitted. “We’re treating the criminal justice system as if it’s some kind of a business model,” he said.

Read the rest of the story here.

CAREGIVER RELIEF ACT: New legislation helps fill in the gaps

North Carolina lawmakers filed legislation last week focused on filling the gaps in the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which passed with strong bi-partisan support 20 years ago to guarantee working Americans protected time to care for their loved ones.

The Caregiver Relief Act, filed in the Senate by Senators Eleanor Kinnaird, Earline W. Parmon, and Angela R. Bryant and in the House by Representatives Alma Adams and Larry Hall, would extend the protections of the FMLA to allow eligible employees to care for a sibling, grandparent, grandchild, stepparent, or parent-in-law.

“We are a state that prides itself on family values,” said Senator Kinnaird. “The FMLA has had a tremendous impact on the lives of North Carolina’s working families. But without expansion, many are unable to put family first. We need to expand the protections of FMLA so family leave becomes more accessible.”

The FMLA offers 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, which workers can use to care for a new baby or sick family member, or to recover from an illness. It's a crucial piece of legislation that time and again has provided leave to women and men across the country.

Yet there's still work to be done. To be protected by FMLA, a worker must be employed by a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles, work 1,250 hours per year, and be on the job for at least a year. FMLA excludes more than half of the workforce, including employees in smaller companies and many part-timers, and has a narrow definition of family that does not include grandparents, grandchildren, or siblings. It's time to fill in the gaps to make sure all workers can tend to their families and their own health without fear of losing their job.

2013 WOMEN'S ADVOCACY DAY: April 9 at the North Carolina General Assembly

N.C. Women United, a coalition of organizations and individuals working to achieve the full political, social, and economic equality of all women across North Carolina, will gather at the NC General Assembly for the 2013 Women's Advocacy Day on Tuesday, April 9 at 9:00 a.m.

Every spring of odd-numbered years, early in the NC General Assembly’s Long Session, NCWU brings women and activists from across the state to urge their legislators to support issues related to the advancement of women and families, including economic self-sufficiency, access to health care, civic participation, and ending violence against women.

Attendees will participate in an advocacy training session and hear from legislators and from the keynote speaker, Kim Gandy, president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, past-president of the National Organization for Women, and one of the country’s leading feminists.

A reception honoring keynote speaker Kim Gandy will also be held on the Monday, April 8—the evening before Women’s Advocacy Day—at Sitti Restaurant in downtown Raleigh.

Register for the reception and Advocacy Day here. Women’s Advocacy Day and the reception are free and open to the public, though space is limited at the reception.

HKonJ/PEOPLE OF COLOR JUSTICE & UNITY DAY: Downtown Raleigh, April 9

Join the HKonJ coalition on Tuesday, April 9 at 9:00 a.m. for an overview of the 2013 legislative session, with a focus on the state budgeting process.

NC NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, other organizational leaders and civil rights experts will lead the discussion. Voter rights protections will be central to the discussion, as well as the state budgeting process. The event will be held at the First Baptist Church Family Life Center at 109 S. Wilmington Street in Downtown Raleigh.

Following the gathering at the church, there will be a press conference, followed by a walk to the NC General Assembly at 16 West Jones Street to speak with state representatives on critical issues such as economic sustainability, poverty, health care, education, and racial inequalities in the criminal justice system.

For more information contact Atty. Jamie S. Phillips, Legal Redress & Public Policy Coordinator or Rev. Curtis E. Gatewood, HKonJ Coalition Coordinator at the NC State Conference of the NAACP headquarters, 919 682-4700.

DEFENDERS OF JUSTICE AWARDS: Join the Justice Center on May 9

Join the NC Justice Center on Thursday, May 9 for the 15th Annual Defenders of Justice Awards. Each year, the Justice Center presents its DOJ Awards to honor individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions in the fight against poverty in four areas that reflect the scope of the Justice Center’s work.

The 2013 honorees are:

  • Legislative Advocacy: Wayne Goodwin, NC Commissioner of Insurance
  • Litigation: Phil Lehman, NC Office of the Attorney General and Mortgage Foreclosure Unit, Legal Aid of NC
  • Policy Research and Advocacy: Equality NC
  • Grassroots Empowerment: A. Philip Randolph Institute

Register and purchase tickets here.

The event will be held at the Carolina Club at UNC Chapel Hill's George Watts Hill Alumni Center.

Research & Publications: