RALEIGH (June 8, 2020) — As North Carolina enters its second recession in the past 12 years, it is important that lawmakers avoid repeating unnecessary past mistakes. The North Carolina Justice Center has released two new reports that analyze and name the lessons that should inform the state’s response to the COVID-19 recession:

Report: “Helping people, supporting communities, speeding recovery”

Just as the Great Recession cast the economic mold for the 2010s, the COVID-19 pandemic and our response to it will shape the decade ahead. Faced with another era-defining economic calamity, leaders should heed the lessons of the past. Although the COVID-19 recession is rooted in a different underlying cause and will certainly play out in different ways, the 2008 crisis still offers guidance on how we can speed recovery and rebuild stronger.

The N.C. Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center, has released a report that focuses on what the state needs to do to help all North Carolinians, support N.C. communities, and speed up the economic recovery for everyone – white, Black, and brown.

“As we’re witnessing in protests demanding racial justice all across the country, the past doesn’t go anywhere unless it is confronted and dealt with. The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking the greatest physical and economic damage for communities already working to overcome barriers to economic security – particularly people of color, women, and people who are paid the lowest wages,” said Patrick McHugh, Research Manager for the Budget & Tax Center and author of the report.

“Unless leaders in Raleigh and Washington, D.C., heed the lessons of the Great Recession and drive assistance to the people and communities being harmed the most, the COVID-19 recession will be longer and more painful. The response thus far, from both federal and state government, has not really addressed how the  pandemic exacerbates pre-existing inequalities nor provided the economic stimulus needed to put us on the road to recovery.”

Report: “Avoid inequitable budget cuts to high-poverty school districts”

One of the major mistakes that North Carolina made during the Great Recession was making our school funding system less equitable. New analysis of public school spending over the past decade  shows that districts serving students from families with low incomes suffered the largest budget cuts during the Great Recession.

“In the last recession, lawmakers made deliberate choices to disproportionately cut funding in districts with the highest levels of childhood poverty,” said Kris Nordstrom, Senior Policy Analyst with the NC Justice Center’s Education & Law Project and author of the report. “It’s vital that lawmakers don’t repeat mistakes of the past by balancing budgets on the backs of our most vulnerable communities. Instead, lawmakers should focus investment where needs are greatest to ensure all children have equal opportunities to thrive.”

North Carolina has been failing to meet its constitutional obligations to provide children with a decent education for at least the past 25 years, the report says, and a recession does not absolve state lawmakers of this constitutional responsibility. If lawmakers opt for school budget reductions, they must ensure they don’t – once again – disproportionately harm students who have historically been denied equal opportunities within North Carolina’s public schools.

More Resources

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT Patrick McHugh, Budget & Tax Center Research Manager, at patrick.mchugh@ncjustice.org ; Kris Nordstrom, Education & Law Senior Policy Analyst, at kris@ncjustice.org; Julia Hawes, NC Justice Center Director of Communications, at julia@ncjustice.org; Mel Umbarger, Budget & Tax Center Senior Communications Specialist, at mel@ncjustice.org