Day: November 4, 2013

**By Rob Thompson, Executive Director of the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children

This post is part of a blog series on the crucial role of quality early childhood education and child care in caring for our youngest residents, creating thriving communities, and promoting a healthy economy. Read the introduction to this blog series and learn more about the programs we’ll be discussing here.

During the 2013 legislative session, North Carolina’s early childhood programs dodged a bullet. In both the House and the Senate, legislators considered damaging policy changes and funding shifts that would have undermined North Carolina’s early childhood infrastructure.

The state Senate, which took the first stab at the state budget, approved substantial funding transfers that would have dismantled the state’s early childhood infrastructure. The Senate budget required all child care subsidies to be administered by local Departments of Social Services (currently, child care subsidies are distributed to families by both local Smart Start agencies and Departments of Social Services.) This change would have stripped 40% of the overall Smart Start budget and would have likely resulted in the closure of several small-county Smart Starts.

Additionally, the Senate budget proposal would have transferred 5,000 NC Pre-K slots to the child care subsidy program, resulting in a net loss of 10,000 slots by 2015 (due to expiration of 5,000 one-time slots funded by Governor Perdue). Read More

There is something inspiring happening in North Carolina right now.

It started back in August when fast food workers across North Carolina participated in a national strike by walking off their jobs to demand a living wage.   Since then, hundreds of North Carolinian workers have spoken up about the need for living wages and the right to organize.  These workers are speaking out and sharing their stories about the daily struggles of surviving on low pay that make it hard to pay rent or buy clothing for their children. 

This week, there is an opportunity to learn more about the campaign and hear from some of the workers who are demanding better treatment. 

Come to a Nov. 6 public forum with the Carolina Organizing Committee at the North Carolina Justice Center. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public.  

You can also learn more about the campaign, and the lives of fast food workers, by watching this video:

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Wednesday’s forum will delve into two reports released in October by the National Employment Law Project and University of California Berkeley Read More

JoanAlkerMy colleague Joan Alker of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families writes in the HuffPost today about how easy it is for low income people to enroll in Medicaid in the many states where the program was expanded  under the Affordable Care Act, especially compared to the more complex process of enrolling in the ACA health care exchanges.  Arkansas – where a Republican legislature approved the expansion – is enrolling people in Medicaid easily:

For example, in Arkansas the eligible received a letter in the mail that they simply had to sign and return in order to enroll. Let me say that again – they had to sign a simple letter and return it. Does that sound like the exchange enrollment process to you?

Interestingly in Arkansas, the majority of those signing up for Medicaid have not gone to the website to pick a plan – which is a much more complicated task analogous to what exchange enrollees must do. Most of these folks will likely be auto-assigned.

As Alker writes, the experience of Arkansas and other states that have expanded Medicaid is instructive. Thousands of people are signing up every day and  finally have insurance coverage.  And that, after all, is what the new health care law is all about.  North Carolina – are you listening?

 

Teacher Rally

If you’re grabbing lunch in downtown Raleigh today, chances are you may see  a number of teachers and concerned parents gathered outside the State Capitol. Representatives from Public Schools First and the NC Justice Center are holding a noontime press conference to call attention to the impact of budget cuts, larger class sizes, and an end to teacher tenure.

To get a better idea of what has educators participating in this demonstration and other ‘walk-ins’ across the state this week, check out today’s Fitzsimon File that details how much education spending has changed over the past five years. Also visit Your Soapbox, a new NC Policy Watch feature where teachers will be sharing their stories from the front lines of our public schools.

What else are we keeping an eye on?

The U.S. Senate could take a landmark vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as early as this week.  ENDA would outlaw workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Senate Hagan has supported ENDA, while Senator Burr could cast a deciding vote in the Senate.

Chris Sgro, the executive director at Equality NC, spoke with Chris Fitzsimon about growing public support to end employment discrimination during his recent appearance on News and Views:

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How does the issue poll outside D.C.?  In September, Public Policy Polling found that the vast majority of North Carolinians (73%) think employers should not be able to discriminate against gay and transgender workers.

Don’t forget! Tuesday is Election Day across our state for many municipal races. If you have any questions about where to vote or what you need to take to the polls in terms of identification, check out www.NCElectionConnection.com.

The National Commission on Voting Rights will be holding two hearings this Friday and Saturday to examine the state of voting rights in North Carolina. Learn how you can take part by clicking here.

The Brunswick County Board of Education also has a big vote coming up tomorrow night – whether to ban Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple.

On a less serious note, NPR had an interesting tale (pun intended) last week on how dogs can actually pick up emotional cues from other dogs simply by watching the direction of the tail wagging.

If you’ve ever read one of those wacky labels on a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, check out this story in Mother Jones on their battle against genetically modified ingredients.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this fun video from The Piano Guys, who will be performing tomorrow at the Durham Performing Art Center:

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Bon Appetit!

Early Childhood Picture

**This post was authored by Elizabeth Queen, an intern with the Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Project

Today’s “walk in” highlights the recent hits to North Carolina’s public education system, from funneling desperately needed public school funding into private school vouchers to failing to adequately compensate teachers for their hard work to educate our children. We support our public school teachers today, and are also spending this entire week spotlighting the programs that serve our youngest state residents and their families.

North Carolina has had one of the best pre-k programs in the country for years. However, despite national praise for this high-quality, cost-effective program (which, by the way, North Carolina is required by court order to provide to all at-risk 4-year-olds as part of these at-risk children’s constitutional right to a sound basic education ), the General Assembly has tried to limit access to this vital foundation for lifelong learning through cuts in the number of pre-k slots available and a proposed shift in the definition of “at-risk” that would allow the State to exclude some of NC’s most vulnerable kids from services. Without the essential building block of pre-k, children are far more likely to experience obstacles throughout the rest of their education and even into adulthood. And taxpayers are far more likely to pay the price for special education, involvement with the criminal justice system, and assistance from welfare programs for children who do not receive early childhood education.

But North Carolina’s early education programs are not the only family-supporting programs that are underfunded. Read More