A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation provides a sobering look at how children are faring in North Carolina.

The 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book, which looks at 16 separate factors, ranks our state 38th in overall economic well-being, 28th in education, and 32nd in health.

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Source: KIDS COUNT Data book http://www.aecf.org

The annual report concludes:

‘Although unemployment is slowly declining, job growth has been concentrated in low-wage sectors and in nonstandard employment that tends to be less stable and offer few or no benefits, such as health insurance and paid sick leave.

A stronger labor market and an increase in job quality, along with continued efforts to boost the education and training levels of low-income parents, would help to further reduce child poverty.’

In North Carolina, 26% of children lived in poverty in 2012, according to the new report.

Locally, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle is working to help address this problem by creating long-term solutions to hunger for North Carolina’s low-income families.  To learn more about this week’s special HungerFreeNC community movement, click here.

Hear more about food insecurity from the Food Shuttle’s executive director Jill Bullard on News and Views with Chris Fitzsimon.

Also be sure to watch Thursday’s documentary “Hungry for Answers” at 7:00 p.m. on WRAL-TV.

Last week Cleveland County Rep. Tim Moore filed a July 25th sine die resolution setting the stage for lawmakers to wrap up the short session by Friday. Now it appears the chairman of the House Rules Committee may have been overly optimistic.

Here are five reasons why adjournment this week is looking unlikely:

  • Budget deadlock – House and Senate budget conferees have not met since last week, when the Senate put forth its latest offer. No public budget negotiations are on the calendar today, and House Speaker Thom Tillis will be in Washington, D.C. at a fundraiser for his U.S. Senate campaign.
    Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue discussed the budget stalemate on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon over the weekend, noting choices made in 2013 have left legislative leaders with some tough choices this year.
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  • RulesSen. Tom Apodaca, chairman of the powerful Senate Rules committee, cancelled today’s meeting. At this point in the session, the Rules Committee is deciding which bills merit a vote before the session concludes. Apodaca promises Wednesday’s Rules committee meeting will be “even better” – but this delay does not bode well for a quick adjournment.
  • Medicaid – Speaking of delays, the Senate put off until today a vote on the Medicaid Modernization Act. The latest Senate proposal for Medicaid reform would open the door to for-profit managed care companies to bid on contracts. Critics say this version of modernization would harm the award-winning Community Care of North Carolina program and reduce participation by doctors.  Notably, this legislation would also create a new Department of Medical Benefits, taking the oversight out of the state Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Coal Ash – Lawmakers still need to work out a compromise between completing plans to clean up the state’s toxic coal ash ponds. Don’t look for them to leave town in an election year without a deal on this issue.
  • Fulghum’s funeral  – Funeral services are now set for Wake County Rep. Jim Fulghum, who died Saturday following a short battle with cancer. A memorial service will be held Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. at Edenton Street United Methodist Church. Members from both chambers are likely to attend Dr. Fulghum’s service, pushing off final decisions on many of the larger issues for another day.
N.C. Poet Laureate Valerie Macon (Provided by N.C. Arts Council)

N.C. Poet Laureate Valerie Macon (Provided by N.C. Arts Council)

Less than a week after being appointed North Carolina’s newest Poet Laureate, Valerie Macon resigned from the post on Thursday. The self-published poet from Fuquay-Varina said in a letter to Governor Pat McCrory she appreciated his confidence in her, but she did not want to distract from the Office of Poet Laureate.

Macon’s appointment drew criticism from the arts community as the governor bypassed the traditional selection process with the N.C. Council of Arts to choose a relatively unknown writer. Past poet laureates also questioned bestowing the honor on someone with just two self-published books.

McCrory defended his choice Wednesday, but pledged to review the appointment process.

In her resignation letter, Macon said she would still like to encourage everyone to read and write poetry:

They do not need a list of prestigious publishing credits or a collection of accolades from impressive organizations – just the joy of words and appreciation of self-expression.

To read Macon’s letter click below:

Macon_Letter

McC709Governor Pat McCrory is now answering questions about how he came to choose Valerie Macon as North Carolina’s newest poet laureate.

The governor defended his decision Wednesday saying the little known self-published poet from Fuquay-Varina would bring a new voice to the position:

“One of my objectives is to open up the availability of all appointments to people that typically aren’t inside the organized groups,” McCrory said. “We’ve got to open up opportunities for people that aren’t always a part of the standard or even elite groups that have been in place for a long time.”

McCrory acknowledged he was unaware of a N.C. Arts Council website that spelled out the process for selecting the state’s top poet:

“Well, we must have missed that web site, sorry,” he said. “Listen, I’m reviewing the entire process.”

The Associated Press reports Valerie Macon has also clarified the initial press release from the Governor’s office:

In naming Macon, McCrory noted her self-published books “Shelf Life” and “Sleeping Rough.” His original statement said she also had served as a regional distinguished poet in North Carolina.

Macon has since confirmed she wasn’t the distinguished poet but was mentored by a poet who had won that honor.

For its part, the N.C. Arts Council says it looks forward to working with Macon. Sarah Ovaska has more on how others in the arts community have responded to the appointment.

You can read some of Macon’s work here. Click here to learn about the state’s past poet laureates.

State senators offered a new budget proposal Tuesday – one that included 8% raises for teachers and would fund second-grade teaching assistants. But teaching assistants in the third-grade, they would not be funded in this latest proposal.

And there’s another wrinkle, as Rep. Nelson Dollar discovered when seeking clarification on the Senate’s new numbers:

“If I’m reading that correctly, this offer would still cut TAs of that allotment roughly in half, and in addition to that…the funds that remain there, are those largely non-recurring funds?” asked the Wake County Republican.

“That is a non-recurring compromise,” responded Sen. Harry Brown.

Rep. Dollar noted that relying on one-time funding for thousands of second-grade teaching assistants would certainly create a problem next year.

But Sen. Brown said his side has made ‘key concessions’ from their initial budget proposal.

Senators and House members also remain about $30 million apart on Medicaid spending, meaning that aged, blind and disabled patients would see some services cut.

House budget conferees are mulling over the Senate’s latest plan, and are expected to come back with another proposal from their side later in the week. To hear some of Tuesday’s debate, click below:
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