Commentary

Lawmakers advance anti-immigrant bill; Come learn more at next week’s Policy Watch breakfast

In case you missed it, a North Carolina Senate committee advanced a positively Trump-like bill this week that would purport to cut off state funding to cities that are not in “compliance” (whatever that means) with state laws related to immigration. While the bill in question is so poorly drafted and illogical as to be almost certainly unconstitutional, the fact that it has not simply been dismissed out of hand by  lawmakers points out the dire situation that currently afflicts the immigration policy debate in our state.

At such a time, it’s critical that caring and thinking people empower themselves with the truth so that they can push back. Next Tuesday, April 18, NC Policy Watch will host a special Crucial Conversation breakfast, “Immigration policy in the era of Trump: Where do things stand in North Carolina? What is the reality ‘on the ground’? How can caring and thinking people speak out and push back?” at which a panel of experts will provide some of that kind of information. We hope you can join us — here are the details:

Immigration policy in the era of Trump: Where do things stand in North Carolina? What is the reality “on the ground”? How can caring and thinking people speak out and push back?

Register here

Come learn about this vital topic and the need for North Carolinians to speak up as we host a distinguished panel of experts:

Abdo Diya

Julie Linton

Raul Pinto

Dr. Diya Abdo – A first-generation Palestinian born and raised in Jordan, Diya Abdo is associate professor of English and Chair of the Department of English and Creative Writing at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. She is the founder and director of Every Campus a Refuge, a Guilford College Center for Principled Problem Solving initiative which advocates for housing refugees on campus grounds and assisting them in resettlement. Diya’s teaching, research and scholarship focus on Arab women writers and Arab and Islamic feminisms.

Dr. Julie Linton, M.D. – Julie M. Linton, MD, FAAP, is an academic general pediatrician with a career devoted to community pediatrics, medical education, and advocacy. An Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, Dr. Linton works in the primary care setting and serves as the Advocacy Director for the Wake Forest Pediatric Residency Program. Dr. Linton is Co-Chair of the AAP Immigrant Health Special Interest Group and a member of the AAP Executive Committee for the Council on Community Pediatrics. She is a co-author of the AAP Immigrant Health Toolkit and two AAP policy statements: “Promoting Food Security for All Children” and “Promoting Food Security for All Children.” Dr. Linton co-founded and co-chairs the Forsyth County Refugee Health Collaborative.

Raul Pinto – Raul Pinto is one of North Carolina’s most knowledgeable, visible and important advocates on behalf of the rights of immigrants. He is also a staff attorney at the North Carolina Justice Center’s Immigrants and Refugees Rights Project where he represents low-income individuals negotiating the immigration system. Prior to joining the Justice Center, Raul worked as an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.

Don’t miss this very special event at this important moment.

When: Tuesday, April 18 at 8:30 a.m. — breakfast will be available at 8:15 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a light breakfast

Register here

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

Mecklenburg, Forsyth schoolteachers speak out on pay, class size, vouchers

Two North Carolina schoolteachers authored fine assessments of state education policy this week. Charlotte-Mecklenburg schoolteacher Justin Parmeter has written another fine post on the reality that confronts North Carolina school teachers in light of rising benefit costs:

Rising cost of benefits means NC teachers earn less each year

Last week, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Ann Clark made her 2017-2018 operating budget recommendation to the Board of Education.  The presentation revealed some sobering data including per pupil spending (North Carolina is currently 12th out of 13 southeastern states in per pupil expenditures, ahead of only Mississippi) and comparatively low local salary supplements (for teachers past twenty years experience, other large districts in the state offer considerably larger supplements than Mecklenburg County).

But the figures that hit closest to home for me were those which compared salary increases with rising health benefits costs over the past several years.

In the run up to last fall’s elections, many of our state legislators were eager to talk about their support for increases in teacher compensation.  While that talking point may have scored points with your average voter, local teachers can tell you that their pay stub paints a very different picture.

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg teacher with a starting salary of $35,000 in 2008 has seen pay increases of $2647 up through the present.  Over the same period, health insurance cost hikes of $3892 have resulted in a net decrease in salary of nearly 4%.  Those figures do not include adjustments for inflation, insurance deductibles, housing, or any other living expenses which have consistently risen over the past decade, so the reality is even more bleak.

Detractors will say that out of control healthcare costs are a problem that every industry deals with, as American as apple pie.  However, education in North Carolina is mired in a unique crisis, with enrollment in our state university teacher prep programs down 30% over the past five years and other states luring our teachers away with higher pay.  We’re unlikely to avert the looming teacher shortage by asking people to commit to a career where they are guaranteed a paycheck that shrinks each year.

If our leaders both in the General Assembly and in the Governor’s mansion are serious about attracting the best and the brightest to teach in North Carolina, it’s high time we include the cost of benefits in our conversations about teacher compensation.  To laud pay increases that are eclipsed by soaring insurance premiums is simply putting lipstick on a pig.

Justin Parmenter, M.Ed, NBCT is an NC Teacher Voice Network Fellow at Waddell Language Academy in Charlotte.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Forsyth County teacher Stuart Egan authored another of his patented
“open letters.” In “Open Letter to Sen. Chad Barefoot Concerning His Words on HB13,” Egan exposes the hypocrisy in the Senate Education Committee chair’s positions on two urgent matters of relevance to public schools: the state’s metastasizing school voucher program and the refusal of state senators to take up legislation providing relief from the state’s new and unfunded class size mandates for grades K-3.

As Egan notes, Barefoot and his conservative Senate colleagues refuse to advance the class size relief bill (a failure that leading to layoffs for TA’s and specialty teachers like those who teach music and P.E.) on the grounds that there is supposedly no accountability in local school district spending (a highly questionable allegation) even as they continue to work to expand vouchers (a program that’s been proven repeatedly to be unaccountable). Click here to read Egan’s entire post.

Commentary

Conservative lawmakers to introduce omnibus Biblical inerrancy law

Image: Wikipedia

(Warning: this post is a parody — though the fact that we have to make that explicit probably says something about the current state of things in North Carolina.)

In an effort to build on the warm reception they received this week to their introduction of the “Uphold Historical Marriage Act”a proposal that seeks to once again ban same-sex marriage in North Carolina in direct contravention of the U.S. Supreme Court based on a specifically cited directive in Genesis that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” — conservative state lawmakers announced this morning that they are laying plans to introduce omnibus legislation to give numerous other key Bible directives the force of state law.

According to Rep. Harley Smidlap (R – Moab) the legislation will be entitled the “Bible is Inerrant, But Leviticus Especially” Act or “BIBLE Act” for short. “We thought of simply introducing the whole Bible itself as a new and separate chapter in the General Statutes,” the veteran lawmaker observed, “but we knew that the printing cost on that would have been pretty big so we decided to keep things simple for now.”

Smidlap was joined in his efforts by Sen. Homer Noodleman (R – Hazor). According to Noodleman, the overwhelming need for the BIBLE Act became apparent when he and several other conservative legislators were drafting the proposed marriage bill. “When we looked at Genesis the other day, it suddenly dawned on us that there are all sorts of divine commandments that North Carolina law is flouting,” the senator said.

When pressed on the fact that numerous directives in the Bible appear to conflict directly with established principles of constitutional law, neither Smidlap nor Noodleman expressed significant concern.

“I’ll admit that there are some things we’ll have to work out,” Noodleman conceded.

“Yeah, like the whole re-institution of slavery thing. We understand that’s not gonna’ happen overnight,” Smidlap added.

Both lawmakers, however, expressed confidence that the recent confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court could pave the way for dramatic constitutional changes in the very near future.

This sentiment was echoed by Sally Subservient, a lawyer for the conservative advocacy group, Christian Religious Advocates for Zero Yielding (C.R.A.Z.Y.).  “Justice Gorsuch is an constitutional originalist,” Subservient noted. “And, obviously, the Old Testament is original as you can get.”

Smidlap and Noodleman indicated that details of the Bible Act are still being finalized in the General Assembly’s bill drafting office, but did provide a preview of some of what it will contain. Among the specific provisions expected to be included:

  • A new requirement that all boys be circumcised in keeping with Genesis 17:14 (“And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.”)
  • An amendment to state criminal law requiring rapists to marry their victims in keeping with Deuteronomy 22:28-29 (“If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.) Read more
Commentary, News

Local officials voice overwhelming opposition to latest GOP overhaul of county elections boards

Not that anyone would ever expected Republican lawmakers in Raleigh to give a hoot, but it’s worth noting that almost all local elections officials are none too happy with one of the more controversial provisions in the new Republican bill to merge the state Board of Elections and Ethics Commission. We know this because of an interesting incident that took place yesterday morning at a North Carolina Association of Directors of Elections Conference in Wilmington.

According to an observer who contacted NC Policy Watch, Greg Gebhardt, a staffer for bill sponsor Rep. David Lewis, was addressing the group and was asked a question by an official from Anson County about how boards would possibly be able to avoid gridlock and make controversial decisions under the proposed GOP changes (which increase the boards from three members to four and mandate that they be split equally between Republicans and Democrats). According to the observer, Gebhardt replied that it would be a matter of “whoever has the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing.”

Rep. David Lewis

Rep. David Lewis

At this point, there was a loud groan/roar of disagreement in the room and an official from Yadkin County spoke up and pressed Gebhardt to seek the opinion of the 300 or so officials in the room regarding the change. When Gebhardt replied that didn’t have time to talk to everyone in the room, the Yadkin official persisted and urged him to seek a show of hands.

Faced with a room full of frustrated local county elections officials, Gebhardt acquiesced and asked “who thinks that they can make a four-member board work?” At this point roughly 10 to 12 hands were raised. The other 290 or so officials present kept their hands at their sides.

Gebhardt replied that he would share this information with Rep. Lewis, but as is so often the case with public input and the conservative North Carolina General Assembly, the information from experts in the field is certain to have zero impact as Lewis has already signed off on the change and helped shepherd it through the House yesterday afternoon.

In any logical world, Gebhardt — a public employee — would share his findings with Governor Cooper as the bill now rests on his desk. For some reason, however, we’re not holding our breath on that one.

Commentary

Editorial: Bill to limit lawsuits against hog polluters is dead wrong

As Lisa Sorg reported last night in the post immediately below, the state House approved legislation last night that would insulate polluting hog operations (“farms” seems like too genteel a term) from liability for the damage they inflict on their neighbors. This morning’s lead editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal explains why this idea, to put it bluntly, stinks:

“State legislation favoring big pork producers over property owners who can’t stand the unbearable odors the hog farms produce is dead wrong. This legislation needs to die.

As The Associated Press reported last week, ‘North Carolina lawmakers are taking steps to protect the world’s largest pork producer from lawsuits accusing its subsidiaries of creating unbearable animal waste odor. The 2014 lawsuits by about 500 rural neighbors of massive hog farms allege that clouds of flies and intense smells remain a problem nearly a quarter-century since industrial-scale hog farming took off. The smells can spark headaches and infuse households, they complain. Wind-driven spray has been known to coat a home’s exterior in liquefied excrement, some said. The smell clings to clothes. With the cases against U.S. subsidiaries of the Chinese pork giant heading toward a possible trial as early as this summer, legislators are now proposing to sharply limit penalties that a jury or judge could impose.’

This a load of you-know-what….”

The editorial goes on to explain that the legislation would protect big hog operations, including Smithfield Foods — a subsidiary of a Chinese conglomerate for liability for the damage that hog waste smells do to neighbors. The sponsors claim that local contract farmers ties to the conglomerate will eb injured if lawsuits seeking damages aren’t quashed. Here’s the conclusion:

“The AP reports: ‘The proposed law in the country’s No. 3 hog state by gross income recalls that politically powerful pork producers in the 1990s shaped laws to foster high-density hog production despite the environmental and health risks of the waste disposal systems. The predominant waste-handling method has changed little since then.

‘It involves using lots of water to regularly wash out farm buildings holding hogs, animals that generate prodigious amounts of waste. It’s collected in cesspools, where bacteria break it down, and the flowing remains are sprayed through high-pressure sprayers onto acres of farm fields. The droplets can radiate smells and be carried by winds. North Carolina pork producers are only now deploying less-smelly methods like spraying closer to the ground via hoses dragged behind tractors, but the traditional method, generally, prevails.’

We support our small farmers’ struggle to survive. Many of them have to form partnerships with large agricultural concerns. But those partnerships can’t come at the expense of their neighbors. A balance must be struck, one free of legislative meddling. Our state’s courts, not the legislature, must decide the matter at hand.”