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In case you missed it earlier today, be sure to check out this new and sobering release from the Justice Center on the sorry state of North Carolina’s investment in higher education:

North Carolina’s spending on higher education cut deeply since 2008
Shortchanging public universities and colleges reduces access to higher education, hurts economy

RALEIGH (May 13, 2015) — Even as most states have begun to restore funding for higher education that was cut during the recession, North Carolina has continued to cut funding for public universities, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  As a result, tuitions have risen dramatically and the quality of education here has suffered, which will make it harder for the state to attract businesses that rely on a well-educated workforce.

“Smart investments in public colleges and universities will help to strengthen North Carolina’s economy,” said Cedric Johnson of the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “Communities with highly educated residents attract employers who pay competitive wages. Their employees then spend money in their community, boosting the economy of the entire area. That’s what North Carolina needs as our economy continues to recover from the damaging Great Recession.”

Nationwide, states are spending 20 percent less per student on higher education than they did in 2008, after adjusting for inflation. With such deep cuts in higher education investment, colleges and universities have had to raise tuition, cut spending, or both. As a result, tuition at four-year public colleges has grown nationally by 29 percent since the 2007-08 school year.

For North Carolina, costly tax cuts in recent years have hindered the state’s ability to invest in what works, such as its well-regarded public university system. State funding for higher education has been cut by more than 20 percent since 2008 when adjusted for inflation, according to the new report. Meanwhile, the average tuition at a public, four-year college increased by 36 percent during this period. Read More

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5-11-15-NCPW-cartoon1[This post has been updated.] As explained in the post immediately below, the House Rules Committee was scheduled to take up a bill this morning to further liberalize North Carolina gun laws. Late last night, however, the meeting was, thankfully, cancelled. Greensboro News & Record columnist Susan Ladd explains this morning why the bill “is not designed to ‘protect’ or ‘affirm’ citizens’ Second Amendment rights. It is designed to keep expanding those rights beyond the realm of reason.”

Here is Ladd’s handy summary of what the bill would do in its present form:

• If you’re a business owner and don’t like the idea of your customers packing heat, tough beans. Your only option is to place a large sign in a prominent location notifying customers that weapons are prohibited. But like the right of parlay in “Pirates of the Caribbean, this is more like a guideline than a rule, because violating the notice would no longer be a misdemeanor but simply an infraction.

• Schools would be unable to forbid students and teachers from having guns in their locked vehicles on school grounds. I’m sure that long walk to the car and the laborious process of unlocking it would be sufficient to keep a person bent on violence from using a gun on fellow students or teachers.

• Doctors would be forbidden Read More

Commentary

GunsAs long as North Carolina is going to regulate guns about as effectively as a broken down banana republic, it might as well pass laws in a similar way.

That’s about the only conclusion that one can draw about the attitudes of the folks running the General Assembly after this afternoon’s announcement by North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore that the House will press ahead with a new and thus far undisclosed version of controversial gun legislation. Not only did Moore issue an edict that the bill will be taken up in the House Rules Committee tomorrow morning (a committee that’s generally supposed to deal with matters related to managing the affairs of the House rather than substantive matters like gun regulation), he also proclaimed that it would pass the committee and then be voted on on the House floor a few hours later.

Good to know that tomorrow’s committee will be so open and honest.

No word yet on whether Moore will allow anyone other than supporters of the bill to speak at tomorrow kangaroo committee meeting. Given that the outcome has already been decided (as well as past experience in the Judiciary Committee with this dreadful proposal) there seems to be little reason to get one’s hopes up. Those wanting to listen in to the “debate” in committee tomorrow should visit the General Assembly’s audio broadcasts page and click on Committee Room 1228 at 9:00 a.m.

 

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Image: www.thinkprogress.org

Image: www.thinkprogress.org

Here’s an question that most healthy, able-bodied people have probably never spent much time considering: How much should the people who help others to get dressed, shower and use the toilet get paid?

According to the present-day “genius of the market,” the answer is: “not much.” Home care workers in our society – many of them women and people of color, of course — are pretty much treated as a disposable commodity. Pay is low, benefits are minimal to non-existent, hours can be long and challenging and the work is frequently difficult.  The results of this situation are predictable: the quality of care provided is frequently uneven and turnover in the profession is high.

In the coming weeks and months, The Progressive Pulse will feature a series of posts by folks directly affected by this hard and often absurd reality. It is our hope that by shining a light on some of these real life stories, we can begin to inspire the public and policymakers to bring the issue out into the light. We welcome constructive comments, suggestions and contributions.

The first story comes from a Winston-Salem mother and grandmother named Mary Bartholomew.

Better wages crucial for home care workers – and for those in need of care
By Mary Bartholomew

I am a breast cancer survivor with a number of other ongoing health problems, including chronic lung disease. I have been assessed as fully disabled since 1986, and like many seniors I live on a fixed income. Having COPD leaves me with no energy and makes physical tasks difficult, so it’s very important to me to have home care assistance. I am granted 20 hours of home care help through a provider agency. My current caregiver has been wonderful, but she too is moving on and now it’s up to me to find someone new to help.

The trouble is that provider agencies only pay home care workers $9 an hour. It’s very challenging to find someone qualified who is willing to work for that wage and for such limited hours. Those who do take the jobs are struggling to support their own families and eventually have to move on to another line of work. When you add it all up, this means I have a hard time finding a consistent caregiver, and sometimes have no help at all when I most critically need it.

I want to stay in my home. It is far more comfortable and far less expensive for me to stay here than to move to a nursing home. My daughter has two very active teenage sons, and I want them to be able to visit me and spend time with me at home. However, in order to stay I need more consistent care. I’m fortunate to have a provider agency that cares about my needs, but they can only do as much as the law mandates. One of the best ways to improve the quality and consistency of home care is to improve caregiver wages. It’s time to fix this problem so that people needing home care – and those providing it – can live out their lives with dignity.

Commentary

For the first time in a while in North Carolina, advocates for common sense gun regulations are showing some real spunk (and getting some traction) in combating legislation pushed by the Second Amendment fundamentalists. Scroll down to see the new TV ad from the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and the North Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. This is from a release that accompanied the ad’s release:

“The ad highlights the broad consensus among North Carolinians against HB 562—the gun lobby-backed bill that would repeal North Carolina’s requirement that all handgun buyers get a pistol permit, a process that includes a criminal background check. The ad features recently released polling paid for by Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund showing that 87 percent of North Carolinians support background checks on all gun sales and a letter from the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association urging the Legislature to remove the portion of HB 562 that would repeal the state’s background check law. The bill would allow felons, domestic abusers, and other people prohibited from having guns to evade background checks by shopping with unlicensed sellers online or at gun shows….

In the past year, 819 permits in Wake County were denied to prospective handgun buyers, including felons, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill. If HB 562 passes, those dangerous people would be able to meet a stranger online and buy a handgun with no questions asked. “

Here’s the ad:

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