Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

Photo credit: Ryan Monroe

1. NC students take a stand against gun violence, express deep concerns about school safety

Tallulah Cloos, 18, sometimes ponders ideal hiding spots if an active shooter were ever to terrorize her Buncombe County high school.

It’s not easy, she says. A.C. Reynolds High, located just southeast of Asheville, has a wide campus with an abundance of open spaces.

“I thought it was a weird thing to think about,” she says. “But some of my friends told me they were having these same thoughts. It’s sad that we have to think about this, but it’s necessary.”

Cloos isn’t the only one. Multiple North Carolina teens who spoke to Policy Watch this week talked of harrowing conversations inside school about how they would respond to a campus shooter, one month after a gunman wielding an assault rifle allegedly killed 17 at a Parkland, Fla., high school.

“I would like to say, ‘No, this would never happen at Riverside,’” said Joala Downey, a 17-year-old at Durham’s Riverside High School. “But honestly I’m not sure. My friends, we all just try to be positive. No one wants to think this will ever happen to them, but I don’t think the kids in Parkland thought this would ever happen to them.”

The anniversary of the Parkland shooting triggered an avalanche of campus protests across North Carolina and the United States Wednesday. Students at an estimated 3,000 U.S. schools walked out of classes for 17 minutes to memorialize those killed at the Florida school and to demand gun reforms from state and federal policymakers. [Read more…]

2. Landowners in the path of proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline look to federal judge for relief | Read more

3. The most important political battle of 2018 continues to fly under the radar | Read more

4. The Board of Elections battle: Where things stand | Read more

5. New report: School segregation is on the rise in NC and it’s harming our kids| Read more

Commentary, News

New report: “Morally bankrupt” federal policy keeps student loan recipients in poverty

Yesterday the the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) released an important new report that highlights a disturbing method by which the federal government is preying upon student loan recipients. This is from the NCLC release that accompanied Voices of Despair: Student Borrowers Kept in Poverty When Government Seizes Their Earned Income Tax Credit.

The report compiles stories from borrowers recounting the hardship caused by the federal government’s seizure of their Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) because of a defaulted student loan.

In January 2018, NCLC asked student loan borrowers who had their EITC seized to share their stories and to tell us what they had planned to do with their tax credit. Many borrowers described the things their growing children would have to do without—clothing for the next season, a bed to sleep in, medical care, a roof over their heads, and in some cases, food in their bellies.

“The loss to these families is heartbreaking,” said Persis Yu, National Consumer Law Center attorney, director of NCLC’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, and author of the report. “The Earned Income Tax Credit keeps parents working and children out of poverty. Robbing families of these funds is counterproductive and makes absolutely no sense.”

The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has cited EITC expansion as the most important cause of employment growth among single mothers with children during the 1990s. In 2015 alone, the program was credited with lifting about 6.6 million people out of poverty, including about 3.3 million children.

Taking the EITC also compounds the harms borne by low-income borrowers, who often were denied the promised benefits of education. For example, many students were lured in to attend a school such as Everest (part of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges) which the U.S. Department of Education found misrepresented job placement rates to their prospective students, or a school that closed in mid-course which recently happened to many students attending the for-profit ITT Technical Institute.

“Stripping families of the Earned Income Tax Credit is a morally bankrupt policy which compounds the harms borne by low-income borrowers,” said Yu. “Congress needs to put a hard stop to this federal government practice.”

Click here to check out the report.


Poll reveals strong support for higher teacher pay

There’s an article that’s worth your time to check out on the website Higher Education Works this week about the most recent High Point University poll on teacher pay. Here are some excerpts from “Strong support for raising NC teacher pay”:

“A poll released last week revealed overwhelming support among Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated North Carolinians for raising public school teacher pay to the national average….

The High Point University Poll found that 85 percent of North Carolinians agree that public school teachers are paid too little.

Further, 73 percent said they would be willing to pay more in taxes to raise average teacher pay in the state to the national average within five years. That included 72 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of unaffiliated residents.

Though North Carolinians like to think the ‘thank God for Mississippi’ days are long behind us, the state allowed teacher salaries to stagnate during and after the Great Recession until North Carolina ranked 47th in average teacher pay in 2013-14.

The state’s average teacher salary (which includes supplements provided by counties) has risen 12 percent over the past five years, however, and the NC Department of Public Instruction reported recently that the average salary reached $51,214 this school year.

Higher education leaders in North Carolina care about pay for K-12 teachers because better teachers prepare better college students, and UNC colleges of education are the single largest source of teachers in North Carolina, providing 44% of the state’s beginning teachers.

One feeds the other.

Yet the state’s colleges of education saw a 30% decline in enrollment from 2010-2015.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why….

One obvious competitor for the dollars needed to pay teachers better are the tax cuts Republican legislators have enacted since they took control of the legislature in 2011.

At a recent forum with civic, business and education leaders in Winston-Salem, [House Speaker Tim] Moore defended the tax cuts, noting that Forbes recently ranked North Carolina the number-one state in the country to do business.

But he also said he didn’t see a need to continue cutting taxes this year….

One business leader at the Winston-Salem event challenged state leaders to follow through with teacher pay the way they have with pledges to cut taxes and put the state’s fiscal house in order.

‘Give us a road map, and this state would be so enthusiastic if they were told, “In the next four years, we’re going from 35th to 20th,”’ businessman John Burress told Moore.  ‘You did it with taxes – why can’t you do it with education?’

…Legislators return to Raleigh May 16 for their even-year “short” session to make adjustments to the state budget.

That’s when they’ll have another chance to show just how committed they are to raising teacher pay in North Carolina.”


Yikes! Check out the record of Trump’s new economic advisor

Most Americans with cable TV are at least vaguely aware of Larry Kudlow. They know him as one of the talking heads who populate the “financial channels” that tend to act as cheerleaders for modern, robber baron capitalism. If, however, you’re one of the majority of people for whom that vague awareness about sums up the extent of your familiarity with Kudlow, you might want to check out Ryan Koronowski’s rather remarkable article on Think Progress about the man Donald Trump has named as his new economic advisor. Here are some excerpts from “Trump’s new economic adviser is really bad at economics. Here are the receipts. Larry Kudlow has made some astoundingly bad predictions, even for a CNBC pundit.”:

“Larry Kudlow is President Donald Trump’s choice to replace Gary Cohn as director of the National Economic Council (NEC). Cohn spent over 25 years at Goldman Sachs, and was president and COO for ten years before he joined the Trump administration. Past NEC directors have had law degrees from Yale or Harvard or Cornell, MBAs from Harvard or Wharton (not a bachelor’s with an economics major like the president), a Ph. D in economics from Harvard or MIT, decades of business experience, or taught at the London School of Economics,

Kudlow has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester and did not complete a master’s degree in economics at Princeton. He has worked at a junior level at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and also in the Reagan Office of Management and Budget. He worked at Bear Stearns from 1987 to 1994, until he was fired for cocaine abuse. After working for Arthur Laffer’s firm, he got into journalism, most notably hosting a business show on CNBC.

He also has a penchant for making wildly incorrect predictions and assurances about the economy. Here are a few

  • Kudlow recommended buying stocks in September 2008…
  • Kudlow said invading Iraq in 2002 would boost the economy…
  • Kudlow denied the existence of the housing bubble in 2005…
  • Kudlow lauded the ‘Bush Boom’ on the eve of the Great Recession and ridiculed ‘pessimistas…’
  • Kudlow dismissed the seriousness of the Great Recession in February 2008In July 2008…
  • Kudlow said it was a ‘mental recession, not an actual recession…’
  • Kudlow thought the housing market hit bottom in July 2008Kudlow cheered on Wall Street CEOs using bailout money to fun private jet trips…
  • Kudlow called Occupy Wall Street demonstrators ‘anti-American’ but said the Tea Party was great for the economy…
  • Kudlow imagined Obama’s economic policy would yield high inflation rates…
  • Kudlow said unemployment benefits make people not want to work…
  • Kudlow defending Trump staff picks arguing that ‘wealthy folks’ don’t have to ‘engage in corruption…’
  • Kudlow said he could fix the economy by sitting down with Glenn Beck for a half hour…”

Sounds like he’ll fit in with Trump perfectly. Heaven help us.

Commentary, What's Race Got To Do With It?

The economic barriers that still confront African American North Carolinians

In case you missed it earlier this week, analyst Will Munn has authored an important new entry in the NC Budget and Tax Center’s “Prosperity Watch” series. His finding: Despit some progress the data confirm that African Americans in North Carolina still must confront large economic barriers.

Some progress in North Carolina over 50 years, but barriers persist for African Americans

Fifty years ago, the Kerner Commission concluded that “pervasive discrimination in employment, education and housing” and structural racism had created barriers to opportunity for African-Americans to earn, save and engage in civic life.

Reflecting on the Kerner Commission report after five decades, researchers from the Economic Policy Institute last week revealed that progress has been made in absolute terms for African-Americans but limited in removing barriers that maintain persistently high differences in outcomes for African Americans relative to whites.

Nationally, researchers from the Economic Policy Institute found that 34.7 percent of all African Americans nationally lived in poverty in 1968, compared to 21.4 percent today.[1]  Correspondingly, 10 percent of whites in 1968 lived in poverty compared to 8.8 percent in 2016.[2] In North Carolina the census of 1970 found that 38.7 percent of African American families lived in poverty compared to 11.1 percent of white families in North Carolina.[3] [4] In 2016, a similar measure found that 23.4 percent of African Americans in North Carolina lived in poverty while 12 percent of whites experienced the same economic status.[5] Both nationally and statewide these numbers represent progress for African Americans with a decline in absolute poverty rates and a reduction in the difference in the experience of poverty for African-Americans and whites. While that difference was 27.5 percentage points in 1968, the difference dropped to 11.45 percentage points in 2016.

Nationally and at the state level, differences in the unemployment rates by race have widened over the past 50 years.[6] An unemployment rate gap in North Carolina that was nearly 4 percentage points 50 years ago has now stretched to 5 percentage points.[7]

While important to acknowledge the drop in poverty both in absolute and relative terms for African-Americans, the persistent barriers in employment will continue to leader to differences in economic outcomes that keep North Carolina from reaching our full economic potential.

[1] Jones, J., Schmitt, J., & Wilson, V. (2018, February 26). 50 years after the Kerner Commission: African Americans are better off in many ways but are still disadvantaged by racial inequality. Retrieved from
[2] Ibid.
[3] Bohme, F. G. (1976). 1970 census of population and housing: procedural history (United States., Bureau of the Census). Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census.
[4] Social Explorer Tables, Census 1970, Social Explorer & U.S. Census Bureau, Poverty Status for Families
[5] Social Explorer Tables: ACS 2016 (1-Year Estimates), ACS 2016 (1-Year Estimates), Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau, Poverty Status in 2016
[6] Ibid.
[7] Social Explorer Tables: ACS 2016 (1-Year Estimates), ACS 2016 (1-Year Estimates), Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau, Unemployment Rate for The Population 16 Years and Over