2015 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center, Raising the Bar 2015

This post is part of a series on the budget featuring the voices of North Carolina experts on what our state needs to progress.  Elizabeth Grace Brown is a student at UNC Chapel Hill and is the author of this piece.

I’ve spent my entire educational life in North Carolina public schools, from kindergarten to today. My schools have always been excellent. I had good classroom sizes, dedicated and attentive teachers, and curricula rich in science, arts and literature. My schools strove to maintain a balance between supporting and challenging me. The guidance I received from teachers and faculty (and from my mother, who’s also a public school teacher in NC) led me to UNC Chapel Hill. But as I grew older and closer to graduation, I could already see that quality eroding. My elementary school’s magnet status was threatened, my high school had no books for us, teachers quit and students dropped out at alarming rates. I have benefited greatly from excellent public education, and budget cuts have put that education in jeopardy.

And I spent my primary education believing that if I worked hard enough, I could graduate and get an affordable, world-class college education in my home state, too. That promise, if it was ever true, certainly seems less and less within my reach every day. Every time tuition is raised, by the Board of Governors at the urging of the legislature, I go more into debt. Policy makers seem like their concerns about student debt revolve around parents and families paying tuition, but that’s not the case – my loans are on me. Asking your parents for help paying for college is a luxury that’s already out of reach for so many North Carolina students.

And I refuse to believe any longer that the increasing cost and declining quality of education in this state is something that these policy makers can’t help. Funding isn’t a just a question of allocating resources efficiently, it’s a question of values. And it’s clear that NC leadership doesn’t value education — not as much as they value tax cuts for the wealthy, or corporate subsidies. The most recent funding increases barely scratch the surface of the damage that’s been done under the guise of fiscal responsibility. Among this state’s politicians and leaders, talk of supporting education is plentiful – but talk is cheap.

And the lip service they pay to the value of education is selective, too. They love fields that will bring more profit to the already wealthy: finance, business and STEM, but not one of the forty-six degree programs that the Board of Governors just decided to cut. They don’t care for us to become critical thinkers, to know our own histories and the histories of our marginalized communities, to grow as people.

Steven Long of the Board of Governors made it clear when he said, regarding these program cuts: “We’re capitalists, and we have to look at what the demand is, and we have to respond to the demand.” They treat our education like it’s a commodity —  but they still expect us to pay more for less! As an Economics major, as a student, as an organizer and as a North Carolinian, I can tell you plainly — this doesn’t make sense, and this can’t last.

News

From the New York Times:

A federal appeals court on Tuesday denied the Obama administration’s request to lift a hold on the president’s executive actions on immigration, which would have granted protection from deportation as well as work permits to millions of immigrants in the country illegally.

Two of three judges on a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, left in place an injunction by a federal district judge in Brownsville, Tex. The ruling comes in a lawsuit by 26 states against actions President Obama took in November. Many of the initiatives were scheduled to take effect this month.

The appeals court found that Texas and the other states did have sufficient legal grounds to bring the lawsuit and that the administration had not shown it would be harmed if the injunction remained in the place and the programs were further delayed.

NC Budget and Tax Center

A powerful new initiative aimed at reducing childhood hunger will be available to around 1,200 high-poverty schools in North Carolina this upcoming school year. This initiative, known as community eligibility, allows qualifying schools to serve meals free of charge to all students, ensuring that children whose families are struggling to put food on the table have access to healthy meals at school.

Last year, North Carolina got off to a good start with nearly 650 schools using community eligibility to feed more than 310,000 kids. This upcoming school year, hundreds more schools are eligible to participate.

Results show that more NC children are eating school meals because of community eligibility, with a particular increase in the number of children eating breakfast. This means that more children are fueled up and ready to learn at school each day.

When children arrive at school hungry, it is very difficult for them to concentrate and do well in the classroom. By providing schools meals to all of our children free of charge, we are both reducing hunger and increasing their chances of student success. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

The release of the 2013-2014 Economic Snapshots for all 100 counties provides another opportunity to reflect on how our communities are faring in today’s economy. The official economic recovery began in mid-2009 but has been slow to replace the jobs lost during the Recession and quick to produce primarily low-wage jobs that are holding incomes down and keeping poverty high.

A new interactive at NC Policy Watch features a few socio-economic indicators from the snapshots, including the change in employed persons since 2007, the poverty rate, the graduation rate, life expectancy and nominal median hourly wage change over the recovery. Below is a preview of the findings but you can find all the county profiles here and one for North Carolina too. Read More

News

voteThe justices of the U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to hear yet another election law case, this time from Texas and concerning the “one-person one vote” principle of the 14th Amendment.

That’s the rule requiring that to the extent possible voting districts be drawn with same-sized populations  — so that one person’s voting power is roughly equivalent to another person’s within a state.

Here’s more from Rick Hasen at the Election Law Blog:

In a surprise move, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from a three judge court in Evenwel v. Abbott, a one-person, one vote case involving the counting of non-citizens in the creation of electoral districts. Ed Blum, the force behind the Fisher anti-affirmative action case and the Shelby County case striking down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act is also behind this case. The question involves whether Texas can draw districts using total population rather than total voters, an issue especially important given non-citizen Latinos living in parts of Texas. The claim is that representatives from these areas with non-citizens get too much moving power. A ruling in favor of the challengers would be a boost for areas with fewer numbers of non-citizens living there.