NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system is the envy of no one

Last week the Center for American Progress and National Employment Law Project released a review of unemployment insurance as a federal and state partnership and the choices in recent years that have made it less effective at reaching jobless workers.

North Carolina policymakers, of course, aggressively pursued the worst changes in unemployment insurance. The result is a system that ranks among the least effective at providing temporary wage replacement for jobless workers while they search for work and delivering a stabilizing force in local communities and the economy overall.

The challenges they outline in the report face North Carolina acutely:  too few unemployed workers have access to tools for successful re-employment, first employment and/ or training; American workers are more vulnerable than ever to involuntary unemployment, yet fewer are protected by unemployment insurance; and finally, the unemployment insurance system is unprepared for the next recession.

The report authors provide a set of policy recommendations that would address these challenges and go a long way to not just protecting workers and communities from the shock of unemployment but would actually prepare for jobs loss by investing in the re-employment, training and other measures that retain jobs and support smoother transitions to new ones.  Here are some their recommendations: Read more

Commentary

Wilmington Star News blasts conservative obstruction of wind power

Be sure to check out the on-the-money lead editorial in this morning’s Wilmington Star News and its scathing take down of state lawmakers and their manufactured excuses for trying to undermine wind power in North Carolina (lately, lawmakers have been claiming that windmills would somehow disrupt eastern NC military bases).  Here’s the excellent conclusion:

“One strongly suspects the whole ‘We don’t want our bases shut down’ business is an excuse, rather than an actual reason. Many Republicans in the legislators — who have bent over backward to promote hydraulic fracking in this state — seem to regard wind and solar power as somehow evil. Good ol’ petrochemicals are the only power source that manly men should want or need.

This (may we humbly suggest yet again) is expensive folly. For economic and, yet, military security, our nation needs to draw its energy from a diverse array of sources. Wind power should certainly be part of this mix.

Wind turbines pose some local problems, but by most measurements, the pluses outweigh the minuses. Wind power is abundant and consistent, especially along the Tar Heel coast. Running wind turbines doesn’t create greenhouse gases or other pollutants. Wind doesn’t have to be pumped from unstable corners of the world, filled with terrorists, guerrilla fighters and two-bit despots intent on milking Uncle Sam for every penny they can.

Travel in Germany and other parts of Europe, and you’ll see giant wind turbines gently churning away in the midst of placid fields. Rock-ribbed Republican farmers in America’s Midwest are making money by allowing turbines amid their corn and soybeans.

Even Duke Energy has pledged public allegiance to wind power in a series of big print advertisements. One assumes that Duke’s lobbyists will therefore be passing among state House members, telling them what a bad idea this de facto wind-farm ban will be.

In case the Honorables don’t get the message, the voters should tell them, too.”

News

House Democrats stage sit-in, demand gun-control legislation (video)

Congressional Democrats staged a sit-in on the U.S. House floor Wednesday, demanding the chamber vote on common sense gun-control measures.

Congresswoman Alma Adams appealed to her colleagues to take action after the Orlando shooting that left 50 dead and 53 wounded. Adams drew applause as she demanded “NRA, get the hell out of the way!”

Here’s how other members of the state’s congressional delegation responded:

But several Republicans, including Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro, called the action a stunt:

NC Budget and Tax Center

Summer months mean going without healthy foods for many NC kids, study finds

Making sure that kids in low-income households have access to nutritious foods over the summer helps improve their overall health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found in a recently completed five-year study.

For hundreds of thousands of children in low-income households across the state, the summer months often mean fewer healthy food options because of the loss of access to school breakfast and lunch programs. These kids are coming from the estimated 16.7 percent of North Carolina households that face challenges putting food on the table.

The USDA conducted a five-year pilot study of how to reduce food insecurity through additional measures and improve health outcomes for these kids. They found that an extra $60 each month on families’ Electronic Benefit Transfer cards during the summer increased children’s fruit and vegetable consumption and improved nutrition outcomes.

The research also identified three main reasons why not all eligible children participate in summer nutrition programs that are available when school is not in session.  These reasons include:

  • Lack of Transportation
  • Limited operating hours
  • Lack of publicity

Year-round commitments are clearly needed to address poverty and spark community dialogue to help ensure all who need it have access to the necessary food to be healthy and well.

 Click here to find summer meal site near you.

News

National charter group blasts bill limiting state oversight of struggling charter schools

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Moore, Randolph, is backing the major rewrites to charter law.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Moore, Randolph, is backing the major rewrites to charter law.

This month, we wrote about a Senate rewrite of a white collar crime bill, House Bill 242, which would place new limits on the state’s power to shutter low-performing charter schools.

This week, a national, nonpartisan charter group is warning North Carolina lawmakers that the provision, backed by Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Moore, Randolph, could weaken quality control in the state’s growing charter school sector.

As we reported, Tillman’s legislation will strip the N.C. State Board of Education of the power to close chronically low-performing charters if the charter has met its expected student growth goals or is making progress on a state-approved strategic improvement plan.

The legislation also removes the state’s five-year review requirement for charters, instead calling for the schools to be examined just once during their 10-year charter term.

Earlier this month, Tillman, a frequent critic of the state’s public schools, lashed out at the idea of public school leaders directing closure at struggling charters.

“We know how far their plans have gotten us with low performing schools already,” said Tillman.

But, according to a letter from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), a Chicago-based group that advises education leaders on quality charter programs, the bill could be a major problem for North Carolina in that it would weaken charter schools and imperil millions in federal grants geared toward “high-quality” charters. 

“Since their inception 25 years ago, charter schools have promised families a quality choice in public education based on their flexibility to innovate while being held accountable for high standards of performance,” wrote NACSA Vice President of Policy & Advocacy John Hedstrom. “This bill—together with last year’s enactment of H 334—removes key levers of enforceable accountability from the hands of the State Board of Education.”

The letter was sent to state House Speaker Tim Moore and House Democratic Leader Larry Hall.

From the letter:

At NACSA, we believe that every child deserves the opportunity to attend an excellent school and that high-quality public charter schools can help realize this ideal. But in order to fulfill that promise, policy, practice, and people must be mutually reinforcing. We must set high performance expectations and enforce consequences when charter schools do not live up to their promises to students and families.

H 242 undermines the policy component of a healthy charter sector. It removes statutory levers meant to hold schools accountable, weakens oversight requirements, and creates a loophole that allows failing schools to remain open longer than they should be. The proposed bill would create a charter school system that bears a striking resemblance to states with old, broken systems; states that are struggling to turn around their troubled charter sectors plagued by poor performance.

Read more