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Here’s a story that’s unfortunately gotten very little, if any, play in the North Carolina mainstream news media. It comes, interestingly enough, from national NBC News:

“How politics buries science in landslide mapping

The six geologists were just starting their work, climbing the mountains of Western North Carolina to map the debris left behind by landslides over millions of years, when the political footing gave way beneath them. Opposition had been building from real estate agents, from home builders planning subdivisions, and then from politicians. When all that energy was released, the science was crushed flat.

The new Republican leadership in the legislature cut off all funding for the state’s landslide mapping project in 2011, and the five geologists were laid off. They had mapped just four of 19 counties. Only one geologist kept a state job, but he is not allowed to do any landslide mapping. Another is helping a mining company search for gold. Two are in private practice. The fifth is checking the work of road paving crews. And the sixth moved to Virginia, mapping landslides until the temporary funding for that project ran out.

Against the backdrop of the March 22 mudslide in Washington state, which killed 33 people and left 12 still missing as of Monday, geologists say the story of the team in North Carolina illustrates how America has never put forth a serious effort to learn from the earth’s past. Geology experts say science is often a casualty of land politics, as the nation fails to protect others who are unaware they are at risk from deadly landslides….”

Read the rest of this excellent and very disturbing story by clicking here.

Tracking the Cuts: The Dismantling of Our Public Schools

The Philadelphia City Paper’s Daniel Denvir published this story today about a 12-year-old girl who began experiencing an asthmatic episode while at school, did not get the medical attention she needed because there was no school nurse available thanks to budget cuts, and died later that day.

While it cannot be determined for certain if the girl, 12-year-old Laporshia Massey, would have survived had a school nurse been on-site, we do know this much, according to the City Paper:

  • The School District of Philadelphia, long underfunded and now reeling from budget cuts implemented by Gov. Tom Corbett, has nearly 3,000 fewer staff members than it did in June.
  • Today, there are 179 nurses working in public, private and parochial schools, down from 289 in 2011.
  • Bryant Elementary, where Massey was attending school, only has one nurse on staff two days/week.
  • After the initial cuts, one protesting nurse at Bryant Elementary specifically warned that other staff were not competent to deal with asthmatic students in her absence.

North Carolina is dealing with its own school budget cut woes thanks to reduced spending on education by state lawmakers this year. We’re tracking the cuts local school districts have had to make — click here to read those accounts.

While I have not yet seen reports of eliminating school nurse positions, I have seen reports of eliminating school psychologist positions, in addition to teacher assistants, teachers, and administrative staff.

Do you have school budget cuts to report or stories to tell that are a direct consequence of reduced funds for your school? Let us know at lindsay@ncpolicywatch.com

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Human service agencies held a press briefing in Raleigh today to call attention to the ongoing (and growing) pain afflicting people in need as the results of the absurd acroos-the-board “sequestration” cuts enacted by Congress eralier this year.  WRAL.com has the story here.

This is from a press release distributed at the event:

As both houses of Congress continue to debate the next steps in the federal budget, non-profit groups from around the Triangle hosted a press conference Tuesday to address the extreme damage already done to working families in North Carolina due to automatic, across-the-board sequestration and to call for replacing sequestration with a balanced approach that includes new revenues. Read More

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This letter to the editor from today’s News and Observer was particularly compelling to me:

DHHS a mess

Public health in N.C. has been my life for 30 years, resulting in an award of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. My retirement has not stopped my continued care, concern and work on behalf of public health in this wonderful state that has always been my home.

The problem started when Gov. Pat McCrory lost the best, most exciting director of public health we have had in years: Dr. Laura Gerald. Now, DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos has fired Dr. Rebecca King from her job leading the department’s oral health division in a cheap and pathetic power play. King served this state with intelligence, integrity and devotion for years. King and Dr. Jean Spratt were powerful leaders – by example.

The shocking and exorbitant payments that Wos arranged as compensation in consulting fees for an employee of her husband’s firm – a blatant and unethical conflict of interest – would have paid the annual salaries of most of the doctors and dental hygienists who were recently terminated from our health programs.

Something is very wrong. I encourage the legislature and you to dig as deeply as possible to find the truth and restore integrity and true care to N.C. public health.

BECKY S. BOWDEN, DURHAM

 

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As Clayton Henkel notes below, the General Assembly returns to Raleigh today to override the Governor’s vetoes of a pair of bills dealing with immigrant workers and drug testing of public benefits applicants.

In response, the good folks at Public School First NC released a statement this morning that highlights what lawmakers ought to be doing now that they’re back in the Capital City:

PUBLIC SCHOOLS FIRST NC URGES LEGISLATURE TO REINSTATE FUNDS FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION
Despite Promises of Job Growth, Teaching Positions Cut Across North Carolina

Raleigh, NC—September 3, 2013— As the General Assembly convenes for a special session, Public Schools First NC urges legislators to acknowledge the drastic budget impacts already, affecting public education and to use this opportunity to restore funding. The predicted consequences of these cuts—the loss of teacher and teacher assistant positions, increases to class size, inadequate instructional supplies, and the trimming of special programs—comes on the heels of promises by elected officials to promote job growth. Read More