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(Cross-posted from the blog of the North Carolina Council of Churches).

By George Reed, Executive Director

You probably know how the phrase “canary in the coal mine” came into being, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it. Before there were other ways of monitoring for dangerous gases in coal mines, like carbon monoxide, miners took caged canaries with them into the tunnels. If gases were present, they would kill the canaries first, perhaps giving the miners a chance to escape. They were what we might call an early warning system today.

There were some big ole yellow canaries in the school bus lanes of Wake County’s public schools last week. The first days of the year were a disaster, at least in terms of transportation. Children waited for buses that ran late or never came at all. In the afternoons, some kids didn’t get home until 6:00 or later. The school system fielded thousands of calls from irate parents. Read More

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(Cross-posted from the editorial page of the Fayetteville Observer).

By Russell Baggett

Seventeen years ago this week, I was preparing for my first day at Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville. I was a relatively new kid in town. I was nervous – about fitting in with my classmates, about my clothes, about my classes, about just getting by.

Students across the state are feeling these same anxieties this week as they start the new school year, but many North Carolina parents are feeling anxious for a completely different set of reasons. Their kids are returning to public schools that have been forced to make some pretty drastic changes because of state budget cuts in recent years. Read More

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Still trying to make sense of the 2012 General Assembly?

The Executive Director of the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research joined us in studio last week to discuss the winners and losers following the contentious, short legislative session.

Ran Coble shares his thoughts on the depth of the cuts that were made in state spending, fact-checks the claims the budget will lead to new job creation, and weighs in on the fall elections.

Coble also explains why he believes the worst decision of the two-year session may have been  the General Assembly’s override of Gov. Beverly Perdue’s veto of a bill that gives all North Carolina community colleges the ability to refuse to participate in a low-interest federal student loan program.

“And I just think that’s a travesty for the kids in community college trying to get money to pay for an education,” explains Coble.

To hear an excerpt of Coble’s radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon, click below. To download a podcast of the full interview or listen online, visit the Radio Interview section of the N.C. Policy Watch website:

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NC Budget and Tax Center

Picking up right where the legislature left off last year, the newly-passed House Budget again targets the Clean Water Management Trust Fund with policy changes that will likely gut the long-term effectiveness of the state’s primary capital investment resource for developing clean water infrastructure in North Carolina’s rural communities.

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Most people paying attention to the American economy over the least few decades are already well-aware that “trickledown economics” – the notion that if the rich are allowed to gorge themselves, significant wealth will “trickle down” to folks at the lower levels — is hogwash. As has been shown repeatedly, the gap between the rich and everyone else continues to grow at an alarming rate.

This morning, however, we do see compelling evidence of another kind of trickledown effect that is real; it’s taking place right here in North Carolina. This trickledown effect involves the state budget and its impact in the real world.

Here’s how it works: Read More