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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio – Image: Official website of the City of New York

In 2014, there are lots of basic public structures and social services that Americans, like the inhabitants in other advanced countries, ought to have a right to take for granted. Paid sick days, paid maternity leave, and free higher education, for example, need to be on any such list.

And here’s another one: free, universal, public pre-Kindergarten.

Fortunately, at least one important American jurisdiction is doing something about it. As this recent New York Times editorial notes, the city of New York kicked off an enormously ambitious program this week to provide public pre-K to 50,000 four-year-olds:

The start of public school on Thursday in New York City should be the usual merry scramble of chattering children and stressed (or relieved) parents. There will also be something new: a fresh crop of 4-year-olds, more than 50,000, embarking on the first day of free, full-day, citywide, city-run prekindergarten.

It’s worth pausing to note what an accomplishment this is. Fifty thousand is a small city’s worth of children, each getting a head start on a lifetime of learning. It is so many families saving the cost of day care or private prekindergarten. It is a milestone of education reform.

The editorial goes on to heap praise on New York mayor Bill de Blasio who made the launch of such a program a key plank in his campaign platform and who now despite plenty of critics — including the Times editorial page — has now made good on his promise.

Let’s hope the program is a rousing success and that, like so many other trends that started in the Big Apple, it catches on all over (even in North Carolina) ASAP.

Commentary

Farmworkers 2If you missed it this morning, be sure to take a few minutes to read this morning’s lead story over on the main Policy Watch site: “Twenty-first Century children, Nineteenth Century laws.” The article features a powerful interview with a young woman who describes the pain and hardship she endured for years as a child laborer in 21st Century America — something that, as remarkable as it may seem, remains perfectly legal more than a century after our country supposedly addressed it. Here is an excerpt:

Q. When and why did you start working? Was it your choice?

A. At the age of 8 years old I started working in cotton fields in Arkansas. When I was12-years old I started working in blueberry fields in Michigan, as well as working in the processing plant and various nurseries. I come from a family of migrant farmworkers; we were all expected to work at some point. I am not entirely sure why I started at a much younger age. But growing up I learned that we worked to help pay for bills, school clothes and supplies and also to learn a lesson. Both my parents met in the fields, they both knew how hard the life of a migrant farmworker was and didn’t want for that life to be their children’s. They made us work to show us exactly what was out there without a proper education and to motivate us to stay in school.

Q. What was your typical job and what would be a typical workday? Read More

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Pat McCrory press eventThe Governor’s hometown newspaper (i.e. the one that endorsed him for the job just two years ago) is fairly merciless today in rendering its verdict on McCrory’s foray into the world of immigration policy this week. As this morning’s editorial in the Charlotte Observer rightly notes:

When Gov. Pat McCrory speaks, it’s frequently hard to discern whether he’s being disingenuous for political reasons or truly believes what he says but is surprisingly uninformed of reality.

Such is the case with the governor’s latest foray into immigration.

The editorial then goes on to patiently explain why the Guv couldn’t have been more off-base on several immigration-related claims that he made during his bizarre press conference earlier this week (e.g. about a supposed lack of health screenings and his nonsensical claim that he’s worried about the children’s safety in North Carolina).

The editorial concludes this way:

We agree with Gov. McCrory that America’s immigration system is broken. But until the fractured Congress tackles that, North Carolina should be caring for these children instead of inventing phony reasons to rid ourselves of them.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

 here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/08/06/5090289/the-real-danger-for-immigrant.html#.U-NWC6Mf6So#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/08/06/5090289/the-real-danger-for-immigrant.html#.U-NWC6Mf6So#storylink=cpy

 

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Pat McCrory press eventIn a rambling press conference today, Gov. Pat McCrory made a number of rather remarkable claims about the settlement of several hundred Central American child refugees in North Carolina.

During the event — read a summary and watch the full video by clicking here — the Governor claimed that the state knows virtually nothing about the children in question and reiterated the claims he made several days ago in a letter he signed along with five other conservative governors that sponsors for children were not properly vetted, that the children may not be properly vaccinated and that the children may be headed for the worlds of drugs and prostitution.

In other words, by all indications, neither the Governor nor his staff have bothered to check out the website of the Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement — i.e. a location in which many of his concerns and claims are specifically addressed and refuted on several pages devoted to the child refugees crisis.

Had he bothered to do so he could have read the following from a special page that describes the process being employed right now — which might have also provided him with a hint as to why the Feds haven’t invited McCrory and HHS Secretary Aldona Wos (who stood sullenly at the Guv’s side during his ramble) into the process: Read More

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Here are two morning editorials that ought to be a “must reads” for North Carolina’s conservative political leaders:

The first comes from the Fayetteville Observer and it’s entitled “Yes, Republicans can expand Medicaid too.” As it notes:

Last month, hundreds of representatives from North Carolina hospitals and other health-care institutions brought a united message to Raleigh: Cuts in the Medicaid program are causing them serious economic harm. Further cuts could be disastrous.

That doesn’t begin to consider the financial drain that comes from treating the thousands of North Carolinians who have no health insurance at all – those who are ineligible for Medicaid but too poor to afford conventional health insurance. By law, hospitals must treat them if they show up in the emergency room, even though there is no chance that they can pay their bill….

That’s one reason why officials in Republican-led Indiana changed their minds about Medicaid participation in May, developing a hybrid state-federal system that will bring coverage to more low-income residents there.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, is using the supplementary Medicaid money to fund a state health-insurance plan for low-income residents. But it will have the same net effect in bringing coverage to those who don’t have it.

That’s a lesson in that for our GOP leaders, who have resisted participation in Obamacare. Don’t resist. Take the money and build a program that works.

The second comes from the Wilmington Star News. It’s entitled: “Instead of bullying children fleeing violence, put blame where it belongs.”

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