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money_bags.jpgFor years, Finland’s public education system has served as the exemplar against which schools in other countries should be measured.

By elevating the status of teachers to “professionals” and minimizing testing in favor of personal attention, the Finns have a proven track record. As LynNell Hancock reported in this 2011 Smithsonian piece:

Educators had little idea it was so successful until 2000, when the first results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized test given to 15-year-olds in more than 40 global venues, revealed Finnish youth to be the best young readers in the world. Three years later, they led in math. By 2006, Finland was first out of 57 countries (and a few cities) in science. In the 2009 PISA?scores released last year, the nation came in second in science, third in reading and sixth in math among nearly half a million students worldwide.

Now it looks like the Finns are on to another interesting idea, this time in the criminal justice arena: assessing fines for certain offenses based upon ability to pay.

As explained in this Atlantic piece by Joe Pinsker:

Finland’s system for calculating fines is relatively simple: It starts with an estimate of the amount of spending money a Finn has for one day, and then divides that by two—the resulting number is considered a reasonable amount of spending money to deprive the offender of. Then, based on the severity of the crime, the system has rules for how many days the offender must go without that money. Going about 15 mph over the speed limit gets you a multiplier of 12 days, and going 25 mph over carries a 22-day multiplier.

Such a system is certainly worthy of consideration in this country, where the illogic of heaping hefty fines and penalties upon those least able to pay, and then jailing those who don’t pay, has been well-documented.

Here’s Durham County Chief District Court Judge Marcia Morey: Read More

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Carolyn and Cy King

Carolyn and Cy King in a photo that accompanied a 2012 NC Council of Churches story about Carolyn’s passing

We lost Cy King this week. As Anne Blythe of Raleigh’s News & Observer reported in this excellent story yesterday, the veteran progressive activist passed away on Wednesday after a brief illness at age 91.

Would that we could all look back at the end of our days on a life so well and richly lived.

As just about anyone in the Triangle with any connection to the movements for peace and civil liberties or social, economic and political justice can attest, Cy was a ubiquitous force for good. Together with his late wife Carolyn, Cy simply made making the world a better place his life’s work.

But beyond his dedication to the cause, Cy was also one of those rare human beings who simply exuded love and decency in everything he did. As Rev. Nancy Petty of Pullen Church told Blythe: “It was always with this gentleness [that he spoke out]. But the gentleness, his compassion, did not water down the passion.”

You simply couldn’t be with Cy — even for a short time — and not feel better about yourself and life in general. This was especially true if you were employed in the progressive advocacy world. Just seeing the twinkle in his eye and receiving his encouragement was enough to inspire dozens of advocates down through the years to stay true to the fight for peace and justice. I know it was for me and many of my colleagues.

We mourn his loss but will do our best to carry on his gentle but powerful spirit. RIP.

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LincolnToday is the 150th anniversary of the most famous speech by the nation’s greatest president. There are multiple versions of the speech still in existence and, of course, no recordings of the event so no one is 100% sure of the exact words Lincoln used that day. The following is thought by many to be the best version:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. Read More

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The good government advocates at the Alliance for Justice have released a new film entitled “Unequal Justice: The Relentless Rise of the 1% Court.”  

The film “explores the growing pro-corporate bias in key Court decisions and their real-world impact on ordinary Americans. Steadily and relentlessly, the Court has been transformed into an institution that frequently serves the interests of the wealthiest one percent. Taking judicial activism to new levels, these justices have rendered a series of pivotal cases to fundamentally change the balance of power in American society, favoring business interests and limiting access to legal remedies for everyone else. These decisions threaten to undermine the core concept of fairness that is embodied in the motto carved into the Supreme Court building, turning Equal Justice Under Law into Unequal Justice Under Law.”

Learn more about how you can get a free copy and host a screening by clicking here.

NC Budget and Tax Center, Uncategorized

The proposed Senate budget would reduce the appropriation to the Justice and Public Safety (JPS) budget by $46 million, or 2 percent, over the continuation budget. Compared to the House budget proposal, the Senate budget proposal would cut the JPS section by 25.6 million more dollars.

Nearly $40 million of the cuts facing the JPS agencies would be in the form of management flexibility cuts, which are designed to allow the agencies to determine where the reductions are taken. The House budget identified specific cuts and did not make any management flexibility cuts to the JPS section. As outlined below, the Senate proposal identifies 6 specific changes from the continuation budget other than the management flexibility cuts. The only new item in the Senate proposal compared to the House proposal is $3 million in non-recurring operating funds to the Department of Justice and this funding comes from department receipts. Read More