Commentary

Feeding the Bull City: How Durham is ‘In This Together’ on May 16 and beyond (photos)

The YMCA of the Triangle opened its doors on Monday night to approximately 150 volunteers, who packed over 4,000 meal bags.

(Brian Kennedy and Jessica Burroughs contributed to this post.)  — North Carolina is the 10th hungriest state in the nation, and everyday schools and teachers play a vital role in making sure that hungry children, who come from more than 600,000 food insecure households, have enough to eat. In addition to the thousands of free or reduced price lunches that are served each day, teachers are often reaching into their own pockets to purchase food and snacks for kids to ensure they are fed and ready to learn. Addressing hunger is just one of the many things we ask of teachers beyond their duties of educating students. For this and many more reasons, community members are banding together to ensure that our educators receive the respect they deserve.

A hashtag associated with the May 16th NC Public Schools Day of Advocacy  is #InThisTogether – a fitting sentiment to describe the outpouring of community support and the spirit of togetherness on display throughout Durham. Led by volunteers with the Durham Association of Educators and the NC Council of Churches, countless nonprofits and community members have organized to provide every student who needs a meal on May 16th with a healthy breakfast, lunch and snack. While over 60 percent of Durham Public School students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, organizers set the goal early on in the coordinating process to ensure that every student who needs a meal have access to it.

Symone Kiddoo is a Durham Public Schools social worker and leader in the Durham Association of Educators who is helping to spearhead the community-wide mobilization to ensure full coverage across the district. Kiddoo put it this way:

“All the schools in Durham have been adopted and food has been distributed throughout the day on Tuesday May 15th. Our partners are amazing and we couldn’t have done this without the support of the community. Thirteen district sites and several community sites will be open on Wednesday. We’re all in this together.”

The snapshots in this post (see below) represent just a handful of the countless efforts taking place in Durham over the past few days to collect, pack, and deliver the food. For more complete information about efforts in both the Triangle and across the state, check out Feeding North Carolina’s Students on May 16th from our friends at EdNC. Read more

Commentary

Lawmakers will trot out these talking points at tomorrow’s teacher rally — here are the facts

As educators and advocates from across the state meet with lawmakers during tomorrow’s Rally for Respect, they will undoubtedly face several planned talking points meant to deflect from the General Assembly’s poor track record on public education. The responses below will hopefully assist public school advocates in overcoming the most common General Assembly excuses for its failure to adequately fund our public schools and its failure to provide competitive pay for teachers.

1. The claim: “Per-student funding has increased every year”

The facts: Nominal funding increases have not kept pace with increased enrollment and inflation. Per-student funding remains 7% below pre-Recession levels when adjusted for inflation.

Of the 24 biggest funding allotments prior to the recession, 19 remain below their pre-Recession levels. That means:

  • Less funding for teachers;
  • Less funding for support staff like counselors, school psychologists, nurses and librarians;
  • 7,500 fewer state-funded teacher assistants;
  • A 51%reduction in per-student funding for textbooks, supplies, and technology; and
  • The elimination of state funding for professional development and mentoring.

Over the same time period, our students are facing greater challenges, with an increasing share of public school students coming from low-income families, from homes where English is not the primary language, and from households that have experienced early childhood trauma.

Other states continue to pull away from North Carolina. Prior to the Recession, North Carolina’s per-student school funding trailed the national average by 18%. Today, North Carolina trails the national average by 25 percent. We’re even 25% below South Carolina!

2. The claim: “We’ve given five straight years of pay increases / How much teacher pay is enough?”

The facts: We still aren’t close to where we need to be to attract and retain the state’s best talent into the teaching profession. North Carolina has failed to close the gap on the national average since control of the General Assembly flipped in 2011. North Carolina’s average teacher salary trailed the national average by 16% in FY 10-11, and continues to trail the national average by 16% today. We actually would have lost ground against the national average had local districts not increased their local teacher salary supplements over this period.

Finally, our most experienced teachers have had their salaries frozen in recent years. Approximately 3,742 teachers (those on steps 31 and higher) have seen their state-supported salaries fall in inflation-adjusted terms.

North Carolina’s teacher pay will be enough when we offer teachers pay packages that are competitive with other college-degree-requiring professions in the state. Countries with successful education systems provide their educators with salaries comparable to the salaries of other college-degree-requiring professions. By this measure, North Carolina ranked 48th for teacher salary competitiveness from 2011 to 2015. Providing competitive pay will require raising North Carolina teacher salaries above the national average – a mark we still trail by 16%.

3. The claim: “When adjusted for cost-of-living, North Carolina ranks 29th for teacher pay”

The facts: Cost-of-living adjustments are an inappropriate way to make cross-state comparisons of teacher pay. The higher cost-of-living in North Carolina’s cities largely reflects the relative attractiveness of life in places like Raleigh and Charlotte, which bids down wages in those areas. The more appropriate measure is looking at how teacher pay compares to other college-degree-requiring professions in each state. By this measure, North Carolina offers some of the least competitive teacher pay in the nation. Contrary to what the uninformed folks at right-wing think tanks would tell you, North Carolina’s teacher pay is actually worse – not better – than what simple national rankings would indicate.

4. The claim: “We already dedicate 57% of the budget to education / ranks 14th in terms of share of school funding from state sources”

The facts: The share of the budget going to education tells us nothing about whether educators have the resources necessary to educate to every North Carolina student. The actual share going to our public schools is 39%, a share that has remained relatively consistent over the past 10 years.

Similarly, North Carolina’s share of funding from state sources is necessarily high due to constitutional and statutory requirements. Few states constitutions’ place as much responsibility for funding public schools on the state as does North Carolina’s. In North Carolina, state laws place all of the responsibility for school operating expenses on the state. Other states place much more funding responsibility on local governments.

These statistics, however, tell us nothing about whether educators are receiving the resources necessary to educate every North Carolina student. Our stagnating test scores and widening achievement gaps would indicate that our schools require more investment.

5. The claim: “We rank 1st in teacher wage growth in 2017, and 2nd in teacher wage growth in 2018.”

The facts: Speaker Moore has attributed these figures to data from the NEA, but the data from the NEA tell a different story. According to data from the NEA, North Carolina ranked 40th in 2016, 2nd in 2017, and 17th in 2018. It is unclear where Speaker Moore’s figures are coming from, but his figures are not consistent with the data he claims he’s using.

Regardless, these statistics are not sufficient to make up for the first five post-Recession budgets when North Carolina’s year-over-year changes to average teacher pay ranked 50th (09-10), 43rd (10-11), 47th (11-12), 45th (12-13), and 49th (13-14). Read more

Commentary

Why are state legislators forcing judges to jail people for being poor?

As those who have been following Policy Watch reporter Joe Killian’s recent series of stories on North Carolina’s broken cash bail system are well aware, debtor’s prison is an all-too-real phenomenon in our state. Between the perverse reality of people failing to make bail because it’s too expensive for the poor to afford and too low to attract the interest of profit-seeking private bail agents and the metastasizing problem of exorbitant court fines and fees that are driven by the legislature’s disinvestment in the courts, large numbers of low-income North Carolinians are finding themselves incarcerated simply for lack of cash.

Now, a new article from reporter Michael Cooper for the online magazine Scalawag makes clear that recent actions by the General Assembly to make it much harder for judges to waive fines and fees have made things much worse. This from “New North Carolina law lands poor people in debtors jails, even though judges could set them free”:

When a person is convicted of a crime in North Carolina, all manner of fines and fees are assessed onto their punishment: $147.50 as a standard fee, $12 for using the facilities, $4 to support retiring law enforcement officers, $10 for every day served in pretrial confinement.

A hundred dollars for impaired driving, $600 for a hospital lab fee, another $600 if an expert testifies, $200 for failing to appear in court, $250 for the pleasure of doing any community service ordered by the court….

Low-income North Carolinians often cannot afford these burdensome fees, which contribute to a cycle of poverty and incarceration. “Instead of taking them out of the criminal justice system, they’re keeping them in,” says [ACLU lawyer Christina] Becker….

In North Carolina, judges have the ability to lessen the financial burden imposed at sentencing and customarily help the elderly grandmother on a fixed income, the young student or service-member, and plenty of others facing hardship.

Judges may reduce the costs of expert witnesses, strike the penalty for failure to appear in court, waive fees at sentencing, revoke fees when a person’s default is in good faith, or convert the amount owed to a civil judgment. But it’s gotten harder.

In 2011, North Carolina’s General Assembly required “just cause” for waiving costs and a year later requested written findings in each case. Then, in 2014, legislators ordered the tracking of waivers by each individual judge (the latest report can be found here).

In 2017, the legislature prevented judges from waiving costs without first “providing notice and opportunity to be heard by all government entities directly affected”––meaning up to 615 different state and local agencies. Read more

Commentary

Editorial slams six NC members of Congress for support of predatory lenders

This morning’s lead editorial in the Greensboro News & Record is a “must read.” In “Don’t repeal rules on payday loans,” the N&R tells is exactly like it is when it comes to efforts by several North Carolina congressmen to coddle the predatory sharks in the payday lending business.

Here are some excerpts:

“Payday lending has been illegal here since the General Assembly passed a law banning such businesses in 2001.

So why would members of Congress from North Carolina be pushing a resolution to repeal a new federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule imposing limits on payday lending and other forms of predatory short-term, high-interest loans?

The answer to that question is that there is no good reason.

Yet Mark Walker of Greensboro and Ted Budd of Advance, as well as Richard Hudson, Patrick McHenry, Robert Pittenger and David Rouzer, are all sponsors of the resolution.

One motivation no doubt is lobbying from the payday lending industry, which is worried about losing its ability to rake in thousands of dollars in interest and fees from people who can’t afford to pay them.

In 2001, North Carolina leaders of both parties banned payday lending because they knew it was cruel and harmful to those who could least afford it….

Even with the state ban, internet payday lenders are still able to prey on consumers here.

The rule under attack now requires that those who make payday loans, loans on car titles and similar loans verify that their customers can afford to repay them.

It also caps the number of times someone can take out successive loans.

That seems reasonable, but the industry says the rule would run many payday lenders out of business.

If that’s the case, they shouldn’t be in the business of preying on people who can’t afford their loans….

North Carolina is better off when payday lenders can’t take unfair advantage of working people who find themselves in a bind.

Our representatives should be supporting rules that extend needed protections to more consumers, not undermining the progress the state has made.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary

NCAE explains the details of Wednesday’s Rally for Respect

The following is cross-posted from the website of the North Carolina Association of Educators and can also be found by clicking here.

MARCH FOR STUDENTS, RALLY FOR RESPECT:
WHAT YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW

#GetReady for our March for Students and Rally for Respect on May 16th.  So far, the response has been outstanding for our Advocacy Day when the General Assembly goes back into session. We are bookending the day with two very powerful events to show our support for public school students, educators, and public education overall. To Join Us, please RSVP at Rally For Respect.

***UPDATE, UPDATE, UPDATE***

 BECAUSE OF THE EXPECTED SIZE OF THE CROWD WE ARE LEAVING THE NCAE HQ AT 10A.M.!!!

THERE WILL BE NO PARKING IN THE NCAE PARKING LOT. WE NEED THE SPACE FOR PEOPLE TO STAND. ONLY MEDIA LIVE TRUCKS WILL BE ALLOWED TO PARK.  **PLEASE SEE PARKING MAPS. BUS PARKING WILL BE ADDRESSED BELOW

TIMELINE

9:45 am      Meet at NCAE Headquarters, 700 S. Salisbury St. (be here no later than 9:45. Get here early for parking.)

10:00 am     March for Students (from NCAE to Legislative Bldg, about 25 min)

10:45 am     Enter Legislative Bldg and start assembling on 3rd Floor. This may  take a little longer than usual with new metal detectors upon entry.

12:00 pm    General Assembly Convenes. We want our members in the galleries.

1:00 pm      Time to make Appointments with your local representative and on own for lunch. Cyberlobby. Self-nourishment.

3:00 pm      Start assembling on Bicentennial Plaza across from the Legislative Building for Rally for Respect

3:30 pm      Rally for Respect begins

4:30 pm      Rally concludes and participants can start making their way back to NCAE Headquarters by foot or by using the R-Line which picks up at Jones and Wilmington.

To attend NCAE’s Advocacy Day: March for Students and Rally for Respect, educators should follow all leave policies and procedures. NCAE’s Legal Center has put together a one-pager on leave.  

Why Do We March and Rally During Advocacy Day?

North Carolina is one of the worst in the country in the amount our elected leaders spend per student, about $2,400 behind the national average. Imagine what $2,400 per child could mean for our students and their future. However, we have the lowest corporate tax rate in the country for states that have one—and it’s set to go lower again.

North Carolina ranks 37th for teacher pay, about $9,600 behind the national average.  When adjusting for inflation, educators are losing money (almost 12 percent)—the third worst in the country.

Our students deserve better. They deserve resources to help make them successful. They deserve professionally paid educators. They deserve safe schools and schools that are not crumbling and in disrepair. We love our public schools and we deserve better! Read more