Working America members are in the midst of a fight to protect public education in North Carolina.
Since 2011, the state’s public school budget has been cut by $450 million, leading to overcrowded classrooms and outdated textbooks. Now the state legislature wants to continue weakening our public schools through the expansion of charter schools and voucher programs.
Both charters and vouchers take public money to send children to private and sometimes for-profit corporate-run institutions. These corporate run schools have little accountability, and make large profits by underpaying teachers.
Do we really want corporations teaching our students – and using tax-payer money to do so?
Working America member Joyce Mers is taking a stand against privatizing education. Joyce organized a church forum to discuss issues surrounding public education and promoted the event though her church newsletter. She even enlisted the help of education policy expert Dot Kearns to answer questions.
When discussing the immediate threats to public schools, Joyce referenced a bill that would restructure the oversight of charter schools. Under the proposal, charter schools would no longer be held accountable to the State Board of Education, which oversees all K-12 public schools. Rather, charter schools would have a separate board, whose members would be appointed by Republican Governor Pat McCrory and the legislature. The bill also has provisions to eliminate certain charter school requirements.
“Right now only 50 percent of teachers in charter schools are required to have a teacher’s license and this bill would do away with that requirement completely,” said Joyce, “Also, the schools would not be required to perform a background check, which just doesn’t make sense to me – especially when there is a bill in the legislature trying to put armed guards in schools.”
Under this proposal, corporations have even more power to use taxpayer money to create and oversee charter schools.
When discussing public school funding, both Joyce and Dot noted that despite past cuts, student performance is high. “It’s a popular thing now to say everything is failing, but that just is not the case,” said Dot. She then cited the increase in North Carolina’s graduation rates. However, it will become difficult to maintain this success if more charters and vouchers drain public education resources and are held to different accountability standards.
The forum ended with Joyce collecting a dozen petition signatures from the group, which urge Governor McCrory to protect public school funding. But we need to continue this pressure. Our state needs to fully invest in public schools. If you’re in North Carolina, email me at email@example.com to find out how you can help.
The Republican-controlled legislature is kicking off their session by proposing a bill that would drastically slash unemployment benefits. The GOP wants to cut the maximum benefits unemployed workers can receive by one-third, the most severe cut any state has ever proposed. The maximum benefits received would be cut by $175, from $525 to $350 per week. Also the amount of time workers can stay on the state’s unemployment benefits would be reduced from 26 weeks, to a sliding scale from 12 to 20 weeks, based upon the state’s unemployment rate.
Unemployment benefits are received by workers who lost their job due to no fault of their own. Benefits help workers stay afloat, while allowing them to still contribute to the local economy. It is a win-win situation – but apparently our state legislators do not see it this way.
Right now, North Carolina is about $2.5 billion in debt to the federal government. Since 2009, there have been temporary taxes on corporations to pay back this debt. Under the current system, the debt will be paid back by 2018. GOP legislators argue that if benefits are cut, the debt will be paid back sooner.
No matter what, the federal government will get their money back. They are not asking for this process to be expedited. Yet our state legislators see this small temporary tax on businesses to be a burden. The temporary taxes are only $21 per employee each year, which will not break the bank for major corporations.
If workers benefits are cut by $175 per week, they are going to be the ones burdened. $175 can be the difference between paying for rent, heat, buying groceries – or not. If this legislation goes through, workers will be sacrificing more while corporations get tax breaks.
Our members have been writing letters to their legislators and also letters to the editors. In a published letter to the editor on the effect of cutting unemployment benefits, Working America member Norma Marshall states:
“The result will be more people who are unable to pay rent and mortgages, or feed and care for their children. It will lead to more misery and economic strife for the unemployed.”
Working America member Sarah Baldwin describes why outsourcing is detrimental to North Carolina: “High Point has been hit hard by outsourcing, affecting many workers. With loss jobs, people loss income, health care coverage and sometimes even their homes. Senator Burr’s vote on the Bring Jobs Home Act shows he is not looking out for the average person.”
Added Scott Gillentine of Winston-Salem: “North Carolina has one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation. Please explain to me, Senator Burr, why there are tax cuts on the wealthy when so few jobs have been created by them?”
Yesterday, Working America teamed up with the AFL-CIO and progressive allies to deliver the petitions to Senator Burr’s office. Everyone was excited to collaborate and to ensure that Senator Burr looks out for the interest of his middle class constituents.
Earlier in the day, Senator Kay Hagan received thank you letters from working families expressing their gratitude for her votes to end outsourcing and end tax subsidies for the richest Americans.
Working America members in Greensboro, North Carolina are working hard to bring jobs back to the United States. Over the past decade, many North Carolinians have witnessed the outsourcing of furniture and textile jobs to China, Mexico, India, and other countries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 46.2% of North Carolina’s manufacturing jobs have been lost since 1994.
Currently companies receive tax breaks to ship their industries overseas. This tax break needs to end and the reverse to happen to impact workers here in the United States. Companies should be given tax incentives to bring their industries back to the United States. With the North Carolina unemployment rate over 9%, jobs need to be brought back to the United States.
If the Senate passed the Bring Jobs Home Act, we could get back to work. We’ve worked hard to make that a reality—and the fight isn’t over.
Last Thursday, Working America presented Senator Hagan’s aides over 150 hand written letters collected over the last two weeks from members of Working America. These letters illuminate why the Bring Jobs Home act is so important.
“I am currently unemployed and I also run a small business from the months of January through April,” said Evette Lattimore, a Working America member. “My son and I are actively looking for work, but have found limited success. Jobs need to come back to North Carolina. Please vote yes on the Bring Jobs Home Act.”
The aides were excited to receive the letters and to hear our thoughts on the Bring Jobs Home Act.
The effects of outsourcing are seen nationwide, not just in North Carolina. We’re pleased to see that Senator Hagan voted the right way yesterday, and we’ll keep fighting to make sure our leaders are looking out for our jobs.
In the midst of a terrible jobs crisis, there are those in North Carolina who seek to cut assistance for those who have lost their jobs. That’s just plain wrong.
Currently, North Carolina’s Chamber of Commerce seeks to restrict unemployment benefits by reducing the maximum weekly income from $506 to $350. In addition to the monetary cut, the time allowed to receive benefits could be reduced from 26 weeks to 20 weeks.
These cuts will drastically affect North Carolinian families. With the state unemployment rate exceeding 9 percent for the past few months, restrictions on unemployment benefits is the last thing we need. Unemployment benefits greatly assist workers who lost jobs to no fault of their own. These benefits help workers stay afloat as they search for new jobs. The restriction of unemployment benefits will devastate hundreds of thousands of families who are actively looking for work.
The Greensboro Working America office has been actively fighting to keep unemployment benefits intact. Over the past few months, have canvassers gathered hand written letters from members to their legislators with personal statements about why unemployment benefits are crucial to sustaining families and encouraged legislators to not restrict these benefits:
“I’m writing this letter to ask you not to discontinue the unemployment benefits. My job was downsized due to sending jobs to Mexico. We need the benefits and the jobs.”
“I believe that it’s sad that the unemployment rate is so high. I have family members who have tried time after time to find a job to support their family.”
“I’ve been on unemployment myself and it helps out immensely in LOOKING for another job.”
“I understand the benefits of unemployment – as I have family members who depend on its benefits. We need to focus on more relevant issues such as education and keeping licensed teachers in the classroom”
The letters delivered are an excellent start in maintaining NC’s unemployment benefits, but legislators need to hear more from constituents. Call or write your legislators, and tell them to keep unemployment benefits the way they are. Find out who represents you here.