Should public education in North Carolina change?

It's only Wednesday

head-scratcher.pngSomewhere between scurrying from press conference to legislative committee meetings today, I thought that I should throw up a quick post about how absolutely crazy the North Carolina General Assembly has been this month. But to be quite honest, I didn't know where to begin. Then I decided to limit myself to the crazy that has been unleashed just this week. Keep in mind folks, it’s only Wednesday.

We have had a bill introduced declaring a state religion, more bills to curtailing early voting, the always popular voter ID, a bill to require prayer in public meetings, a head-scratching ban on co-ed dorms on university campuses, a requirement to get criminal background checks to qualify for public assistance, and even cuts (as opposed to the sane expansion) to our Medicaid system.

Wow. And those are just the ones off the top of my head - I know I'm missing a few doozies.

At least the weather is nice, so you can go to your neighborhood park and blow off some steam. Unless, of course, you want to go to one of these state parks or landmarks, slated to be closed to save some money. 

It’s been that kind of week, folks. Stay tuned.

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Poor to Congress: Hello?

poverty.jpgThe focus of America has been on marriage equality, gun control, and immigration reform over the last few weeks. One issue that continues to trouble this country and has connection to each issue currently captivating our attention is poverty. The anti-poverty movement has failed to gain the right traction in the public discourse, but could an anti-poverty contract change that? An anti-poverty contract has the potential to help the millions of Americans in poverty, but due to the political climate in this country it more than likely will not help anyone.

What is an anti-poverty contract? As explained by Greg Kaufmann of The Nation, it is a simple, clear, and concise anti-poverty agenda. Like many progressive movements in recent years, the anti-poverty movement has many groups and many different policy agendas. What a contract of this nature would do is simplify the agenda to a few points that relate most directly to people, making it easier for the many groups to unite around some common themes.

Kaufmann gives some examples of what could be in a contract: raising the minimum wage, paid sick and family leave, affordable childcare, and ending childhood hunger. These choices certainly would rally the base, but from a political standpoint, the inclusion of raising the minimum wage and forcing companies to provide more paid leave would prevent it from gaining quality traction in Washington.

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Basic Math

nc.gifWhen the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2008, the idea was to cover as many previously uninsured folks as possible. What was the rational for this? Aside from it just being the right thing to do, research shows a strong connection between mortality rates and insurance status, and President Obama had the wild idea that less dead people was probably good thing.

Overall, the uninsured are more likely to have poor health and higher mortality rates than those with insurance. People without insurance are less likely to receive preventive services and more likely to delay or go without necessary doctors’ visits, prescription medicines, and other treatments that reduce unnecessary morbidity and premature death. As a result, this group has poorer health outcomes, a lower quality of life, and more premature deaths. The uninsured are also at greater risk of death following a trauma, heart attack, or stroke.

But at least 13 states, including North Carolina, have indicated they will not expand Medicaid and several more are on the fence, posing a substantial threat to the ACA’s expansion of insurance coverage for the most economically vulnerable Americans.

How many people would be affected according the study in North Carolina? An estimated 1,098 people will die a premature death this year as a result of no expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina.

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The big 0-3

birthday.jpgTomorrow marks the third anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, a landmark law that will extend health benefits to more than 30 million people who are now uninsured. Since the law survived a Supreme Court review and the 2012 election, we now know the law is here to stay. Affordable, quality health care will be woven into the fabric of American society, making us stronger and healthier as a nation.

Already, we’ve seen people with pre-existing conditions enabled, for the first time, to buy affordable insurance. Children with health problems can no longer be turned down for coverage. Small businesses have access to tax credits to get health insurance for their employees. Women have access to preventive care without co-pays, seniors are paying less for prescription medicines and health insurers now must adhere to strict guidelines on the share of your premium dollar that must be used on medical care rather than overhead, salaries and marketing costs.

Starting in October, individuals and small business owners will be able to buy health private insurance in state-based marketplaces or enroll in expanded Medicaid programs. Both will increase access to no-cost preventive care millions.

In 2014, with law in full effect, annual limits on insurance coverage will be eliminated, exclusion of people with pre-existing conditions will be outlawed and tax credits for families and small business will be expanded.  

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Sequestration's Impact On America's Poor

photo.jpgWe are now 11 days into the sequester cuts that went into effect on March 1, 2013. As a result, the latest political game in Washington of finger pointing has continued while also debating how serious the cuts really are. In the grand scheme of things the cuts are modest when you look at our $16 trillion in debt as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stated.

Despite how modest the cuts may be, they still will have an impact on the lives of people and the poor will disproportionally feel this. Yes, the military will face cuts and the more affluent travelers may face longer lines in our airports but the cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) alone will impact the poor more than anyone else. No matter how modest the sequester cuts are in relation to the national debt, they will have a drastic impact on the poorest Americans.

A quick look at the impact the sequester will have on HUD will allow you to see the impact that will be felt by the poor. 125,000 families that include the elderly and disabled could lose their housing assistance vouchers that help cover the cost of rent. Without this assistance, they may struggle to cover the full cost of their rent and be left homeless. Another 100,000 formerly homeless people which includes veterans could be forced to return to the streets due to cuts to HUD's Continuum Care Program which helps these individuals find housing and move to self-sufficiency. These families and individuals do not have resources to fall back on as Sheila Crowly of the National Low Income Housing Coalition stated.

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Through grassroots organization, education and mobilization in low-wealth communities, Action NC
  • Builds a base of community support and develops bold leaders to take action and get results
  • Promotes reforms that address the root causes of poverty, underdevelopment and inequality
  • Expands civic engagement and voter participation
  • Helps build a movement for social and economic justice