Wednesday, May 18, 2011


By Cash Michaels

            The NCNAACP and the HK onJ Coalition are calling on all activists across the state to come to the NC General Assembly Legislative Auditorium at the Legislative Building on Jones Street next Tuesday at 4 p.m. to “protest and pray” against what some are calling “Draconian” policies about to be passed by the Republican-led General Assembly.
            “Tea Party extremists seized the Republican Party and declared war on African-Americans, poor people and other minorities,” Rev. William Barber, president of the NCNAACP, said in a statement this week, later declaring North Carolina to be a “state in emergency.”
            Based on the state House budget which cuts hundreds of millions from K-12 public education statewide and the UNC System, and proposed laws repealing the 2009 NC Racial Justice Act, limiting the state’s One Stop/Early Voting period, eliminating same day registration and “Souls to the Polls” Sunday voting, and requiring picture voter ID at the polls, Rev. Barber claims that “jobs, voting rights, schools, health care, racial justice and public services are under attack.”
            “Ultra-conservative legislators continue their frontal attack on civil rights,” Rev. Barber alleged regarding House GOP efforts to repeal the Racial Justice Act through House Bill 615. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Subcommittee B held a hearing and vote on the measure to ultimately send it to the House floor.
            The Racial Justice Act allows a felon convicted of a capital crime to challenge the prosecution if he believes that race played a role in his prosecution.
            Rev. Barber released an email from Republican Rep. Stephen LaRoque of Greene County to a constituent:
            “I am proud that I had the opportunity to co-sponsor HB-615 which I hope will effectively and literally repeal the so-called "Racial Justice Act"...One problem we have is that we don't execute the convicted murderers quick enough...”
            The LaRoque  email outraged Barber, especially since at least three black inmates on North Carolina’s death row have been released from prison in the past few years because DNA proved that they didn’t commit the crime, and were the victims of biased prosecutions.
            “While most North Carolinians are committed to ending Racial Injustice in our state, the Tea Party-backed leadership in the NC Legislature wants to dismantle a law that only begins to address racism in our court system,” Rev. Barber said.
            The state civil rights leader urged Gov. Perdue to veto the repeal if it gets to her desk for her signature.
            The NCNAACP, in a joint statement with Democracy NC, a nonprofit public policy group, is also calling what the state GOP is doing in requiring voter IDs  and crippling the One Stop/Early Voting law as “Unbelievable.”
            “A bill filed by Republicans in Raleigh would make Sunday voting ("Souls to the Polls") illegal in North Carolina,” wrote Rev. Barber and Bob Hall of Democracy NC.            
           “Conservative state legislators also plan to reduce the length of the Early Voting period, end Same-Day Registration, and make everyone show a government-issued photo ID when they vote,” the joint letter continued.
            “Make no mistake about it: these voter suppression proposals are a direct response to the historic turnout of empowered, informed and motivated African-American and young voters in 2008.”
            Both groups are urging citizens to involve their churches in protests, and call their state lawmakers to voice their concerns.

By Cash Michaels

            State Rep. H. M. Michaux admits he was wrong.
            Earlier in the state legislative session the Durham Democrat warned that the Republican majority was trying to resegregate North Carolina’s public schools.
            “To be honest, I may have to take back the resegregation of our schools because I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Michaux told The Carolinian last week after the state House passed its controversial $19.3 billion budget.
            “What I think is going to happen is we’re going to have a total destruction of our public school system as we know it today.”
            Michaux said the GOP majority’s push for unlimited charter schools, $6,000 tax credits for handicapped children to attend private schools; and another $2500 voucher for students to also attend private schools, in addition to the massive cuts in funding, will put public schools in the tightest squeeze ever.
            “With all of this…what you’re going to do is eventually be in a position where your traditional public schools are going to end up being poor and black,” Rep. Michaux charged.
            Michaux adds that thanks to the almost 9 percent budget cut in public education by the House GOP, over 18,000 jobs will be lost, many of whom will be teacher assistants in grades 2- 12. Local school systems will have reduce their budgets accordingly, resulting in higher class sizes and fewer academic programs than before.
            Republican House leaders counter that they have to do what’s necessary to close the state’s $2.9 billion gap, but Democrats say cuts alone aren’t the way to balance the budget.
            This week, Senate Republicans made it clear that they intend to spend even less on education than the state House, to the tune of $40 million less overall.
            The budget situation is compounded in many local school districts because their local county commission boards, which fund all local public school systems in the state, have also cut their funding to the schools. In many cases, as a result, school districts are out tens of millions of dollars from both the state and the county, in addition to millions in federal stimulus money running out.
            Rep. Michaux says the state defunding of public education is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Republican-led General Assembly.
            In higher education, the 15.5 percent budget cut to the UNC System by the state House is drastic, Michaux and other lawmakers say, and is especially harsh on historically black university campuses like North Carolina Central University, Elizabeth City State University and NC A&T University.
            “When you start talking about cuts in (UNC) historically black colleges and universities, a 15.5 percent cut is not the same as a 15.5 percent cut in a school like UNC-Chapel Hill or N.C. State, or any of the other largest flagship institutions. That [cut] in historically black institutions can reek devastation because of the number of jobs that will be lost and the number of classes that would be lost,” Michaux told The Carolinian.           
            Michaux added that NCCU, for example, would lose 80 faculty members if the cut goes through.
            "Yes, people will be laid off," NCCU Chancellor Charlie Nelms told the NCCU Board of Trustees on April 26, according to minutes from that meeting. "How many, we just don't know yet. It could be significant."
            “A 15 percent cut in state funding, as recommended recently by a state House subcommittee, would mean a loss of about $14 million from NCCU’s budget,” Nelms continued. “If the reduction is, in fact, 15 percent, NCCU would lose some faculty members. There would be fewer classes, and some would be larger, meaning students would receive less individual attention from professors.”
            To deal with the cuts, Nelms said, the university is looking at "program consolidation, program re-configuration, even program elimination."
            UNC System President Tom Ross was also not pleased with the House GOP cuts.
            “The budget approved today by the House of Representatives would inflict real and lasting damage to the academic quality and reputation of the University of North Carolina,” Ross said in a statement last Thursday.  “We are thankful that House leaders provided the University some flexibility in determining how to apply and manage mandated cuts.  That said, no amount of flexibility could offset the impact of permanent net cuts totaling nearly $491 million (17.7%). “
Ross continued,  “We are particularly concerned that even deeper cuts in the pool of need-based aid are now being proposed.  That is a tremendous setback, given that 60% of our in-state undergraduates depend on need-based financial aid. This loss of funding would reduce the number of eligible students who could receive need-based aid by more than 5,500, and middle-class students would be hit particularly hard.”
  “As the budget process moves forward, we will continue to work with legislative leaders to lessen cuts to the University and increase the pool of funding for need-based aid.”
            State Sen. Dan Blue, Democrat of Wake, says the UNC System black universities simply don’t have the big endowments or other wide-ranging sources of financial support that the flagship institutions do.
            “So as you cut this deeply into a budget, you cut the programming, you cut the quality of programming, and you just cut their ability to deliver the high quality of education that they’ve historically done,” Blue says.
            The result will be bigger class sizes, less financial aid, and loss of valuable faculty, Sen. Blue adds.
            Though the state Senate will be spending $40 million less overall on education overall, they intend to give the UNC System $87 million more than the House. If that ends up in the final budget deal, public schools will see a staggering $106 million less funding than in the House.
            Gov. Beverly Perdue, already in a funk about how bad the House education budget is, was reportedly “spitting mad” when she got wind of the Senate’s. Of particular concern is the refusal by the Republicans to allow the one-cent increase in the state’s sales tax to stay on. Republicans say they are just following through on their promise to voters to eliminate the tax.

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