Newsletter from the office of Representative Mary Belk.
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The grand opening of Tuckaseegee Elementary School’s Learning Garden with CMS Board Chair Mary McCray, WLC Superintendent Curtis A. Carroll, CMS Board member Thelma Byers-Bailey, and reps from Real School Gardens.

District 88 Town Hall Meeting

Calling all constituents: let me know what’s on your mind! As the Short Session comes to a close, you are invited to meet with me on June 23rd at 1:00pm at the Goodwill Opportunity Campus. There should be no shortage of topics to discuss - when we return to Raleigh in mid-May, the General Assembly will debate class size, teacher pay, water quality funding, and possibly judicial redistricting. Please plan to join us at my town hall meeting and have your voices heard! 

    Rep. Mary Belk’s Town Hall     
    Date: Saturday, June 23rd, 2018
    Time: 1:00pm - 3:00pm
    Place: Goodwill Opportunity Campus
              5301 Wilkinson Blvd.
              Charlotte, NC 28208
Carolyn Hunt, a dedicated and passionate supporter of Smart Start, and I were celebrating the 25th anniversary of Mecklenburg's public Pre-K program at the Opportunity for Influence Breakfast on April 11th.

Dividing CMS is Not the Answer

There has been a heated debate for some time about whether large school districts, such as Wake and Mecklenburg, are able to serve all the communities in such large and diverse populations. The Joint Legislative Study Committee on the Division of Local School Administrative Units convened recently to look at this issue and their conclusions did not support the argument that students in smaller districts achieve more academically. You can read the full report here. I hope these findings can move us past this distracting conversation on division and on to the programs and funding we need to provide all students a sound education. 

I am sympathetic to families from the urban core who see capital funds flowing to fast-growing and often upper-middle class suburbs to fund new school construction, while legacy schools install mobile units. I understand the burden of asking some children to commute 20 or 30 minutes each way, past a neighborhood school, to balance populations of free and reduced-price lunch students across the system. The truth is that running a school system of any size is going to involve trade-offs and compromises between competing missions. 

But the fact remains that the suburban schools in question have an average graduation rate of 95%, so they are clearly getting the resources they need for success. The broader discussion in our system needs to be about emulating that success in less advantaged zip codes. 

Think about it. We task our schools with educating, socializing, disciplining, feeding, mentoring, encouraging, exercising, and motivating every young person in our county, regardless of their family’s income, education level, national origin, or common language. That’s before everything we ask them to do to keep the teachers and administrators sane and returning to work year after year. 

When we ask one system to do so much with limited resources, we need to accept that all priorities for individual schools can’t be met. However, if we all pitch in, we can make sure that every student in Mecklenburg County continues to receive a sound education and is set on the launchpad to success.
Colonel Christina Moore with her twin daughters at the 145th Airlift Wing's C17 acceptance ceremony on April 7th.

Health Equity in North Carolina

The NC Department of Health and Human Services released its annual Health Equity Report (Full Report) and there were some bright spots, but it’s clear North Carolina needs to do more. Two issues that the report highlights are (i) the infant mortality rate, which is almost twice as high for African American mothers, and (ii) the opioid crisis, which has led to a huge increase in emergency room visits for all demographics. I’m not sure how many more reports like this we need to see before Medicaid Expansion happens in North Carolina.

I have consistently supported the expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina because it would be a huge first step in addressing substance misuse disorders, mental health care, and health care for the working poor, especially in rural and minority communities. Medicaid expansion will not solve these problems, but it opens up access to as much as $10 Billion in additional federal funding, specifically for patients who require this care but cannot currently afford it.

That money would be spent to rent space and staff new rehabilitation centers that help people overcome addiction. It would be spent to pay for new urgent-care and primary-care facilities, doctors, nurses, and physicians assistants to care for rural and working class communities. Medical providers would be guaranteed payment for their services. Medicaid expansion would ensure that an additional 200,000 North Carolinians would become paying customers of the exact same community clinics and rural hospitals that North Carolina can’t seem to fund or keep open.

The argument that expanding Medicaid would be prohibitively expensive for North Carolina has recently been further debunked by research conducted at Wake Forest University. (Read the full report HERE). The nature of the Medicaid program is such that it will provide funding to serve populations that cannot currently afford to see a doctor, and promote investment in health care infrastructure where none currently exists. This is a win-win-win, if only we had representatives in the General Assembly who were ready to take ‘yes’ for an answer.
On April 18th, we celebrated the life of the incredible Joan Belk. I will miss her love and laughter, but most especially that glint in her eye when our talk turned to "politics & pols." Sleep in peace, dear friend.

Your Courts, Our Community

Have you ever wanted to know more about how Mecklenburg County’s courts operate? What’s the difference between District Court and Superior Court? What does an Assistant District Attorney do? What’s it like to be on a jury? 

“The Justice Initiative” is a local non-profit whose ‘mission is to educate the community about the court system and to advocate, support and advance its needs and interests.’ They are holding their annual fundraiser on April 26th. To RSVP, click The Justice Initiative’s Evening at the Court.

Do you have a student who’s interested in law or looking to earn  a scouting merit badge? Applications for Court Camp 2018 are being taken now! Court Camp Info & Application

Voter Information: You can find your current information on the NC Voter Lookup page. You can also find interactive versions of the new House & Senate maps HERE.

Domestic Violence Hotline: If you or someone you know is trapped in a domestic violence or partner abuse situation, please call Safe Alliance at 704-332-2513 and they can help you.

Charlotte 311 is your connection to city services, including Animal Control, Street Maintenance, Bulky Trash Pick-up, Parking Enforcement, and all other non-police related matters. Dial 311 or visit their website to fill out a form and have your issue addressed as soon as possible.        
Don’t forget! Visit today to see if you have unclaimed property under the supervision of the NC Treasurer’s office.

My office is here to help you navigate any issues you may have with state services. Please call myself or my legislative assistant, Ralph Belk, at 919-733-5607 or email me at with any questions or concerns

In the News

Cooper seeks $130M for school safety, mental health
As Budget Talks Approach, Gov. Cooper Proposes $130 Million For School Safety
Cooper seeks $130M for school safety, mental health needs
Associated Press

The 9 states where teachers have it worst (sadly, NC is featured)
CBS Moneywatch

Our View: Nothing fair about NC school funding
The Fayetteville Observer

Column:  Education needle not moving enough
Richmond County Daily Journal

Our Opinion: Don't let teachers be second-class
Greensboro News & Record

Educational attainment in North Carolina: Reflections from a rural road trip
Blog from Patrick Woodie, CEO of the NC Rural Center

Gates For NC Primary Voting Open Wider Thursday

Committee on splitting up school districts does not recommend division
Education NC

Town hall highlights concerns with education funding in N.C.
Winston-Salem Journal

Editorial:  Independent judiciary remains under attack
Greenville Daily Reflector

A second natural gas pipeline proposed for NC would run through Rockingham, Alamance counties
The Progressive Pulse

Film industry in NC still struggling more than a year after repeal of HB2

Federal tax changes could mean higher state taxes

NC Offering Grants Of Up To $150K To Support Opioid Crisis

New Report Highlights Need For Better Preparing NC Natives For Local Jobs
Mecklenburg County NC House Districts Effective for the 2018 Election 
Copyright © 2018 Representative Mary Belk, All rights reserved.

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