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Newsletter from the office of Representative Mary Belk.
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Students from Randolph Middle School participated in the March 17th walkout to commemorate the Parkland, FL killings. Photo by Lily Sadoff. 

Governor Cooper Supports Gun Safety Changes

Last month, in the wake of another horrific school shooting, I talked about the current state of gun safety regulation here in North Carolina. This past week, Governor Cooper came out with a set of solid proposals that will put us on the road to reasonable gun safety measures, while respecting our Constitutional right to bear arms.
  1. Enact extreme-risk protection orders to temporarily remove guns from the possession of people who are a danger to themselves or others.
  2. Require background checks to purchase semi-automatic long guns in any venue.
  3. Raise the legal purchase age for semi-automatic long guns to 21.
  4. Ban bump stocks
  5. Accept expanded mental health and substance abuse treatment funding through Medicaid.
I am committed to working with my colleagues in the House to enact as many of these reforms as possible. However, I am not confident that the North Carolina House of Representatives, as currently constituted, has any intention of introducing even these modest proposals. Right now, the center of the debate in the House Select Committee on School Safety seems to be whether or not we should arm classroom teachers.

There are a number of reasons why I think the notion of arming classroom teachers is wrong, from the practical (mass shootings also happen in churches, theaters, malls, etc), to the technical (effective tactical response training takes hundreds of hours), to the philosophical (how can I ask a person to nurture students but be ready to gun one down on a moment’s notice). I think we should all realize this isn’t going to work after a poll of North Carolina classroom teachers reported that 78% think it’s a bad idea. These are the people in North Carolina classrooms every day, living with the possibility that a school shooting may happen, and they don’t see more guns in classrooms as the answer. I stand with our teachers when I say we should arm them with decent pay, classroom supplies, and textbooks -- not weapons.

We need to take a deep look at the debate we have over gun safety in this country. Too often, the debate boils down to ‘we can’t stop bad things from happening, so let’s not do anything.’ We don’t accept that answer for any other issue, from terrorism to unsafe working conditions. It’s time to stop accepting it when we talk about guns.
We need to do more to recruit and retain great teachers like Ms. Zola from Collinswood Elementary.

Teacher Pay in NC

Teacher pay has been in the news recently -- North Carolina's average teacher pay finally crossed the $50,000 threshold. Although laudable, we need to put that number in context before we start patting each other on the back.

The average teacher salary may now be over $50K, but it can be hard to find teachers making that much money. Check out this chart from the Department of Public Instruction that shows the salary schedule for teachers for 2017-2018. The average teacher salary of over $50,000 is also the highest step in the salary schedule, requiring 25 years of experience for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree.

How can the “average salary” be at the level of the highest, final step on the salary schedule? First, we have many veteran teachers with advanced degrees or Board-certification which give them salary bumps. They are pulling up the average, but also nearing retirement age. The second reason is many counties supplement what the State pays teachers. The size of these pay supplements ranges from nearly $9,000 in wealthier counties to $0 in poorer counties.

When we step back to the national picture, our situation looks even less ideal. The national average for teacher pay is $58,950. National rankings are not yet out for this year, but last year we were 35th in the country and only in the middle of the pack among fellow southeastern states. That’s an improvement from 2014, when we had collapsed to 47th in the country, but a far cry from the early 2000s when we were 19th and closer to the national average for teacher pay.

Vox recently published an article that compares teacher pay nationally since 2003. When you adjust the numbers for inflation, you will see that our teachers have effectively had their pay CUT 11.3% in the last 15 years.  

Good pay for teachers is one of the few issues that enjoys broad bipartisan support in our State. A recent poll found 73% of North Carolinians would pay higher taxes to support more generous pay for our educators. We understand that good teachers lead to good schools. Research has shown that providing students with motivated teachers is probably THE most important thing to help them learn and succeed.

Investing in successful schools is critical, not just for our kids, but for our communities. Entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies alike look for educated workers and school systems busy turning out the next generation of skilled employees.  And, unlike corporate tax cuts, the money we invest in our teachers stays in our communities, as they spend locally. This is particularly important in rural counties where there is no additional local support for teachers and it takes 25 years of hard work to achieve 'average' pay.

North Carolina’s goal should be to reach the national average in teacher pay by committing to pay our teachers more year-after-year. Election year pay raises and one-time bonuses will not do the job.  We have to shift our priorities away from tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and corporations to investing in teacher pay. It does no good to lower class size if we cannot recruit good teachers.  And we will not recruit enough good teachers if we continue to lag in teacher pay.

It’s Not a Moment, It’s a Movement

It has been the most gratifying experience of my life watching the way women have come together over the past year to support one another, organize for our own political power, and force our society to come to grips with some of our darkest ‘open secrets.’ Women have been integral to every major civil rights movement, from Abolitionism to LGBTQ Equality. But it feels like it has been almost a generation since we came together to demand equal and fair treatment, not just under the law, but in the business world as well. The Women’s March, #MeToo, #TimesUp, and the flood of women seeking office in 2018, all speak to an incredible energy and realization that we have the power to affect real change.

I encourage all of you to get connected with local groups like Lillian’s List, the League of Women Voters, the Charlotte Women’s March, Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence, and the Democratic Women of Mecklenburg County. These groups are organizing and focusing women’s political power on issues that build a better North Carolina for everyone, like teacher pay and gun safety, but also making sure that issues dear to us, like equal pay for equal work and access to affordable family planning, are at the top of the priority list.

The changes we’re seeking seem so reasonable on paper, but it is going to take a comprehensive, concentrated effort from organized women and our allies to make it happen. We want equal pay for equal work. We want to be judged professionally on our skills and achievements, not our appearance. We do not want to be touched without permission. We want to make medical decisions about our bodies with our doctors. I’m ready to fight with my sisters and brothers to achieve all this and more. Will you join us?
Everyone has more fun when the kids are at Summer Camp ;-)

Your Family, Our Community

Summer Vacation is just around the corner! There are hundreds of programs around our City and County that offer rich learning and fun experiences for children of all ages. However, there is limited space in these programs, so be sure to check them out and get signed up as soon as possible.

List of Mecklenburg Parks & Rec Summer Camps

Shortcut to EParks ‘Summer Camp’ Search

Charlotte Parent Summer Camp Listing (Includes Overnight Camps)

YMCA Camp Programs

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 NCCash.com 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 mary.belk@ncleg.net with any questions or concerns

In the News

Statement Calling for an End to Workplace Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, and Misconduct and Calling on NCGA Leaders to Implement Measures to Address the Problem
NCGA Joint Legislative Democratic Women’s Caucus

Thousands of Triangle students take part in walkouts, push for an end to gun violence
The News & Observer
 
‘This is happening’ – thousands of Charlotte-area students join gun-violence walkout
Charlotte Observer
 
Guilford County students participate in walkouts on Parkland shooting anniversary
News & Record
 
Orange County parents, activists gather in Hillsborough to support student walkouts
The Herald-Sun

School Segregation Is Not a Myth
The Atlantic

NC could face lawsuits if large school districts are allowed to break up
The News & Observer

New Health Ranking Shows Disparities Persist In NC
WUNC

NC Body Cam Law Leaves Release Up to Judges
Blue Ridge Public Radio

Cooper to appoint North Carolina elections board this week
Associated Press

NC school psychologist shortage leaves many students without mental health resources
NC Policy Watch

Opinion:  It’s time to act on gun violence
Rep. Marcia Morey in the News & Observer

We polled NC teachers about guns at school. Here’s what they had to say.
The News & Observer

More people than ever are dying from guns in North Carolina. What’s behind it?
The Charlotte Observer

Gov. Cooper: Arming teachers is a 'bad idea'
WCNC

Firearm safety related to suicide prevention according to Child Fatality Task Force
Ed NC

Atrium Health, UNC Health Care won’t merge
Independent Tribune

Duke sets 6.2 percent increase to residential electric rates
WRAL

Scott Sexton: Nickeled-and-dimed by electric bills, rate increases and coal-ash cleanup
Winston-Salem Journal
Mecklenburg County NC House Districts Effective for the 2018 Election 
Copyright © 2018 Representative Mary Belk, All rights reserved.


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