How much money do you have to pay before you cast your ballot on Election Day?
For most North Carolinians, the answer might seem obvious: none. As the cornerstone of our democracy, voting is supposed to be fair, accessible – and free. But for an increasing number of North Carolinians, the right to vote can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
How is that possible? The answer is because North Carolina denies the right to vote to people who have felony convictions but cannot afford to pay their court costs, even if they have satisfied all other probation requirements.
Thanks to an ever-growing system of mandatory fines and fees, those caught up in the criminal justice system can be forced to pay anywhere from $40 to hundreds of dollars a month for the cost of their court administration, jail fees, probation, electronic monitoring, drug testing, even community service – and more. If they are unable to pay, they face a penalty fee for nonpayment, increasing their fees and lengthening their probation period.
These costs have increased substantially over time. In 1999, the base cost a person would pay for a superior court date was $106. Today the base cost is $198 with the potential to grow to more than $10,000 in serious cases as additional penalties snowball. Even if they have served all the terms of their sentence, even if they have had no probation violations, low-income people often remain on probation simply because they are low-income. And in far too many North Carolina courts, judges will not conduct hearings on a person’s inability to pay, as is required by law.
Conservatives are working to radically overhaul the American social contract
At the conclusion of the whirlwind 2011 session of the North Carolina General Assembly — a session in which new conservative majorities pushed through a raft of dramatic policy changes —many progressive North Carolinians surveyed the aftermath and found themselves actually breathing a sigh of relief. There was a widespread feeling that the fury of the storm had passed, that the Right had vented its collective spleen and that, having pushed through so much of its long-stymied policy agenda, conservative leaders would settle down to focus on governing the state.
The simple truth is that the Right was then and is now only just getting started. If you doubt this, take a gander at the outrageous list of destructive proposals debated in the General Assembly last week. On issue after issue – K-12 and higher education, taxes, voting rights, the environment, the safety net, church and state, immigration, guns, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, the relationship between corporations and human beings – conservative politicians and advocacy groups that inform and fuel their efforts are pushing the envelope ever further to the right.
Follow-up to earlier story about public school education in North Carolina…scary!
South Brunswick Charter approved amid questions surrounding charter operator’s financial conduct and conflicts of interest
After very little discussion, members of the State Board of Education gave final approval yesterday to 26 charter schools that intend to open in the fall of 2014.
Among those approved was South Brunswick Charter School, a fourth charter school to be run by Baker A. Mitchell, Jr.
Over the past several months, Brunswick County school district officials have called out Mitchell for profiting heavily off of taxpayer-funded charter schools that offer no new or innovative educational experiences outside of what traditional public schools already offer. Mitchell also serves on the Charter School Advisory Board, which is tasked with reviewing and recommending charter school applications.
The impact on Brunswick’s local schools
Public charter schools were intended to provide alternative educational settings for those who desire a different curricular approach to education or who need specialized attention. To accomplish these goals, charter schools receive taxpayer funds based on the number of students they enroll. Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools have few accountability requirements and are not obligated to explain in detail how they spend their tax dollars.
During the charter school application review process, local school districts have the opportunity to submit impact statements for members of the Charter School Advisory Board and the State Board of Education to take into account as they consider approving the opening of a charter school. Impact statements usually explain how the local public school could be negatively affected by the opening of a charter school.