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The latest news and other developments about important public policy issues. Updated frequently - return to this site often.


N.C. releases annual county economic checkup

County Issues - December 14, 2006 - Richard Craver - Winston-Salem Journal - ursday - The N.C. Department of Commerce has released its annual economic checkup of the state's 100 counties, with Davie, Rockingham and Surry counties being downgraded for 2007 and Guilford County being upgraded. A state law requiring the department annually rank counties by their economic health gives corporations more incentive to invest in economically distressed areas of the state.

Poverty follows families to the suburbs

Regional Issues - December 7, 2006 - Wilmington Star-News Online - As Americans flee the cities for the suburbs, many are failing to leave poverty behind. The suburban poor outnumbered their inner-city counterparts for the first time last year, with more than 12 million suburban residents living in poverty, according to a study of the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas released Thursday.

State launches anti-HIV campaign

Healthy Children and Families - December 6, 2006 - Shadee Malaklou - Durham Herald-Sun.com - The state Department of Health and Human Services announced a new campaign in the fight against HIV/AIDS called "Get Real. Get Tested. The campaign is a partnership between the Division of Public Health, Duke University and UNC health systems and TV station FOX 50.

NC Ranks In Bottom 25 Of Healthy States

Healthy Children and Families - December 5, 2006 - WFMY News 2 - Greensboro, North Carolina - A North Carolina health group says a study released on Tuesday in Washington shows just how badly North Carolinians need to improve some of their lifestyle choices. The study by the United Health Foundation ranked North Carolina 36th in its annual list of healthy states. Minnesota ranked number 1. The study considered factors such as personal behavior, work environment and
access to medical care.

Children at Duke fight food allergies - Controlled exposure might make peanuts, milk and eggs less dangerous

Healthy Children and Families - December 5, 2006 - Jean P. Fisher, Staff Writer - News and Observer - In severely allergic children, a trace of peanut or smidgen of egg can trigger a deadly reaction. But new research by Duke physicians suggests a way out: feeding children gradually increasing amounts of the foods that sicken them.

N.C. arms against threat of flu pandemic - Officials are stockpiling money and resources in anticipation of a deadly influenza outbreak that many say will overwhelm the state

Healthy Children and Families - December 3, 2006 - Jim Nesbitt, Staff Writer - News and Observer - At the start of flu season, state health officials are focused on a far deadlier version of the virus that could cause a worldwide epidemic and kill more than 66,000 North Carolinians. If a flu pandemic delivers its worst to the state, it would overwhelm hospitals with gravely ill and dying patients and outflank an emergency management system designed to handle hurricanes
and floods.

Sick kids do count in N.C. - Successes of state's mental health care reform not well reported

Healthy Children and Families - December 1, 2006 - Carmen Hooker Odom, secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services - Charlotte Observer - A previously issued article "Sick kids come last" implies that the administration of Gov. Easley or the Department of Health and Human Services doesn't care about children with mental illness. Mental health reform is a wide ranging and all encompassing effort, its problems have been well reported, but critics never seem to be interested in reporting its successes. Since taking office in 2001, this administration has taken strong and direct action to increase and improve care across the spectrum of services to children. As of today, 56.6 percent of all Medicaid recipients are under age 21. To date, 79,152 Medicaid children received mental health services, as opposed to 24,910 in 2001.

Gaps persist despite No Child Left Behind law

Quality Education for All - November 25, 2006 - Todd Silberman, Staff Writer - News and Observer - Four years of prodding from the federal government has done little to boost student performance or narrow the achievement gap in North  Carolina's schools. Except for the first year of the No Child Left Behind Act overall student scores on state exams have remained largely unchanged since spring 2003. The effort to hold schools accountable has done more to expose disparities in achievement than it has to narrow the divide.

Change mires mental health - Severely ill children languish in backlog after outsourcing

Healthy Children and Families - November 18, 2006 - Pam Kelly and Carrie Levine - Charlotte.com - When North Carolina recently outsourced the task of approving treatment for mentally ill people on Medicaid, the change was supposed to improve efficiency. Instead, it triggered a statewide crisis.

Early school piques interest - Chapel Hill-Carrboro must decide whether to launch a prototype that puts 3-year-olds in school

Quality Education for All - November 13, 2006 - Patrick Winn, Staff Writer - News and Observer - A leading child development institute based at UNC Chapel Hill wants to revolutionize education by enrolling 3-year-olds in public school. Now, after more than a year of negotiations, Chapel Hill-Carrboro school leaders must decide whether to launch the concept's prototype.

Have keys replaced pencils and pens?

Quality Education for All - November 13, 2006 - Olivia Goldberg - Auburnpub.com - Michael Anthony, an attentive Union Springs fifth-grader, took time after a keyboarding class one recent drizzly morning to carefully pen his name. Yet even Michael couldn't master a trick Elsie Hoag learned when she was in fifth-grade back in 1936: 70 years later, Hoag can still balance a penny on the back of her wrist while she writes.

Rewired and refocused - State's top companies adapt to changing times - Globalization, competition force innovation

21st Century Infrastructure - June 24, 2006 - Jonathan B. Cox, Staff Writer - News and Observer - North Carolina is not what it used to be. You can see it in Durham, where technology workers pace the floors of an old tobacco mill. You can feel it in Kannapolis, where optimism fights gloom as laboratories replace factories.

More Triangle schools fall short - Fewer pass new math requirement

Quality Education for All - November 2, 2006 - News and Observer - Todd Silberman, Staff WriterFewer North Carolina public schools met academic expectations, and fewer students earned passing scores last spring thanks to tougher state standards. Test results released showed that more than a third of the state's 2,353 public schools fell short of expected gains in student achievement in 2005-06. Only about one of every 10 schools achieved high marks for strong academic progress.

Triangle looks to keep drinking water clean

A Sustainable Environment - October 23, 2006 - Heather Moore - News14.com - Community and government leaders came together Monday to announce plans to keep the Triangle's drinking water reservoirs clean. It's called the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative Conservation Plan. The goal is to preserve natural buffer areas around streams and creeks that flow into drinking water reservoirs in the Upper Neuse River Basin.

Road planning short-circuited in Congress - N.C. delegation's add-ons to highway bills often delay or kill projects in state's long-range plan

21st Century Infrastructure - October 29, 2006 - Pat Stith, Staff Writer - News and Observer - North Carolina's members of Congress quietly took control of more than $135 million from the state Department of Transportation last year to help pay for dozens of highway projects they favored. That means other projects deemed more important by state and local officials must be delayed.

A deadly threat to N.C. teens

Healthy Children and Families - October 17, 2006 - Leslie McGuire, director - Columbia University TeenScreen Program - Charlotte.com - Suicide is a very real and prevalent problem that is too often overlooked. In North Carolina, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 19-year-olds. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 16 percent of North Carolina high school students think seriously about suicide and 13 percent have made a suicide attempt.

N.C. health care costs rise faster than income

Healthy Children and Families - October 25, 2006 - Jonathan B. Cox, Staff Writer - Health-care premiums in North Carolina rose 7.5 times faster than family earnings in the past six years, squeezing workers and forcing some to drop coverage.

Since 2000, average annual healthinsurance premiums for coverage in the state rose 85.7 percent to $12,347, according to a report released Wednesday by Families USA, a consumer health advocacy group in Washington. In the same period, median annual earnings rose by 11.4 percent to $25,701.

N.C. Health Report Links Rising Poverty To Negative Health

Healthy Children and Families - October 24, 2006 - Associated Press - WSOC-TV.com - Too many of North Carolina's children enter the world too small and are growing up too heavy, according to an annual report released by Action for Children NC. The N.C. Child Health Report Card, which examines health trends among the more than 2 million children in the state, also attributed several negative trends to a rising child poverty rate that reached 21.3 percent last year. "The poverty rate continues to go up, and that gets reflected in many of the indicators," said Tom Vitaglione, a senior fellow at the child advocacy group.

Plan would help protect Triangle drinking water

A Sustainable Environment - October 24, 2006 - Sarah Lindenfeld Hall, Staff Writer - News and Observer - A coalition of conservation groups and government agencies (The Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative) is targeting 24,000 acres that it says are critical to protecting the drinking water for much of the Triangle. The conservation plan will guide the coalition as it seeks to acquire land through purchase or donations primarily along tributaries that run into drinking water reservoirs. The so-called stream buffers remove sediments and limit runoff into streams. Read article and see map for the plan).

Kids' health is a mixed bag - They get their shots, but many are poor, fat, uninsured

Healthy Children and Families - October 24, 2006 - News and Observer - North Carolina still has a long way to go to improve the health of its children, child and health advocates report. Despite progress in key areas, such as covering more children through public
health insurance, rising numbers of children live in  poverty, kids are getting fatter, and deaths from abuse are up. It's not for lack of awareness of the problems or even a failure to address them according to the authors of the 2006 N.C. Child Health Report Card.

Train up a child - A program aims to develop healthful habits kids will keep a lifetime

Healthy Children and Families - October 19, 2006 - Joe Miller, Staff Writer - News and Observer - Oh, to be deceived by Cap'n Crunch. In a take on the popular kids' game Last One Standing, Kevin Young asks the fourth-graders at Carver Elementary to stand if they had cereal for breakfast. Three-fourths of those assembled in the school's gym enthusiastically jump to their feet. Cereal, they've learned, is part of the federally sanctioned Food Guide Pyramid, so it has to be good.

Number of STD cases on the rise in NC

Healthy Children and Families - October 19, 2006 - Sean Galloway, News14_com - Cases of HIV and Hepatitis C are growing in North Carolina. The statistics are raising eyebrows with the Better Health Care Coalition. "It's a big concern in North Carolina because the rates of HIV infection are increasing nationally but particularly North Carolina. In new cumulative cases for HIV infection, North Carolina ranks five out of the 50 states,” explained Director of Health Promotion and Education Steven Owens.

School Dropout Prevention

Quality Education for All - October 13, 2006 - Greensboro News-Record.com - Raising North Carolina's compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18 is just one strategy to discourage kids from dropping out of school, not a quick fix for a problem that threatens the state's future vitality and competitiveness. A new legislative committee formed to study high school graduation and dropout rates will consider that approach and others with the goal of keeping more students in classrooms and out of the streets...

Eastern Region director suggest partnerships to boost economic growth

Regional Issues - October 13,2006 - Bob Shiles - FREEDOM ENC - The executive director of the N.C. Eastern Region economic partnership said Thursday that the region’s efforts to boost Eastern North Carolina’s economic growth depends on partnering with other agencies and organizations. Al Delia, a former administrator with East Carolina University, cited the need for partnering. Working together makes it possible to identify, develop and promote programs that provide the kind of training the local work force needs to meet the employment demands off businesses operating in Eastern North Carolina.

North Carolina to launch a first-of-its-kind prescription drug program for low-income seniors in January

Healthy Children and Families - October 11, 2006 - WRAL.com - Governor Easley Touts New N.C. Drug Plan For Seniors. He has taken $24 million from the Health and Wellness Trust Fund, which is funded by the state's portion of the national tobacco litigation settlement, to make the drug program work. "We're trying to fix the holes in the Medicare D program, and that's what North Carolina Rx does. It will make it virtually free for most senior citizens," he said.

N.C. should step out front in efforts on climate change

A Sustainable Environment - October 6, 2006 - Ashville Citizen-Times.com. In 2005 North Carolina lawmakers distinguished themselves by being the first state government in the Southeast to establish a commission to study global warming. Earlier this week an expert told that panel, the Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change, that North Carolina could place itself in a better position to benefit from potential federal regulation if it began reducing greenhouse gases now, according to published reports.

Smoking down among N.C. teens

Healthy Children and Families - September 28, 2006 - David Kernodle - News 14 Carolina - FAYETTEVILLE - Fewer North Carolina teenagers are lighting up, according to a report from the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund. State officials credit tobacco-free policies in most public
school districts for the decline.

Opening doors to degrees - How can we get more students into college?

Quality Education for All - September 23, 2006 - Tim Simmons, Staff Writer - News & Observer - For most parents, the issue of college access boils down to a couple of very personal questions: Can my kid get into a decent college somewhere? Is there a job waiting after graduation?

But to those in higher education, the issue of access is about the very future and direction of their schools...

N.C. public works earn mediocre grade

21st Century Infrastructure - September 19, 2006 - Bruce Siceloff, Staff Writer - News & Observer - North Carolina needs to invest tens of billions of dollars to rejuvenate its aging roads, schools and water systems and to support economic growth, a professional engineers' group said in a report released Monday.

The American Society of Civil Engineers issued a mediocre overall grade -- C- minus -- for nine public works categories reviewed in its first North Carolina Infrastructure Report Card. Click for details on each area.

State's low math goal gives up easy scores

Quality Education for All - September 19, 2006 - Greensboro News-Record - North Carolina sets a low target on state math tests. Scores for fourth- and eighth-graders look terrific until you notice the players don't have to jump. The same effort won't be good enough when the standards are higher. Ninety-three percent of NC's fourth-graders passed year-end math tests in 2005. But only 40 percent were considered proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The disparity between North Carolina's evaluations and its placement on the NAEP is wider than any other state's except West Virginia.

It's time for a tuneup of governance of NC's public universities says new Policy Center report

Quality Education for All - August 15, 2006 - NCCPPR - In a new report, the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research concludes the legislature should relinquish the task of choosing the University system’s Board of Governors and give that responsibility to the Governor. The Center’s report says that the Board itself needs to begin fulfilling its statutory responsibility for long-range planning in higher education in coordination with the community colleges, private colleges and universities. It warns that seven tuition increases in the last eight years invite a lawsuit under the State Constitutional mandate that a university education “as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense.”

N.C. gets an 'F' in college tuition. National report fears for education

Quality Education for All - September 7, 2006 - Jane Stancill and Tim Simmons, Staff Writers - News and Observer - Despite a reputation for bargain universities, North Carolina's college affordability is deteriorating, according to a new national report on higher education. The report gives the state good marks for students' preparation, participation and college degree completion. But North Carolina's public and private colleges get an "F" for affordability along with those in 42 other states, according to figures released today.

Weight of our state - 14th fattest

Healthy Children and Families - August 30, 2006 -  Jean P. Fisher,    Staff Writer - News and Observer - A national report Tuesday fingered North Carolina as one of 31 states where residents are getting rounder -- the same day state officials launched an ambitious but unfunded new strategy to turn the tide. Put it all together, and the state is the nation's 14th fattest, according to "F as in Fat," an annual report on the thickening American waistline.

School's budget ship comes in

Quality Education for All - July 6, 2006 - Todd Silberman and Dan Kane, Staff Writers - News and Observer - Teachers get a fat increase in pay. School districts don't have to cut spending. More money is provided for disadvantaged students. And, for the first time, poor districts will get all the money the legislature promised them more than a decade ago.

Many North Carolinians holding down two jobs

A Prosperous Economy - July 5, 2006 - Richard M. Barron - News & Record of Greensboro - The number of people with two or more jobs is growing in North Carolina. Only Oklahoma added more workers with two or more jobs in 2004, according to the most recent estimate by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Governor Easley talks High School reform

Quality Education for All - June 19, 2006 - WXII12.com - "Together we have launched one of the most aggressive and ambitious high school reform agendas in the nation. We knew that if we were going to develop the talent, knowledge and skill to compete on a global level then we were going to have to invest in education and make the necessary changes in our schools."

New Direction for Board

Active Citizenship / Accountable Government - June 11, 2006 - Jack Betts - Charlotte Observer - By law, Gov. Mike Easley is chairman of a state board whose job it is to take regular soundings of how the state's doing on key public policy areas such as education, the economy and the environment. If the Senate gets its way...

2006 North Carolina Children's Index

Healthy Children and Families - The 2006 North Carolina Children's Index includes more than 75 indicators of child and youth well-being in the following areas: child health and safety, economic (in)security, early care and education, child maltreatment, juvenile justice and demographics.  Includes a special section highlighting how the children and youth of North Carolina are developing in positive ways.

Too many N.C. children lack health care and affordable child care

Healthy Children and Families - April 27, 2006 - Study: N.C. kids lacking health care -11% without it in '04, better than 13% in '98 - Eric Frazier - Staff Writer - Charlotte Observer. Too many N.C. children lack health care and affordable child care, according to a report being released today by a leading child advocacy group. More than 11 percent of children in North Carolina lack health insurance, according to the 2006 Children's
Index, a compilation of child-centered statistics gathered by Action for Children North Carolina.

Poverty conference sees endangered middle class

A Prosperous Economy - March 25, 2006 - WORK AND LIFESTYLE - Emery P. Dalesio The Associated Press - News and Observer - Economic changes have narrowed America's middle class, increasing the divide between the rich and poor, according to speakers at an anti-poverty conference staged by a think tank led by past vice presidential candidate John Edwards. Changing government policies to help the working poor was proposed frequently by speakers during the two-day conference, presented by the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina's law school.

Zone Health program focuses on childhood obesity

Healthy Children and Families - February 20, 2006 - news14.com - Tracey Early & Web Staff - During the past two decades, the percentage of overweight children doubled in the U.S. In North Carolina, more than one in four teens are overweight. One program focuses on a place where 95-percent of the kids in our state spend time each week, the public schools.

N.C.'s state of emergency

Healthy Children and Families - January 12, 2006 - Vivek Tayal, MD, NCCEP, president-elect of the N.C. College of Emergency Physicians - Charlotte Observer - North Carolina received a report card on the state of the emergency medicine safety net as a C-minus, which means our state laws and policies are doing a poor job of protecting emergency medicine for everyone. While NC is doing a very good job supporting efforts in public health and injury prevention (B+), it scored ...

Three Rs not enough as schools struggle with teacher retention

Quality Education for All - January 9, 2006 - Clarke Morrison - Ashville Citizen-Times - Melanie Teague has dreamed about being a teacher since the Saturdays she spent playing school with her teddy bears and imaginary friends. But only time will tell whether she has the fortitude to persevere in a field where nearly half of new teachers in North Carolina quit by the end of their fifth year. The abysmal retention rate is one of several factors in what education officials say is a looming teacher shortage crisis.

Retirees are moving to North Carolina in droves

Safe and Vibrant Communities - November 3, 2005 - Marta Hummel - Greensboro News Record - Retirees are moving to North Carolina in droves, but not to the Triad, said Wake Forest University professor Charles Longino Jr. This means that the region is missing out on the majority of the more than $1 billion of net income each year coming with those migrants who are 60 or older.

More Teachers are Leaving N.C

Quality Education for All - November 2, 2005 - Tim Boyum - News 14 Carolina - More teachers than ever are leaving North Carolina schools. The state board of education released its annual teacher turnover report Wednesday. But education leaders hope some big changes will turn around the problem.

Governor Easley Rolls Out Increase in N. C. Teacher Salaries

Quality Education for All - October 27, 2005 - Clarke Morrison and The Associated Press - Asheville Citizen-Times - Gov. Mike Easley wants to raise public school teachers’ salaries above the national average in 2008, and will give most educators a flat $600 raise for the rest of the school year as a downpayment toward the goal.

N. C. Workers Losing Employer Based Health Care

Healthy Children and Families - October 26, 2005 - David Ingram - Winston-Salem Journal - North Carolinians are losing employer-based health insurance faster than people in almost any other state. From 2000 to 2004, the percentage of people in the state covered by health insurance from an employer fell 6.7 percentage points to 56.8 percent.

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