By Rob Thompson
The state legislature convenes for the 2018 session on Wednesday May 16.
On Wednesday, the very first day of session, thousands of teachers, parents and children will meet legislators at the front door, seeking better pay and working conditions. North Carolina ranked 39th in the nation in teacher pay in 2017. As legislators determine their priorities for this legislative session, NC Child urges them to listen carefully to the voices of teachers, students, and families who are raising important issues about North Carolina’s investment in our public education system, and what resources are needed to ensure that our teachers have the financial compensation and classroom support they deserve.
In addition to teacher pay, NC Child is raising up three leading issues for children and families that legislators can use the whirlwind short session to enact:
Last year nearly 1 in 10 North Carolina high school students reported attempting suicide. Between 2011 and 2015, suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death for NC youth age 15 to 17. Legislators can address this problem directly by requiring that all school personnel in grades 6-12 regularly complete high-quality suicide awareness and prevention training.
Goal: Pass H 285, as recommended by the House Select Committee on School Safety
Additional Funding for School Nurses
School nurses are on the front lines of protecting our children’s physical and mental health, and play a key role in ensuring students are well enough to thrive in the classroom. Unfortunately, North Carolina has a shortage of approximately 654 school nurses, which means school nurses frequently serve between 2 and 6 schools, and may only be in a given school for one-half day each week. The House Select Committee on School Safety, recognizing the critical role nurses play in recognizing early warning signs of violence at school, recommended decreasing the school nurse shortage.
Goal: Appropriate at least $10M to decrease the shortage of school nurses in North Carolina.
Closing the Health Care Coverage Gap
North Carolina’s health insurance rate for children has hit an all-time high with 96 percent insured. However, a child’s health is determined by much more than his or her own access to affordable health insurance; parental health, family well-being, and financial security also play a major role. More than 100,000 parents in North Carolina don’t have insurance because they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to purchase private health insurance.
Goal: Pass H 662, Carolina Cares, providing more options for low- to middle-income families seeking health coverage.
These are just three of the important issues that we will be supporting and watching this session. Stay tuned in the weeks ahead for our weekly updates.