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NC Teachers & Students Deserve Better.

[This is a courtesy posting for Aim Higher NC, a nonprofit campaign working to improve public education in North Carolina.]

On January 5, 2014, Gov. Jim Hunt showed the kind of leadership missing in North Carolina lately by drawing a line in the sand. In an opinion piece published by the Raleigh News & Observer, Gov. Hunt called on Gov. McCrory and the NC General Assembly to agree to a bipartisan plan to raise North Carolina’s teacher pay to the national average in the next four years.It’s an ambitious yet simple goal. North Carolina has done it before and we can do it again. It’s a goal that everyone should be able to rally around. 

Join Gov. Hunt by signing this petition calling on Gov. McCrory and state lawmakers to commit to a plan to raise teacher pay to the national average.

Our future is in the hands of teachers. If state government does nothing else, it must at least provide a high quality education for our children.

North Carolina’s public schools are now in a crisis because our teacher pay is embarrassingly low. Last year, North Carolina ranked 46th out of 50 in teacher pay, with an average salary nearly $10,000 lower than the national average. As a result, many teachers are forced to work a second job just to make ends meet. Some are leaving the profession to start more lucrative careers, while others are moving out-of-state to teach elsewhere. We are losing our best and our brightest. 

After the divisive legislative session we just endured, let’s rally around something we can all agree on: North Carolina’s teachers deserve better.

Sign the petition right now and let’s start moving North Carolina forward once again.

Many thanks,
Aim Higher NC

From Buncomb to Pasquotank, voter suppression in NC persists

Today’s news is full of stories about a Buncomb County NC elections official forced to resign after making racially inflammatory comments on The Daily Show. While this behavior goes beyond social norms, we must keep in mind that the sentiment is not unique. On the contrary – voter suppression efforts targeting people of color remain strong in many parts of North Carolina.

Pasquotank County North Carolina, home of Elizabeth City State University, has received national media attention in recent months over attempts to keep ECSU student Montravias King from voting and from running for city council because of his on-campus address.  SCSJ successfully represented Montravias King in hearings before the local and State Boards of Elections.

Montravias King, newly elected City Councilman in Elizabeth City NC

Montravias King, newly elected City Councilman in Elizabeth City NC

After the Pasquotank County Board ruled he could not vote or run for office, the State Board reversed that ruling, ensuring that college students throughout North Carolina retain the ability to vote and to run for office in the towns where they go to college. But in Pasquotank County, efforts to disenfranchise African-American voters started long before Montravias King came to ECSU. SCSJ has been representing African Americans trying to participate in the political process in Elizabeth City since 2008. Below is a brief overview of recent efforts to suppress African-American civic participation.

2007 – Elizabeth City Republican Party Chair Pete Gilbert successfully challenged the right to vote of several African-American Elizabeth City State University students who listed the school’s address as their permanent residence.

2008 – Mr. Gilbert challenged the residency of Kirk Rivers, one of 2 remaining African American City Council members in Elizabeth City, NC, after Mr. Rivers won the election against Mr. Gilbert’s wife. SCSJ successfully represented Councilman Rivers.  The Pasquotank County Board of Elections ruled that Mr. Rivers was not a resident of the City, and removed him from office.  On appeal, the North Carolina Superior Court overturned that ruling and he retained his seat on the City Council.  .

Kirk Rivers

Kirk Rivers

2013 – Mr. Gilbert challenged the voting eligibility of over 60 Elizabeth City State University students for using the college as their permanent address.  SCSJ successfully represented three of the students, who retained the right to vote. However, 57 students, some of whom may not have received notice of the hearing, were struck from the voting rolls because they did not  appear at the Pasquotank County Board of Elections hearing to defend their right to vote.  .

2013– Mr. Gilbert challenged Montravias King’s eligibility to run for city council due to his on-campus residence. Mr. Gilbert was successful at the local level, but SCSJ successfully appealed that decision to the State Board of Elections which unanimously overruled the County Board’s decision.

Montravias King with SCSJ staff attorney Clare Barnett

Montravias King with SCSJ staff attorney Clare Barnett

While Montravias King’s election to the City Council is cause for celebration, the deeper culture of African-American voter suppression in Elizabeth City is likely to remain. We must be vigilant to ensure that all eligible voters – particularly students and people of color – have equal access to participation in every election. SCSJ has fought for the rights of all voters in Elizabeth City since 2008, and will continue to advocate for the voting rights of all North Carolinians.

Article by SCSJ Communications Intern Madeline Anderson

SCSJ client Montravias King featured on Rachel Maddow Show (twice)

On August 15, 2013 the Rachel Maddow Show dedicated a lengthy segment to evolving voter suppression efforts in North Carolina. One of the featured examples was the story of Montravias King, who SCSJ is representing in his efforts to run for City Council. The local board of elections has ruled that Mr. King may not run for elected office because he lives in student housing at his alma mater Elizabeth City State University. According to the board of elections, a university address is not adequate to prove residency. Since the same residency requirements are applied to political candidates and voters, there is grave concern that by blocking the right of Montravias King to run for city council, the local board of elections has started down a path toward disenfranchising all university students living on campus. SCSJ is representing Montravias King in his appeal to the State Board of Elections.

Then, on August 16, SCSJ client Montravias King himself appeared on Rachel Maddow.

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The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is involved in two major lawsuits challenging the new voter suppression law in North Carolina, as well as representing Montravias King in his ongoing efforts to participate in the political process and protect voting rights for college students. SCSJ is also litigating voting rights issues in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, and Washington, D.C. But we can’t beat voter suppression without your help! Click here to support SCSJ’s work to end voter suppression in North Carolina and throughout the South!