Fox 8 News
by Associated Press
A new report says North Carolina has improved on six of 10 key indicators for child well-being, including family income, health and education.
The annual Kids Count state-by-state survey released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation says North Carolina now ranks 37th in the nation on child well-being, up from 38th a year ago.
The survey attributed the improvements to public investments in children since 2000 but said those improvements are at risk because of the economic downturn.
Infant mortality dropped to 8.1 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2006 from 8.6 in 2000. That's still higher than the national average of 6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2006.
More children had parents with secure employment, but the number of children living in poverty continued to grow.
by Matthew Milliken
A national organization that evaluates child well-being gave North Carolina a marginally improved standing for 2009.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked North Carolina the 37th-best state for child well-being in its 2009 Kids Count Data Book, up one slot from 2008. The newest Kids Count edition, released Tuesday, marks the 20th edition of the annual project.
The state rank of 37 put North Carolina just below Florida and just above West Virginia. The state lagged Virginia (ranked 16th) but was ahead of its other neighbors: Georgia (42nd), South Carolina (45th) and Tennessee (46th). The three best states, according to the foundation, were New Hampshire, Minnesota and Utah. Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi came in at the bottom of the rankings.
The foundation bases its rankings on 10 indicators: percent of low-birthweight babies, infant mortality rate, child death rate, teen death rate, teen birth rate, percent of teenaged high school dropouts, percent of teens not attending school and not working, percent of children living in families without a parent with full-time and year-round employment, percent of children in poverty and percent of children in single-parent families. Poverty was defined as income below $21,027 for two adults and two children in 2007.
North Carolina did not rank higher than 26th out of the 50 states in any category.
In summarizing the 2009 findings, Kids Count national coordinator Laura Beavers said little progress had been made over the past 10 years.
"Although there's been some slight improvement in child well-being since 2000, it's still not on a par with what we saw at the end of the 1990s," Beavers said.
Economic indicators seem likely to plunge in coming years. The most recent data in the 2009 Kids Count assessment is from 2007. The national jobless rate more than doubled from May 2007 to May 2009.
"And we know that [the] unemployment rate is very closely tied with poverty rates and child poverty rates in particular," Beavers said.
Beavers was dismayed by an increase in teen births, up from 40 to 42 births per 1,000 females aged 15-19 in the 2005-06 time frame. Another rise is expected in 2007.
"We know that teenage child-bearing can have long-term negative effects on both the teen mother and the newborn," Beavers said.
North Carolina ranked 38th in the 2008 Kids Count Data Book. The improvement in 2009 seems partly attributable to shifts in the infant mortality rate (it dropped from 8.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 8.1 deaths per thousand births in 2006), low-birthweight babies (down from 9.2 to 9.1 percent in 2005-06), the percent of children whose parents lack full-time, year-round work (that fell from 34 to 33 percent from 2006 to 2007) and the percent of children in one-parent families (that fell from 35 to 34 percent during 2006-07).
But North Carolina suffered increases in the teen birth rate (up from 48 to 50 births per 1,000 females aged 15-19), the dropout rate (up from 7 to 8 percent) and the percent of nonworking teens out of school (8 to 9 percent).
All of the worst-ranked states except Nevada are in the South or Southwest; Mississippi finished dead last on six of the 10 key indicators. Beavers said the South routinely scored poorly.
"The states in the southern part of the United States have lower household median income, higher unemployment rates, and it really points to the lack of both good jobs ... in many parts of the South as well as a historical lack of investment in infrastructure, in education, in the health care system over time that continues to impact kids today," Beavers said.
By Clarke Morrison
The death of an 11-year-old
Fletcher boy underscores the dangers that come with riding in the back
of pickup trucks, safety experts say.
Beddingfield died after he was ejected from a pickup when it was struck
by a flatbed truck on Howard Gap Road, the N.C. Highway Patrol said.
from a vehicle increases the likelihood of serious injury or death by a
factor of four, said Bill Hall of the UNC Highway Safety Research
the back of a pickup truck, it's almost a certainty you are going to be
ejected,” he said. “People need to realize that the bed of a pickup
truck is for transporting cargo, and people are not cargo.”
North Carolina law forbids children under 16 from riding in the back of trucks unless accompanied by an adult.
children under 16 riding in the beds of pickups were killed from
2002-2006 in North Carolina and 127 were seriously injured, said Tom
Vitaglione, co-chair of the Child Fatality Task Force. The legislative
study commission successfully pushed last year for a strengthening of
the truck bed law.
Many of the injured suffered brain injuries and face lifelong disabilities, he said.
“If there is a crash, they are totally unprotected,” Vitaglione said.
C.R. Jones, the trooper who investigated Monday's fatal crash, said
victim's grandmother, Kay Dalton, 62, of Hendersonville, pulled into
the path of the flatbed truck, which struck the pickup's left rear side.
6-year-old boy also riding in the back of the pickup was not seriously
injured, while three children in the cab were properly restrained and
unhurt. Ethan Beddingfield died the next day at Mission Hospital.
charges had been filed Wednesday and the case remained under
investigation. The Highway Patrol said Jones had not yet completed his
Assembly approved a measure last year that broadened the scope of the
law. It now covers children under 16, where previously it covered only
children under 12.
change also removed an exemption for 32 rural counties. But children
are still allowed to ride in the back of pickups if they are
accompanied by a supervising adult or are restrained by a belt. Other
exceptions to the law include the vehicle being operated in an
agricultural enterprise or a parade, or the existence of an “emergency
Amendments to the law took effect Oct. 1. Violation of the statute carries only a $25 fine.
Highway Patrol said rarely cites drivers for having children riding in
the back of pickups, patrol Capt. Everett Clendenin said.
He attributed a decline in children riding in truck beds in part to the preponderance of pickups with extended cabs.
“We just don't see it much,” Clendenin said. “Use to be you'd see it all the time.”
RALEIGH - North Carolina remains one of the few places where a
student can be beaten with a paddle by school personnel without
parental permission. Those personnel have statutory immunity if they
inadvertently injure a student during such beatings.
month the state House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to affirm
the rights of parents to participate in the school discipline process.
Under House Bill 442, parents would be given an opportunity to say that
their children cannot be beaten at school and that other forms of
discipline should be used.
On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on
HB 442. Unbelievably, the vote is expected to be very close, and there
is a good chance that our senators will deny parents the right to
protect their children from being beaten by school personnel.
senators express what they term "fond memories" of being physically
punished at school, while others feel that school discipline should be
the sole province of school administrators with no room for parental
It should be made clear that this bill is not about
corporal punishment; it is about parental involvement. In fact, 60 of
the state's 115 local school boards have banned corporal punishment.
And at least another dozen already use parental permission procedures
that are included in the bill. The bill simply seeks to extend these
parental permission procedures statewide.
participate in sports or band without parental consent. They cannot go
on school field trips without parental consent. They cannot receive so
much as a Tylenol without parental consent. Yet they can be beaten
without parental consent. This is irony, if not tyranny.
should also be made clear that no groups object to the bill. In fact,
the N.C. Association of Educators (representing teachers) and the N.C.
Parent-Teachers Association strongly support the bill. The NAACP, the
N.C. Pediatric Society and a host of other professional and advocacy
organizations are in strong support as well.
In a democratic
society, we expect our legislators to represent the wishes of their
constituencies. So if teachers support the bill, if parents support the
bill, if virtually all child-serving agencies support the bill, and if
state and local school boards have reviewed the bill and do not object,
who do our senators think they are representing by even considering a
vote against the bill?
If HB 442 does not pass, somewhere in
North Carolina next September a 45-pound first-grade girl could be
beaten with a paddle by a 200-pound male school administrator without
parental consent. It is time to take North Carolina's name off the list
of places where this can happen. Please contact your state senator as
soon as possible and ask that she/he support HB 442.
By Odile Fredericks
Child abuse prevention took a beating Wednesday in North Carolina. That’s when the state Senate rejected a bill
that would require school administrators to tell parents their child
could be paddled at school and allow adults to opt out of corporal
The Senate voted 25-21 against the bill that would
have given parents in the 55 school districts that use corporal
punishment a choice whether to allow their child to be spanked, The
Associated Press reports. Now children in those 55 school districts can
be spanked without their parents’ permission. If I were living in one
of those districts, I’d be sure to contact my legislator to complain.
Here’s why: North Carolina is one of 21 states with a law that permits corporal punishment in public schools but may be the only state that does not monitor
how that punishment is administered, according to Action for Children
North Carolina, a child advocacy group, based in Raleigh.
there is no statewide ban of corporal punishment, Action for Children
North Carolina has called for the practice to be standardized and
monitored. Barbara Bradley, President and CEO of the group, said
Thursday morning the group’s advocates are very disappointed the bill
“We think it’s an issue of number one, parental
rights—parents need to know whether their children are being subjected
to corporal punishment or not and have a say and whether or not that
kind of technique can be used with their children. And number two, we
think that the opportunity for misuse of corporal punishment in very
“Sometimes, in some school districts, they have a grown
male adult administering that kind of punishment to a young girl
without anybody else in the room. Sometimes, it is done very harshly:
We have seen evidence of marks, bruises, all kinds of things coming out
of this, that border of abuse of a child, so we are very concerned
about this issue.”
Spanking is a bad practice in general because it is linked with abuse, according to a study last year by the Injury Prevention Research Center
at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In that survey of
more than 1,400 mothers in North and South Carolina, mothers who said
they or their partners spanked their children in the past year were
nearly three times more likely to say they also doled out harsher
punishments than those who said their children weren’t spanked. We’re
talking beating, burning, kicking, hitting with an object somewhere
other than the buttocks or shaking a child younger than 2.
mothers who spank their kids will do that to their own children, should
we be let strangers spank kids, and on top of it, not monitor them?
By Alexandra Forter Sirota
This week, Action for Children celebrates the career of the nation's most renowned school desegregation attorney, Julius Chambers, by honoring him with the 2009 Children's Lifetime Legacy Award. The award couldn't be timelier.
The nation celebrated the 55th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision just last month. But public debate on the policies of school integration continues unabated both nationally and here in North Carolina. And despite national recognition of the many successes that some of our local school systems have achieved, there is cause for both pride and concern. The moment then is opportune to pause and take stock of the successes and limitations of integration in North Carolina.
We should remember that Julius Chambers began working to dismantle the legal foundations of segregation early in his career. His argument in Swann v. Charlotte Board of Education (1971) that school integration was a necessary means to provide equal access to educational opportunity was a watershed moment in moving Southern schools closer to the promise of Brown. Where that promise has been largely fulfilled, there is strong evidence of positive outcomes. African-American students from desegregated schools are more likely to have higher occupational aspirations and subsequent rational career planning; have higher educational attainment; and are more likely to have desegregated social and professional networks later in life. These long-term effects demonstrate the linchpin role that our educational system plays in the trajectory of our children's lives and their subsequent connection and contribution to communities and economies.
There remain, however, profound challenges to our state, and our nation, in moving us closer to our founding principle of equality. We know that for children to do well they must not only benefit from a sound, basic education but must be supported by their community, enjoy healthy childhoods and have the financial resources necessary to capitalize on their educational achievements. Here again, the structural barriers for children of color, built on a historical legacy of a system of exclusion, serve as a challenge that begins at birth for the nearly 1 million children of color in North Carolina.
Children of color are anywhere from two to five times more likely to lack health insurance than their white counterparts-driven in part by their parent's job benefits. Children without health insurance are more likely to go without preventive care and suffer from the aches and pains of untreated illness that can distract from learning. Children of color are twice as likely to be asset poor -- a product of policies that prohibited property ownership by people of color and stripped assets from those that accumulated anything. Without assets, the ability of children to capitalize on their educational achievements in the early years is hindered as college and university remains unaffordable. Our failure to minimize the impact of these physical and aspirational barriers to achievement explains why children of color are still less likely to graduate from high school than their white classmates in North Carolina.
As North Carolina's school systems struggle with school diversity during a time of deep economic downturn, it is important to remember what is known about public education. It is no less true today than in 1954 or 1971, that separate is not equal. Ensuring that a mix of students from diverse racial, ethnic, and economic background learn together will yield the best results for the most students. The historical legacy of our government's choices looms large today but it is also certainly true in this economic downturn that decisions made today will cast a shadow on future generation's ability to do better than their parents. It is therefore essential that North Carolina not only ensure adequate support and resources for all students, it must also prevent re-segregation of schools and promote residential integration through improvements to housing affordability.
Alexandra Forter Sirota is the director of policy and research at Action for Children North Carolina
By Alexandra Forter Sirota
As national leaders and pundits have sought to assign blame for our
country's current economic crisis, some have oversimplified the role of
decisions made by individuals and institutions. In many cases, people
are simply not equipped to make the crucial financial decisions that
will affect their families.
It's time to take a closer look at how people learn about personal finances and the economy.
young North Carolinians are completely unprepared for the financial
decisions that await them as adults. The average seventh-grader thinks
it is cheaper to purchase an item on credit than to save for it. Our
high school students consistently perform below the national average on
financial literacy assessments, and their performance has actually
declined over time.
North Carolina provides five days of
financial education to students in a high school civics and economics
course, but research indicates that this is too little, too late. A
growing body of evidence suggests that children who learn about
personal finance early and often are more likely to retain financial
concepts and exhibit positive financial behaviors such as saving.
also benefit from hands-on experience -- a finding that makes sense to
those who grew up with Bank at School programs or who remember visits
to their local financial institution to open an account.
North Carolina children, however, benefit from learning about financial
education in the classroom, and fewer still are exposed to a
relationship with a mainstream financial service. It is estimated that
nearly 3 million households in the state are "unbanked" or underbanked,
meaning they do not have any accounts with a mainstream bank or credit
union. Without this experience with a financial institution, it's not
surprising that financial decision-making is compromised.
understand how to change this, look to the burgeoning field of
behavioral economics -- the study of how people make personal financial
According to the latest research, people do not follow
traditional economic models that proscribe rational decision-making in
all matters. Instead, they act in a way that is "predictably
It turns out that not only the way information is
presented, but the prior experience of a person and the influence of
peers can significantly influence financial decisions. This means there
is substantial opportunity for policymakers and institutions to help
people make better financial decisions.
Features that facilitate
good outcomes include automatically signing people up for retirement
plans at work and presenting information that can be translated for
actual use in the comparison of product terms. Incentives can promote
greater saving and orient people to better choices.
line is that managing personal finances is difficult, as more products
and information become available. Tools that can simplify financial
information and orient people to sustainable, positive financial
behaviors are needed now, and needed by everyone.
and other agencies that now provide financial education services in
North Carolina are to be commended, but these services are not
coordinated or universally available. To improve upon current efforts,
elected officials should establish a Financial Literacy Council to
coordinate and implement programs that combine financial and economic
information and experience to increase consumers' understanding of
their relationship to the broader economy. With greater investment and
government support, people will be more prepared for financial success,
and we will establish a more stable economy.
Alexandra Forter Sirota is director of policy and research at Action for Children North Carolina.
By Venita Jenkins
Children advocates are applauding a recent House vote that would give parents more say over paddling in schools.
The state House on Monday approved a bill that would prohibit school
officials from administering corporal punishment if the parent or
guardian had given written notice that it could not be used.
Currently, school officials do not need permission from parents to
administer corporal punishment. Each school system can decide whether
it needs permission from parents or guardians.
The proposed bill, called the Parental Involvement In School
Discipline, also would require school officials to make a reasonable
attempt to notify parents before spanking a student. Local boards of
education would be required to report the use of corporal punishment to
the state Department of Public Instruction.
State law allows local school boards to decide whether paddling is used in a school system.
Fifty-five of the state’s 115 school districts allow paddling. At
least eight require parents to sign forms to exempt their children.
Four counties in the Cape Fear region — Robeson, Hoke, Columbus and Bladen — allow paddling.
Tom Vitaglione, a senior fellow with Action for Children, said the
bill focuses less on paddling and more on parents’ rights. Action for
Children is a Raleigh-based nonprofit child advocacy group.
“We know there are disagreements on the effectiveness of corporal
punishment,” he said. “This is not a ban but seeks permission of the
Vitaglione does not foresee any upcoming legislation that would ban spanking.
“North Carolina isn’t at the point where it would ban corporal punishment,” he said.
In 2007, legislation to spanking in North Carolina public schools failed.
Opponents argued that its use should be decided by local school districts, and that it serves as an option to suspensions.
Vitaglione said he was surprised the more recent bill passed by a large majority vote Monday.
“The 91 to 24 vote is an indicator that we really stuck a cord. The
bill was written the right way and legislators responded,” he said.
Some legislators still had reservations about the bill.
“It’s just one more avenue working towards eliminating corporal
punishment,” Rep. Ronnie Sutton, a Democrat from Robeson County, said
during Monday’s debate on the bill.
Despite his concerns, Sutton voted in favor of the bill.
“Given all the quirks, I still think it’s a move in the right direction,” he said during the debate.
Vitaglione is optimistic that the bill will pass in the Senate.
“The legislators are much attuned to what their constituents want
and to give them as many rights as possible,” he said. “Many parents
use corporal punishment at home, but a very small number is willing to
allow someone else to hit their child.”
Advocacy groups are pleased that the bill would require school
systems to report the use of corporal punishment to the state. At
present there is no reporting requirement.
A national organization seeking to ban spanking in public schools
launched a campaign last year in Robeson County protesting its use in
the North Carolina.
Paula Flowe, the director of The Hitting Stops Here, said the House
action was a step in the right direction but was not a solution.
“The law would only protect those whose parents have said don’t
spank; the ones who have the good sense to not allow someone to beat
their child” she said. “They have simply put a band-aid on it by simply
saying bring a note. But, a band aid is better than nothing. If every
parent signs a note, you can end corporal punishment in North Carolina.”
RALEIGH, N.C. – Gov. Beverly Perdue is seeing — as are her predecessors — how difficult it is to establish and retain a legacy, even those fashioned with catchy names.
Facing one of the state's worst fiscal situations in decades, Perdue's two-year state budget proposal would take a paring knife to the Smart Start and More at Four early childhood education programs championed respectively by former Govs. Jim Hunt and Mike Easley.
And Perdue, a fellow Democrat, would lop off completely the Support Our Students after-school program unveiled 15 years ago by Hunt, Perdue's mentor, that worked with more than 14,000 students last year to keep them out of trouble.
The loss of Support Our Students "could be very, very devastating in some communities," said Sorien Schmidt with the advocacy group Action for Children North Carolina. "It just puts parents in a bind."
Perdue also couldn't begin quite like she wanted on her broad "College Promise" program because there wasn't enough money to begin efforts to make community college tuition free. She instead wants more university financial aid and job-retraining grants for community college students.
With the state struggling to narrow a $3.4 billion budget shortfall next year and political sway transient, it's difficult for a governor to get a pet project started or keep it once out of office.
"Gov. Easley is passionate about More at Four and Gov. Hunt is certainly passionate about Smart Start," said Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, a co-sponsor of a bill introduced this month to merge the two programs just two months after Easley left office. "Maybe we could have afforded both programs before, but now we really can't afford to have one program, much less both."
Perdue's budget proposal last week would eliminate $5.9 million earmarked for Support Our Students, one of more than 20 programs that she said had to go because they were inefficient, too expensive or nonessential.
"The choices are hard," Perdue told reporters in releasing her $21 billion plan for next year. The Legislature will assemble its own budget after looking at Perdue's offer.
Hunt unveiled the SOS concept in 1994. The initiative provides grants to schools, local governments and nonprofits that offer after-school programs in 92 counties designed to help children stay out of trouble while their parents are at work.
Perdue wasn't as willing to make dramatic changes to Smart Start or More at Four, both nationally known programs that have been models for other states.
Smart Start, which gets a little more than $200 million annually, would receive $8.9 million less next year if Perdue gets her way.
Smart Start seeks to improve child care statewide by subsidizing the care of more than 50,000 children, helping teachers improve and assisting child care centers. Parenting classes and health screenings also are provided.
More at Four, which gets $85 million from state lottery profits, would lose $1 million, although the number of at-risk 4-year-olds to attend pre-kindergarten through the program would stay at about 32,000.
Easley persuaded the Legislature to begin the program during the 2001 budget crisis earlier this decade and expand it during his eight years in office. Perdue's budget also expands Easley's Learn and Earn high school reform program.
Owens, who often ran bills on Easley's behalf while he was governor, said Easley would have vetoed any effort to merge More at Four and Smart Start.
But now with Easley gone, 55 of the 120 House members have co-sponsored a bill to consolidate the programs. Supporters say it could save millions of dollars while helping children more effectively.
More at Four is within the Department of Public Instruction, while Smart Start is based in the Department of Health and Human Services and administered through the nonprofit North Carolina Partnership for Children.
"Both programs have been extraordinarily successful in what they've tried to accomplish and I think what the Legislature would be doing here is simply building on the legacy of both of those programs and both governors who proposed them," said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, one of the merger bill's primary sponsors. The partnership would administer More at Four.
Stephanie Fanjul, the partnership's president, said the partnership board has told legislators it's not looking for a consolidation but could assume More at Four as long as there's enough funds to ensure the needed expertise in pre-kindergarten curriculum.
The new governor hasn't said whether she would support a merger. While a state senator, Perdue was a key legislative supporter for Hunt when he unveiled the idea as governor in 1993.
But Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, joked recently that he would throw in an incentive to Perdue to merge the two initiatives.
"Jim Hunt had his name on one, Mike Easley had it on the other," Stam said. "She can call it the 'Perdue Phenomenal Program."'
By: Loretta Boniti
RALEIGH – Despite a commitment from Gov. Bev Perdue to invest in
education in her 2009-2011 budget, some programs will suffer if the
General Assembly approves her plan.
Programs aimed at everyone
from early childhood to high school may feel the pinch as Perdue looks
to trim spending and balance the state's funding shortfall.
example, Smart Start, a program to help children from infancy through
kindergarten with health and education services, may see a budget
reduction of about 4 percent. That adds up to $9 million, and is sure
to make an impact, according to Stephanie Fanjul, with The North
Carolina Partnership for Children.
"[We may] not be able to serve
quite as many children, not be able, for instance, to distribute quite
as many books to at-risk kids, not be able to do as many health
interventions as they might be able to do otherwise," Fanjul said.
said even though this reduction in service will be hard to swallow, it
is doable. She says she hopes lawmakers don't increase the cuts in
their budget proposals.
"We know that education begins at birth,"
Fanjul said. "We know, based on science, that that investment will give
you the greatest return on any other investment you make."
Support Our Students program is on Perdue's list of programs to cut
completely. Advocates say this could be a tough hit for North Carolina
"Middle school and high school students are much more
likely to be getting into trouble or doing what they shouldn't be doing
in those hours after school when they are less supervised by adults,"
Sorien Schmidt, with Action for Children North Carolina, said.
said if Perdue's plan to eliminate Support Our Students goes through,
there could be about 14,000 kids without a place to go after school.
"It will leave them unsupervised and take away some tutoring that they are receiving," Schmidt said.
advocates say proposed funding cuts for specialized programs was not
unexpected, but they are working to make sure the legislature doesn't
make deeper cuts when they proposed their spending proposal later this