By L. A. Williams
Christian Action League
June 14, 2013
RALEIGH — State lawmakers this past week took steps to give schoolchildren more privileges and convicted killers on death row at least one less, with the House-approved budget including funding for Opportunity Scholarships and the final Senate vote to repeal the controversial Racial Justice Act.
“We’re particularly glad to see the House keep Opportunity Scholarships in the budget and trust that lawmakers will show wisdom by letting it stay in as lawmakers try to reconcile the House and Senate spending plans,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Families need options when it comes to education.”
Even the new chairman of North Carolina’s State Board of Education said earlier this month that he supports providing public money for students from low-income families to attend private or parochial schools.
“I’m for it personally, because I don’t believe one size fits all in education,” Bill Cobey told the media. “Most people of any amount of money have school choice, but if you’re in a particular zip code and particularly in an urban area and you’re poor, you don’t have a choice.”
The budget proposal approved Thursday by the House earmarks $48 million over two years for scholarships of up to $4,200 annually per student. Initial funding would go only to those who already qualify for reduced price lunches. Although some lawmakers argued that the move would take money from the public schools, supporters pointed out that the plan should save taxpayers since state and local governments have been spending more than $6,700 per student annually.
In other education news, Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law this week the Back to Basics Bill, H 146, which is to ensure that public school students are taught cursive writing and memorization of multiplication tables as part of the state’s curriculum.
Also headed to the governor’s desk is S 306, Capital Punishment/Amendments, which is expected to clear the way for executions once again to begin in North Carolina.
Although state law has long included capital punishment, a de facto moratorium on the sentence was created when medical organizations threatened to censure doctors who took part in executions and when the Racial Justice Act was passed in 2009, allowing death row defendants to have their sentences commuted to life without parole, if they could prove statistically that race might have been a factor in jury selection or other aspects of their trials. The law, the only one of its kind in the nation, led to appeals from some 152 of 156 death row inmates, including some white killers of white victims with white juries.
Lawmakers rolled back some provisions of the RJA last session, narrowing the statistics that could be used in appeals. Senate Bill 306 repealed the rest of the RJA, while affirming the many avenues of appeal that capital case defendants already have via the Constitution. The bill also codified a N.C. Supreme Court ruling affirming the rights of medical professionals to take part in executions without fear of censure.
“Certainly racism has no place in the judicial system, nor do laws that allow convicted killers to ‘play the race card’ in order to escape justice,” Dr. Creech said.
The Senate voted to concur with the House version of the bill this week, sending it on to the governor, who is expected to sign it.