Policy Points

10.11.2009 Policy Points Comments Off on North Carolina’s Green Economy

North Carolina’s Green Economy

A recent study commissioned by the National Governors Association analyzed the size and scope of the “green economy” in each of the 50 states. For the purposes of the study, the green economy was defined as businesses that produce products or services that provide alternatives to carbon-based energy, conserve the use of resources, or reduce pollution and waste.

As the graph (below) illustrates, North Carolina’s economy enjoys competitive advantages in the areas of energy infrastructure, sustainable agriculture,, energy efficiency, alternative transportation, and water management.  In all of these green fields, North Carolina has experienced an increasing concentration of employment opportunities since 1995.

clean energy

09.11.2009 Policy Points Comments Off on Improving Correctional Education

Improving Correctional Education

A new policy brief from the Working Poor Families Project proposes ways to improve the educational programs offered to adult inmates of state prisons. Argues the brief:

Inmates in state prisons have significantly lower levels of
educational attainment than the general population. About 40
percent of state prison inmates lack a high school diploma or
GED5 compared to 13.7 percent of all adults ages 18 to 64.6 Only
11 percent of state inmates have taken any college-level or
postsecondary vocational classes.7 According to results from the
National Adult Literacy Survey, prisoners also have a
substantially lower level of literacy than the U.S. population as a
whole.8 Prior to incarceration, prison inmates are more likely
than the general population to be unemployed and to be living in
poverty.9

Inmates in state prisons have significantly lower levels of educational attainment than the general population. About 40 percent of state prison inmates lack a high school diploma or GED5 compared to 13.7 percent of all adults ages 18 to 64. Only11 percent of state inmates have taken any college-level or postsecondary vocational classes. According to results from the National Adult Literacy Survey, prisoners also have a substantially lower level of literacy than the U.S. population as a whole. Prior to incarceration, prison inmates are more likely than the general population to be unemployed and to be living in poverty.

Educational programming has been a part of the U.S. prison system throughout its history. Support for prison education programs reached its peak during the 1970s when policymakers viewed education as an important part of prisoners’ rehabilitation. However, support among policymakers and the public waned in the 1980s and funding for education in prisons underwent significant cuts.

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06.11.2009 Policy Points Comments Off on National Employment Report: Oct.

National Employment Report: Oct.

This morning, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the national employment report for the month of October.

Both the commissioner’s statement on the October payroll and household surveys and the full employment situation report are available for online viewing.

06.11.2009 Policy Points Comments Off on Amtrak Costs: National + NC

Amtrak Costs: National + NC

It is no secret that the United States lacks a robust inter-city rail system, even in regions of the country where the population densities exist to support such services. Instead, the U.S. provides inter-city rail through Amtrak, a hodgepodge system made up of a higher-speed  rail line in the Northeast (Acela), a mix of state-supported regional services like North Carolina’s Piedmont, and a smattering of long-distance routes like the Sunset Limited running between New Orleans and Los Angeles).

Like all forms of public transportation in the United States, Amtrak’s routes require public subsidies to operate, thought the exact size those subsidies has proven controversial and difficult to compute. In response, Subsidy Scope,a project of the Pew Charitable Trusts, has attempted to comprehensively measure those costs (though not any of the benefits, such as environmental impacts).

According to the study, when the costs of depreciation are included, 41 of Amtrak’s 44 routes lost money in 2008. The greatest losses, and therefore the greatest subsidies, were incurred by long-distance routes like the California Zephyr, which runs between Chicago and San Francisco and lost $193 per passenger in 2008. At the other extreme, the higher-speed Acela line running between Boston and Washington made $41 per passenger.
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05.11.2009 Policy Points Comments Off on Strengthening Community Colleges

Strengthening Community Colleges

Writing in the November issue of The American Prospect, Thomas Bailey and Jim Jacobs of the Community College Research Center ask if community colleges can rise to their potential in the midst of a recession. Among those challenges is a need to pay more attention to non-credit occupational programs. Say Bailey and Jacobs:

Community colleges also need to clarify their role in the changing occupational landscape. What is the future role of a two-year occupational degree or a shorter-term certificate? At least colleges must improve the connections between credit and non-credit programs to widen opportunities for students in the booming non-credit work-force arena. And community colleges need to strengthen their relationships to four-year colleges to make transfer more effective. Some states are allowing community colleges to confer a limited number of bachelor’s degrees, and many colleges have invited four-year colleges to give courses on their campuses ….