WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Yesterday the US Justice Department issued a letter stating that House Bill 2 violates civil rights laws. Today some of our local lawmakers are speaking out.
The Justice Department said that by following the law, the UNC system is violating Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Violence Against Women Act.
So what could that mean for our educational system?
Schools could lose out on federal funding for violating nondiscrimination laws.
Today we spoke with Rep. Frank Iler and Rep. William Brisson on the phone. We also received statementS from Rep. Susi Hamilton, Sen. Jane Smith, and Rep. Chris Millis via email.
Iler, a Brunswick County Republican, calls it an “opinion letter” stating what may happen. He said the laws of North Carolina are supposed to be defended by the Attorney General and said that “apparently that is not the case.” He said he thinks the letter is just a threat.
“They can threaten the university or the funding, but I don’t see how that is going to impact us unless the funding is actually withheld,” Iler said. “I don’t believe any more money is going to leave the schools. We’ve been adding money to the schools, state money and federal money.”
Iler went on to say that if this is more than a threat then it will be something the state will need to defend in court.
Brisson, a Democrat, echos Iler’s thoughts, saying he thinks this letter is an empty threat. He said he supported and voted for House Bill 2 back in March and this letter does not change his stance on the matter. Brisson said the majority of his constituents also support the law.
“Certainly everybody’s concerned and will be until we find out the answer,” said Brisson. “It may not be the answer that they’re looking for right now, but I can assure you they’ll have an answer by their deadline.”
Brisson said that he does not think this letter will force a repeal of House Bill 2.
Millis, a Republican, calls the situation an overreach of the federal government.
“For the Obama administration to blatantly twist the meaning of Federal law passed back in 1964 to advance a harmful agenda that would allow anatomic males and females to exploit the privacy of men, women, and children in bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers is absolutely astounding,” Millis said. “Citizens in our state and across the nation need to pay close attention to this matter as this federal overreach will result in a loss of privacy rights for every citizen in the most intimate of public environments.”
Susi Hamilton, a New Hanover County Democrat, said that Republicans are hurting North Carolina by defending House Bill 2.
“The Governor and Legislative leadership’s rejection of the Department of Justice’s guidance is another attack on public education,” said Hamilton. “They are willing to risk $4.5 billion of public education money.”
Hamilton said House Bill 2 should be repealed now and adds repeal bills have been filed in both the House and Senate including House Bill 946 which Hamilton is the primary sponsor of.
Smith, a Democrat, echoes Hamilton saying in a statement “This is a very serious situation as it puts at risk over one billion dollars of federal funding to our universities. There could also be a loss of funding for our public schools and possibly even to DOT. This is totally unacceptable and the legislature needs to fix it. We cannot allow the harm this would do to our education system.”
We have reached out to Rick Catlin, Ted Davis, Michael Lee, Bill Rabon, and Ken Waddell as well. We have not yet heard back.
We wanted to know just how much funding could be on the line, so we reached out to our area school systems, colleges, and universities to see how much funding the receive from the federal government. Their responses are below:
Pender County Schools: $5,106,926.86 for the 2015-2016 school year
New Hanover County Schools: $16.9 million for the 2015-2016 school year
Brunswick County Schools: $6.9 million for 2015-2016 school year and $2.2 million carryover from last school year
Columbus County Schools: $4,885,454 for 2015-2016 school year
Cape Fear Community College: $16.9 million in federal grand funding for 2014-2015 year and $13.6 million in federal student loans
Bladen Community College: $4,176,526 for the 2014-2015 school year
Southeastern Community College: 5.2 million for the 2015-2016 school year
UNCW: $105.7 million for fiscal year 2015, which includes financial aid
We also reached out to Bladen County Schools and Whiteville City Schools, we have not yet heard back.