State News

At NC town hall, Obama says working families deserve support

Posted April 15, 2015 5:09 p.m. EDT
Updated April 15, 2015 7:10 p.m. EDT

— Helping working families get quality child care is a good investment in the country's overall economic health, President Barack Obama told an audience gathered Wednesday in downtown Charlotte.

The president said during the town hall at the ImaginOn educational library that helping families pay good caregivers to watch their children while they work helps ensure that those children become responsible, tax-paying adults. Obama said that the average cost of child care in North Carolina is about $16,000 per year.

"This should be one of our top budget priorities," Obama said in response to a Charlotte mother who said state Republicans had eliminated a tax credit she used to receive for child care. "Your son, if he's doing well, that means he's paying taxes, that means he's contributing to society. He's staying out of trouble. That's a good investment for me ... and we can afford this."

This week, the president is using Tax Day to draw attention to tax proposals that haven't been embraced by congressional Republican leaders, saying his plan would cut taxes for 44 million Americans.

The president also fielded questions about assistance for small businesses and pushing states to pay teachers more during the meeting, which was moderated by Lisa Stone, one of the founders of BlogHer, an online community that says it was created to give women a voice on a variety of topics.

Obama was introduced by Diana Jolly, a social worker in Mecklenberg County, where Charlotte is located. Jolly said she had written to Obama to talk about the need for better resources for working women and their families.

"As part of the middle class, I know how it feels to work hard every day," Obama read from Jolly's letter.

"When women succeed here in America, the whole country succeeds," Obama said.

A female blogger from Morrisville said she made more than her husband, who is a public school teacher, and asked how the federal government could help states increase teacher salaries.

"My sister was a teacher, so I know how little she got paid. It's hard to support a family," Obama said, pointing out that some countries pay teachers as much as doctors and other professionals. "We've just got to put more pressure on states."

Obama said North Carolina used to have more economic success because of an emphasis on education but now, as many other states, doesn't pay teachers as highly.

"(School) funding now, here in this state, and teacher pay is ranking as low as it gets," he said. "Part of it is just pointing that out and hopefully understanding that this shouldn't be a partisan issue."

Gov. Pat McCrory said Obama mischaracterized the state's commitment to education.

"I was disappointed to learn that the President used a portion of his quick visit today to unfairly and incorrectly malign our education system," McCrory said in a statement, pointing out a hefty raise for starting teachers that was included in last year's budget and declining dropout rates.

"I would urge the President in the future to stick with the facts and refrain from 'editorializing' on a quick trip funded by taxpayers," he said. "I invite the President to come back and spend some time to visit our great universities, community colleges and K-12 schools so he can see our successes firsthand."

Obama has visited North Carolina several times in recent years, making a handful of trips here in 2013 and 2014. Last month, he made his first trip to South Carolina since his 2008 election.