Editor’s note: N.C. Policy Watch is chatting with some of the newest members of the N.C. General Assembly to offer a bit more insight on who they are and what they plan on doing this session in Raleigh. Today we introduce readers to state Rep. Cynthia Ball.
Name: Cynthia Ball
Lives in: Raleigh, NC
From: Franklinton, NC
Family: Married to Dr. David E. Aspnes, Distinguished University Professor of Physics, NC State University. Step-mother to 2 sons and 1 daughter, and grandmother to 6.
Campaign website: cynthiafornc.com
Hobbies: gardening; learning about Mid-Century Modern architecture and furnishings and collecting representative items for our home; finding and being rescued by wonderful furry friends and helping others do the same.
Previous elected offices? None
Why did you run for office?
Thanks to wise leaders who understood the value of finding common ground to address the challenges our society faces, I grew up in a North Carolina with strong public schools and the greatest public universities in the world, where my father’s small business could thrive, and our state’s natural beauty was protected. Unfortunately, in recent years the state we love has fallen behind. Rather than continuing to invest in our children’s future, legislators have too frequently pursued policies that discriminate, jeopardize our economy, and hurt our state’s reputation.
I have always been an active North Carolina citizen, but I only considered running for office last year. I believed that with my background in mediation, I could help find common ground and restore common sense to our legislature. Most importantly, I ran for office to serve the people of North Carolina and represent my community in the House of Representatives.
What do you think will be the biggest issue at the legislature this year?
Redrawing our state’s 170 legislative districts will be a top priority of the General Assembly over the next few months, and I pledge now as I did during the campaign to push to implement an independent, non-partisan redistricting process in North Carolina. The types of racial and political gerrymandering used to draw our current districts has increased partisanship, given little incentive for finding common ground, and made it nearly impossible to hold our leaders accountable. Over the years, both parties have used gerrymandering to unfairly disenfranchise North Carolinians, leaving out North Carolinians who deserve to choose their representatives, instead allowing legislators choose their voters. I am working hard to have other leaders join me in placing state above party by supporting independent, non-partisan redistricting.
And, I believe we must find the bi-partisan political will to relieve the unfair burden of taxes and fees on the middle class and small businesses by transferring a fairer share of the burden to the wealthy and large corporations. We cannot afford another tax cut that is really not a cut, but a re-distribution of the burden through new sales taxes and fees. We need more resources, not less, and we must not depend on these hidden taxes and fees that disproportionately affect lower and middle income families to fill a gap created by unbalanced tax cuts.
What’s one specific campaign promise that you’d like to deliver on?
Throughout the campaign, teachers, parents, and families from across the district repeatedly shared with me one top priority: to properly value our public schools by restoring per-pupil funding to pre-recession levels and raising teacher pay to the national average. I am proud that our new Governor has committed to these goals, and I will be most proud to vote for a budget that includes significant investments in our children’s future.
Do you support a full repeal of House Bill 2? Why or why not?
I support a full repeal of HB2. HB2 was passed without input from stakeholders and without the transparency needed for a government to earn the respect of the governed. It has wreaked havoc on our economy and national reputation. I am optimistic that, with leadership from Governor Roy Cooper, our legislators can work to find common ground and repeal HB2 in full during this session.
How do you feel about the minimum wage in North Carolina ($7.25 an hour)? Should it be raised or kept the same?
North Carolina’s economy is slowly recovering from the Great Recession, but because of new burdensome tax policies, many working families have yet to see any real improvement in their take-home income. New taxes and fees on services have taken away any small tax cut that was promised; meanwhile, rent, healthcare, and other costs of living have increased rapidly, especially in our major cities. The federal minimum wage was intended to be high enough so that no one working 40 hours every week would live in poverty, and in many places in North Carolina $7.25 is not a living wage. Local county and city governments must have the ability to respond to rising costs of living by raising the minimum wage to a living wage.
Is the state’s funding for public education enough?
No, it is not! North Carolina trains and employs some of the greatest teachers in the nation, but for the past several years we have consistently ranked near the bottom in per pupil funding and teacher pay compared to other states. Not that long ago, under Gov. Jim Hunt, North Carolina ranked 26th in teacher pay and still supported a vibrant economy and maintained low taxes. We can and must do better.
What changes do you think need to be made in the public education system?
First and foremost, we need to raise our teacher pay to the national average and restore per pupil funding to pre-recession levels. This will help our schools recruit the best new teachers and keep the exceptional educators already working hard in our public schools. Higher per-pupil funding will also allow our schools to keep student-teacher ratios low and ensure that each classroom is sufficiently supplied.
Second, we need to reevaluate our state’s long-term strategy to strengthen underperforming schools. Our school grading system should reward schools that demonstrate measured and consistent growth, rather than incite constant turnover in personnel and leadership.
Third, we must invest more in pre-K programs. Early intervention is the best predictor of student success as shown in study after study, so we should increase funding for SmartStart and other programs that give young children a better start at learning.
Fourth, we need to increase the oversight of and requirement for transparency in our charter schools and ensure that more and more resources are not removed from our public school system’s budget to support the privatization of our children’s education. School choice is important, but should not mean starving our public schools. Instead, we must provide sufficient resources for the special needs of students within our system.
What leader do you look up to the most? Why?
The Honorable James B. Hunt, Jr., former Governor of NC. Gov. Hunt was a Champion of Education as an early proponent of teaching standards and early childhood education (for example, Smart Start). He also promoted technology based economic development which helped attract new businesses to our State, making it one of the best places to live in the US. I admire what he did while Governor, and I believe that his strong leadership continues to make NC better. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his continued passionate and effective advocacy for education, economic development, and equality.
Name your pet peeve:
My English teachers over the years would be proud to know that I am irked by many grammatical mistakes that are frequently made (e.g. “It’s important to my constituents and I.”).
Rep. Cynthia Ball
NC House of Representatives
1319 Legislative Building
16 W. Jones Street
Raleigh, NC 27601-1096