Posted by: Gordon on 1/31/2014
MORE2 "wants the state to give district leaders here in Kansas City more time," KSHB-41 NBC news reported last night, after the affiliate, along with Missouri Communities United, MCU, release a report and testified before a state board yesterday on the issue of what to do about unaccredited school districts in Missouri. The district should be given another year to get on track, affiliates recommended.

The leading alternative proposal, from an Indiana-based outfit called CEE Trust, suggests dissolving the district, which has been unaccredited for two years. A couple months ago MORE2 filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Missouri state board of education that raised questions about the process by which CEE Trust obtained a contract from the state to present its proposal. In addition to these questions, leaders from MORE2 and MCU have serious concerns about the validity of the report.

"We would never be against new ideas and solutions but we must question them if the process that led to recommendations is tainted," leader Jan Parks told a state hearing last night. The Kansas City Star headlined its paper with the issue today.

Yesterday the leaders presented an analysis of the competing proposal, while recommending the district, which has been on path to improving on measures such as test scores, be given a year to get back to accredited status. A copy of their response to CEE Trust's proposal is available here and here is a list of other news coverage of the report this morning:

St. Louis Post Dispatch
St. Louis Public Radio
KBIA Public Radio
St. Louis Beacon (copy of MCU report on Scribd)
Posted by: Gordon on 1/28/2014
SOTULeaders from Gamaliel’s Milwaukee affiliate, MICAH, appeared with the president when he traveled to Waukesha, Wisc. and from its Pittsburgh affiliate, PIIN, in West Mifflin, Pa. today in support of jobs proposals he outlined in the State of the Union speech.

In particular, leaders of Gamaliel – the Chicago-based, faith-oriented group with which President Obama cut his teeth as a community organizer in the 1990swere excited about the president's plans to increase the minimum wage for all federal contractors, and plans to take action on regulations on issues where Congress cannot or will not make progress.

"Whenever and wherever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that is what I am going to do," the President said.

Gamaliel has advocated since last fall for regulatory changes to encourage construction firms to hire lower-income women and people of color to build innovative public transit, water treatment and other projects that address the nation’s infrastructure deficit and prepare the country for climate change--Gamaliel's Jobs for All Campaign.

Current rules rely on construction companies to demonstrate good-faith efforts in hiring women and people of color instead of establishing formal plans. The rules recommend participation targets based on Census details about population makeup that is out of date. For example, the government recommends construction contractors offer about 7 percent of available positions in their projects to women, a figure set in 1980.

Most observers agree the U.S. needs to invest billions to update and render more sustainable the country’s bridges, roads and transit, water and sewer systems in the coming decade. In 2013 alone new projects got under way or into planning stages, such as sewer improvements in St. Louis, regional transit to the tune of $475 million in Pittsburgh, and planning for high-speed-rail in Springfield, Ill. and a $240 billion investment (through 2040) in transit in the Bay Area, part of California’s Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection initiative.

Because federal tax dollars and federal contract rules support nearly all construction projects, Gamaliel and other advocates want President Obama to introduce policies to update those contract regulations, which are overseen by a Department of Labor agency, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, OFCCP. The advocates also seek updated apprenticeship policies from the Labor Department, and want the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to monitor public housing improvements to ensure area residents have a fair shot at jobs, as already required by law.

Last fall, officials in the Obama administration said they would move forward on all three, but progress stalled. “We’re hoping for changes to these regulations this year,” Garcia-Ashley said. “This will create new jobs, modernize the country, and strengthen the economy.”

“Building more bridges and transit can pull our communities into the 21st century,” says Gamaliel Executive Director Ana Garcia-Ashley. “We can create good jobs that offer opportunities to the people who need the jobs most, and get it done efficiently. That’s our triple bottom line.”
Posted by: Gordon on 1/16/2014
ACTION of Lansing poster

A speech by former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and celebration of local leaders by MOSES in Detroit and ACTION in Lansing, Michigan, a prayer vigil to help kick off a campaign to clean up employment practices at healthcare giant UPMC in Pittsburgh are just a few of the actions and events Gamaliel affiliates plan Monday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Pittsburgh UNITED, a coalition in which PIIN participated, recently issued a report on UPMC called Unhealthy Choices that found in part:

Thousands of these [service] employees work full-time jobs without any hope of earning enough to sustain their families, let alone enough to improve their economic standing over time.” “While UPMC has assumed US Steel’s place as occupant of Pittsburgh’s tallest building and as our biggest employer, it has not taken on the steel industry’s role as a creator of prosperity for working people.

Meanwhile, Metropolitan Communities Unitedd and Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, in St. Louis and Kansas City, respectively, continue to speak out on behalf of families and teachers for a plan that will serve, not experiment on, the children in Missouri's largest urban school districts. (if you are just catching up to this story, read Tuesday's piece in Kansas City Star here and a blog on education policy that lays out the issues clearly here. More developments expected this coming week on this issue.

As each year, King Day will be an exciting day, and week, across the country!
Posted by: Gordon on 1/9/2014

Good news today from the U.S. Department of Education -- new guidance from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan underscores the need for schools to administer student discipline in ways that do not discriminate on the basis of race.

Restraint and seclusion of students, particularly students with disabilities, as well as instituting programs that help to keep kids in school instead of zero-tolerance, are among strategies and policy Gamaliel affiliates have advocated.

"It is going in the right direction and it has many positive things that I agree with," says Deb Opramolla, a board member at Gamaliel affiliate ABLE New Hampshire. "It did not mention restraint and seclusion outright, which is our issue, [but] it’s saying that more positive methods need to be used." Opramolla has been among a group of leaders supporting federal legislation that would limit the ability of schools to restrain children for discipline reasons. 

Another strand of Gamaliel affiliates' work around education has been to keep students in school in order to reduce violence in surrounding communities, and keep our children out of prison. Gamaliel of Metro Chicago has been working with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on a program to reduce violence in communities, while other affiliates have created and won funding for programs that mitigate or end zero-tolerance policies and provide support for kids to stay in school.

"We look forward to these procedures and this direction, but it still doesn't solve the school to prison pipeline,” says Rev. David Bigsby of Gamaliel of Metro Chicago. "It is, however, a step in the right direction."

(Photo by Emory Maiden CC BY-NC)
Posted by: Gordon on 1/3/2014
By Ana Garcia Ashley, Gamaliel Executive Director

I’ve spent much of the last two weeks celebrating the Christmas season with family and friends. I’ve heard the story again of the young, working-class family seeking shelter, of the innkeeper who opened the door and found room for them, and of the angels who shared their story and proclaimed good news and peace to the poor yet hard-working shepherds.

Next week I will be back on the road, traveling to work with Gamaliel affiliates in Chicago, Youngstown and Milwaukee. For approximately 325,000 people in these three states alone, however, the news is not good.

Emergency unemployment compensation expired for half of them just three days after Christmas, because Congress left Washington to spend time with their families without extending this important benefit program. Benefits will expire for the other half during the next six months. The unemployed in those three states are just a small number of all those affected across the country--1.3 million already, and twice that many as benefits continue to expire in the first half of 2014.

Congress needs to reinstate unemployment compensation.

I'll be speaking about this and calling on members of Congress to do so in each city I visit. Even better, next week Metropolitan Congregations United in St. Louis and other affiliates elsewhere plan actions to urge U.S. Senators to extend unemployment. MCU President Jim Sahaida and the Rev. Jonathan Stratton of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri will be at the the city’s job training center for a special religious service calling on Congress to immediately reauthorize federal jobless aid.

This infographic our partners at National Employment Law Project put out just before the holiday helps sum it up:

unemployment benefits infographic
The story does not end with those who lose this support. Their states’ economies will suffer, because jobless Americans tend to spend their unemployment insurance right away for food, housing, and transportation. As unemployment insurance ends for families across the country, the effect will be felt all through the economy.

Early calculations indicate that in the week since EUC expired, the national economy has taken a $400 million hit because of lost revenues; and the Congressional Budget Office predicts more job loss as a result.
Congress can deliver a better ending to this story, and it starts with a “yes” vote to reinstate unemployment benefits to the millions of hard-working Americans.  Then, we can finally get down to the business of rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and sluggish economy and put people back to work in career-path jobs.

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