Texas IAF Advances EDAP Legislation for Economically Distressed Areas & Continues Push for Restoration of ACE Funding

One month after 300 Texas IAF leaders descended on the Capitol to call for investments in human development, delegations have been visiting the Capitol daily to engage legislators around school finance, the ACE fund, payday lending and infrastructure support for economically distressed areas. 

Legislative allies in the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso crafted a proposed constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of bonds by the Texas Water Development Board for projects in economically distressed areas.  The proposal is almost to the finish line.

With ACE funding already in the draft budget, leaders are working to restore it to its original $10 Million.  When economist Marc Elliot from Economic Mobility delivered a presentation on the effectiveness of the Project QUEST job training model at the Capitol, representatives from over a dozen legislative offices attended. 

The QUEST model is hailed as the hitting on a "formula with a proven track record" and Texas IAF organizations across the state have applied it in Houston, Dallas, Austin, El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley.

Texas ACE Fund Return on InvestmentTexas IAF

Nine Year Gains: Project Quest's Continuing ImpactEconomic Mobility

San Antonio Program Moves Low-Skilled into Middle ClassHouston Chronicle [pdf]

Not All Programs Fade: New Report on Project QUEST RCT Shows Sizable None-Year Earnings Gains for Low-Income WorkersStraight Talk on Evidence [pdf]

Solid Evidence for Career Pathways Out of PovertyCLASP [pdf]


In Fighting for Justice, Andy Sarabia Helped Launch COPS/Metro and the Modern IAF

Growing up in a San Antonio in which pernicious neglect by an Anglo-controlled "Good Government League" left low-income Mexican-American neighborhoods flooded each year, Andy Sarabia helped transform the political landscape of the city and mentor generations of community leaders.  In partnership with Ernesto Cortes, Sarabia not only reshaped the City, he launched COPS/Metro and the modern Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF).   

A civil engineer with the Kelly Airforce Base and active at Holy Family Church, Sarabia was first approached by Cortes after a pastor recommended they meet.  Standing ankle deep in a front yard pool of water after recent rains, he grew agitated when Cortes asked him whether he liked standing in floodwater.  Reflecting on that question, Sarabia decided that he did not like standing in floodwater and went about shifting the racial and class dynamics in San Antonio so that his family and neighbors would not have to stand in floodwater again.   

“Andy was quiet and methodical, the master of checklists with an ability to systematically organize,” says Cortes. “He had a natural talent as a negotiator, to make trade-offs, to reach a deal.”  Sarabia soon found himself at the epicenter of a seismic shift in local politics as Mexican-American congregations began to band together -- not to march in the streets, but for quiet engagement in parish classrooms and union halls to identify barriers that chafed at the dignity of hard-working families.  Through the formation of the broad-based organization Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS), Sarabia worked for the advancement of lower-income families, inducting them into a discipline of careful political research and targeted public action, and thus initiating sweeping structural changes (see Texas Monthly piece from 1977 below).  Monied Anglos were fearful of the changes.  Others, like bank founder Tom Frost, eventually welcomed them.      

As the first president of COPS, Sarabia shaped the culture of the organization.  During the 1970s, change was stirring across the nation, and a generation of young people explored local activism, party politics and candidacy for elected office.  Sarabia believed in institutional change and regularly spurned invitations to run for office.  He created a culture of organizing in which accountability to an institution was required and organizational leadership positions awarded to those that produced results.  At the end of his two-year tenure, he continued to remain active from the sidelines -- mentoring new presidents, coaching first-time public speakers, and reminding subsequent generations of the organization's history and traditions.  

“The most important thing for people to know is that none of the work was ever about him, it was about the betterment of the community, siempre para la gente,” said Linda Ledesma, Sarabia’s widow. “He was compassionate, he was caring, and he wanted justice, but he went about things his way, quietly.”

Sarabia connected the present to the past -- reminding leaders and public officials alike that it took COPS' power to establish successful programs like nationally-renowned Project Quest and the San Antonio Educational Partnership.  The organization he helped establish, now COPS/Metro, has persisted as a powerhouse.  This year, the San Antonio Current recognized it as the only community organization on its top ten list of power brokers.  

COPS’ success led to the creation of over 30 sister organizations throughout Texas and the West / Southwest US, some of which are approaching 35+ years of age.  Andy Sarabia was incredibly adroit with funders, ensuring support for expansion projects in Houston and Dallas through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). 

Even in retirement, Sarabia continued to work with COPS/Metro -- writing op-eds and consulting with newer organizers.  Weeks ago, from his hospice bed, Andy Sarabia watched the COPS/Metro accountability assembly on a NOWCastSA livestream.  As the curtain closed, he called individual leaders, congratulating them on the session and evaluating which of the candidates were most responsive to the organization's concerns.  On election day, he marked his ballot from bed, urging others: "Get out the vote. I am with you in heart and spirit."  Days later he died surrounded by family and friends.    

That is how COPS/Metro leaders remember him: passionate about community and democracy -- and committed to the end.  

*** *** *** 
Services will be held Monday and Tuesday, May 13-14 at Holy Family Church at 152 Florencia Ave. on the West Side.  The 5pm viewing Monday will be followed by a Rosary at 7pm.  Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11am Tuesday, followed by a reception in the parish hall.

The Sarabia Family suggests that in lieu of flowers, a memorial contribution be sent to Holy Family Church (152 Florencia Ave., 78228) and COPS/Metro (1511 Saltillo Street, 78207). 

[Credits: Upper right photo from COPS/Metro archives at UTSA; lower left photo by Carlos Javier Sanchez, San Antonio Express-News; other images provided by COPS/Metro.  Quotes by Cortes and Ledesma first published by the Rivard Report.]

Andy Sarabia, COPS’ First President, Dies at 79Rivard Report [pdf]

Editorial Board: A Man Who Gave Voice to Voiceless, San Antonio Express News [pdf]

Andy Sarabia, 79, Fought for San Antonio's Forsaken and ForgottenSan Antonio Express-News [pdf]

The Second Battle of the AlamoTexas Monthly (1977)

COPS Takes on City HallTexas Observer (1976)

COPS Hold Meet at Frost Bank: Another 'Polite Talk'

Andy Sarabia on Celebrating 40+ Years of Organizing in San Antonio, Rafael Paz Parra [video]


ABQ Interfaith Rises to Challenge of Border Crisis with Charity and Justice

In the face of a growing humanitarian crisis at the border, Albuquerque Interfaith has been at the forefront of a local response, mobilizing institutions to address the immediate needs of recent arrivals and building a longer-term strategy and constituency for systemic change.  For several months, leaders have organized an operation of hundreds of volunteers who are helping welcome thousands of legal refugees / asylees into the US by accepting buses of mostly Central American families into the city.  In Albuquerque, they are greeted with sleeping accommodations, healthy meals, fresh clothing and support to get to their final destinations (in most cases on the East Coast).  Most have completed a multi-month journey through Mexico and would otherwise be dropped off by the US Border Patrol on the streets of El Paso.  With the help of dozens of churches and organizations, most of the refugees / asylees make their transition from Albuquerque within 3-4 days. 

Albuquerque Interfaith leaders are also building a a constituency for a "justice" response to the crisis, engaging city councilmembers, state legislators and US congressional representatives around larger needed changes.  In the short term, leaders are leveraging $250,000 in City funds towards the current relief effort.  Towards the development of a longer-term 21st century system for immigration and refugee re-settlement, leaders have engaged US Senator Martin Heinrich, US Representative Ben Ray Lujan and US Representative Deb Haaland.

This is but one plank of Albuquerque Interfaith's recent work, detailed in the press release further below.  Leaders are simultaneously fighting to protect school-based health centers, address homelessness and mitigate zoning changes that will impact long-time homeowners.            

[Photo Credit: Greg Sorber, Albuquerque Journal]

On Assignment: With the Asylum SeekersAlibi [pdf]

ABQ Organizations Help Asylum SeekersAlbuquerque Journal [pdf]

Albuquerque Interfaith Leaders Key in Addressing High Profile Local Challenges, Albuquerque Interfaith 

Albuquerque Interfaith and Partner Organizations Pack City Council Chambers in Favor of $250,000 Appropriation to Humanitarian Refugee/Asylee CrisisAlbuquerque Interfaith 


Houston Chronicle: Project QUEST Moves Low-Skilled Workers into Middle Class

Business columnist Chris Tomlinson of the Houston Chronicle argues that Project QUEST is the most effective workforce development program in the nation.  Economist Mark Elliot, CEO of the Economic Mobility Corp., had this to say:    

“To see earning differences this large and for this long is unprecedented in the workforce development field.”

In photo above, COPS/Metro leader Sr. Consuelo Tovar fights for local funding of Project QUEST.  [Photo Credit: Kin Man Hui, San Antonio Express-News]  In bottom photos, trainees learn to cradle a newborn and conduct PERRLA evaluations.  [Photo Credit: Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News]

San Antonio Program Moves Low-Skilled into Middle ClassHouston Chronicle [pdf]

Nine Year Gains: Project QUEST's Continuing ImpactEconomic Mobility Corporation [pdf]


New Study Says IAF Workforce Strategy Creates Largest, Sustained Earnings Impact in Nation

Since 1992, IAF labor market intermediaries have put low-income workers into high-paying careers in health care, technology and trades. The Economic Mobility Corporation recently released a 14-year “gold standard” randomized control test of San Antonio’s Project QUEST, the flagship labor market intermediary for the IAF.   

Study authors assert that “Project QUEST has demonstrated the largest, sustained earnings impacts ever found in a rigorous evaluation of a workforce development program. These findings provide conclusive evidence that investing in the skills of low-income workers not only can make a difference, it can move families out of poverty into the middle class.”  

Inspired by the success of Project Quest in San Antonio, IAF leaders have established an additional nine projects in the West and Southwest US: Capital IDEA in Austin; Project ARRIBA in El Paso; VIDA in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas; JobPath in Tucson; NOVA in Northeast Louisiana, Skills-Quest in Dallas; Capital IDEA-Houston; Project IOWA and Arizona Career Pathways.  In 2014, DuPage County United launched its own labor market intermediary, Career Connect Metro West.

Collectively, these institutions have trained and placed tens of thousands of adults in living wage jobs which pay, on average, $40,000 annually plus benefits and a career path.  This number is expected to grow as the West / Southwest IAF expands this strategy further. 

In photos at right, trainees learn to cradle a newborn and conduct PERRLA evaluations at Project QUEST in San Antonio.  [Photo Credit: Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News]

Nine Year Gains: Project QUEST's Continuing ImpactEconomic Mobility Corporation (2019)

San Antonio Program Moves Low-Skilled into Middle ClassHouston Chronicle [pdf]

Not All Programs Fade: New Report on Project QUEST RCT Shows Sizable None-Year Earnings Gains for Low-Income WorkersStraight Talk on Evidence [pdf]

Solid Evidence for Career Pathways Out of PovertyCLASP [pdf


VIP & AZ Interfaith Network Fight for Immigrant DREAMers & Children's Access to Healthcare

Valley Interfaith Project (VIP) and the Arizona Interfaith Network are working with a bipartisan block of state legislators to advance proposals that would reopen pathways to college for immigrants and ensure funding for children's healthcare.

Senate Bill 1217 would reopen a pathway for immigrant college students that had previously been closed by Proposition 300.  Prop 300 prohibits colleges from charging in-state tuition to immigrants if they cannot prove legal residency.  By creating a new tuition category based on graduation from Arizona high schools, SB 1217 would allow immigrants to pay somewhere between current in-state and out-of-state tuition rates.

HB 2514 and SB 1134 would work to eliminate the cap for the Arizona CHIP program (Kids Care), which provides healthcare coverage for children from low-income families not eligible for other state services.  At this time, federal funding is scheduled to decrease by 10% in October of 2019 (and by another 10% in 2020), thus triggering a state cap on funding for KidsCare.  With over 30,000 Arizona children currently uninsured, leaders are working hard to get these bills out of committee and included in state budget negotiations.


Texas IAF Network to State Legislature: 'Invest in People'

Hundreds of Texas IAF leaders bused into the Capitol from El Paso, the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and West Texas, joining Central Texas Interfaith counterparts to call on state legislators to increase spending on adult and K-12 education. 

After a morning briefing on school finance, the Texas Innovative Career Education (ACE) program and other issues -- including Medicaid, payday lending, and infrastructure in the colonias -- leaders were recognized with a House resolution in support of the ACE program. 

300 leaders then convened on the South steps of the Capitol where they were joined by state legislators who pledged to continue working for investments in people.  The following spoke in support of the ACE fund and increased public school funding: Central Texas Representatives Vikki Goodwin, John Bucy, Erin Zwiener, Gina Hinojosa and James Talarico; El Paso area representatives Joe Moody, Mary Gonzalez and Art Fierro; North Texas legislators Victoria Neave, Terry Meza, Julie Johnson, John Turner and Ana Ramos; and from San Antonio, Phillip Cortez.    

In photo above, the Rev. Dr. Rhenel Johnson from TMO (Houston) kicks off the press conference with leaders from San Antonio (COPS/Metro), Dallas Area Interfaith, Central Texas / Austin Interfaith,  West Texas Organizing Strategy (WTOS), El Paso's Border Interfaith & EPISO, and the Rio Grande Valley (Valley Interfaith).  After the press conference, leaders broke out into smaller delegations to meet with legislators representing their geographic regions.   

Organizations Call On State Legislators to Support Adult EducationUnivision 62 [Spanish video] 

Piden a Legisladores Texanos Más Fondos Para Apoyar la Educación de AdultosUnivision 62 

Valley Interfaith: State's Share of School Funding Has Dropped From 50% to Barely 36%Rio Grande Guardian  


Valley Interfaith: State Share of School Funding Dropped from 50% to 36%

[Excerpt below]

BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Over 300 Texas Industrial Area Foundation leaders from across the state will hold a press conference on the south steps of the State Capitol on Thursday.

There, they will call on the House and Senate to invest in families through adult workforce development and public education.  

Among those present will be more than 75 members of Valley Interfaith, which is part of the IAF network. In addition to pushing for adult workforce development and public education, Valley Interfaith members will also call for investment in border colonias.

The Rev. Kevin Collins of St. Eugene Parish in Brownsville is a leader with Valley Interfaith. He said Valley Interfaith wants legislators to increase the state’s overall share of the cost of public education and to increase the per-pupil allotment. 

“Quality public education is a question of a strong Valley economy and quality of life,” Collins said. “The state needs to step up its game and invest more in public education. Property taxes skyrocketed because the state’s share of school funding went from 50 percent to barely 36 percent. The state needs to increase investment to improve the quality of public education in Texas.”

[Photo Credit: Rio Grande Guardian]

Valley Interfaith: State's Share of School Funding Has Dropped From 50% to Barely 36%Rio Grande Guardian

 


NCG Fights for Payday Lending Reform, Sends 4,000 Postcards to Nevada Governor & State Leg

So far in this spring legislative session, 'Nevadans for the Common Good' sent 4,000 postcards to the governor and state legislators in support of $40 million in affordable housing tax credits and a substantial increase in funding for Nevada public schools. 

NCG leaders are furthermore engaged in an impassioned fight with the payday lending industry over passage of SB 201, which would establish a payday lending database that would track short-term, high-interest loans to better protect consumers.  NCG initially sent a delegation of 10 leaders to the Capitol, which met with 17 legislators in one day.  Since then, leaders have communicated their concerns through hundreds of emails and phone calls that included personal stories to legislators about the harmful effects of predatory lending. 

Most recently, 50 leaders attended a midday hearing and delivered powerful testimony about the impact of high-interest loans on families.   Rev. Sandy Johnson with United Methodist Church in Boulder City, spoke on behalf of NCG, sharing that her personal friend experienced great financial difficulties brought on by payday loans.

“If existing state laws were enforced," said Pastor Johnson, "consumers like her would be protected from being trapped in a debt cycle for more than two decades.  The long term economic stability of families should not be undermined if they take out a short-term loan.”

Payday Lending Opponents, Industry Clash in Charged Hearing Over Loan DatabaseNevada Independent 

Payday Lending Industry Could See Rate Caps, Database Under Legislative ProposalsNevada Independent

NCG Leaders Postcard Mailing Party [Video] 


OTOC Persists in Push for Proactive Housing Inspections in Omaha


In advance of a vote that may occur as early as April 2nd, OTOC and the Apartment Owners Association of Nebraska (AAN) intered into negotiation about areas of agreement to jointly present to the City Council and Mayor.  The AAN represents the owners of half the rental properties in Omaha. 

The invitation to negotiate occurred after 40 tenants, landlords, community organizations, social service organizations, pastors organized by OTOC spoke in favor of reform at a four-hour city council hearing on March 12 (in photo above).  OTOC leaders Karen McElroy, Rosie Volkmer, Gloria Austerberry, Dennis Walsh, Susan Kuhlman and Paul Romero laid out a comprehensive narrative that covered the history of substandard property rentals in the city, the failures of the current complaint-based system and the extensive research in support of rental inspection programs.  At the request of City Council members, OTOC submitted recommendations of what ought to be amendments to the Mayor's proposed ordinance.

OTOC leaders urge supporters to continue to pressure their elected representatives to support a system of landlord registration with proactive inspections to ensure that all people have access to healthy homes.

Omaha Tenants Say Inspections Will Make Homes Safer; Landlords Say Rents Will Rise, Omaha World-Herald