Click here for West/Southwest IAF Key Victories in 2021

ABQ Interfaith: State Officials Need to Hold Schools Harmless


New Mexico – and the world – have just been through a natural disaster. Our children, families and schools are recovering slowly, but recovery will take time. Schools are just beginning to understand and evaluate what was lost during the pandemic, and are moving into recovery mode. Now is not the time to nickel-and-dime school budgets, forcing districts and charter schools to choose between laying off educators or cutting spending for the programs that will bring families back.

Albuquerque Interfaith’s 22 member churches, synagogue, schools and nonprofit organizations call on the Legislature and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to fully fund the salary increases approved for teachers and other educators.

We also call on them to allow two more transition years for schools and districts to find the students and families who left during the disaster. The pandemic hit overnight, but it is unfair to families and educators struggling with its impact to expect recovery to happen instantly and without extraordinary resources....

Oped: Governor, Lawmakers Need to Hold NM Schools HarmlessAlbuquerque Journal 

AMOS Conflict Resolution Program Highlighted in Axios

As Des Moines Public Schools shifts disciplinary policy, Axios contrasts the new discipline rules to the “Let’s Talk” conflict resolution strategy that A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS) designed and successfully implemented in Des Moines Middle Schools 8 years ago.


The rules [assigning students involved in fights to virtual learning] are likely to take more students out of classrooms and increase disciplinary disparities among students of color, says Cheryl Hayes, a juvenile justice reform advocate with A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS), a network of metro churches and community groups that runs a mediation program in the district….

Community volunteers [from AMOS] launched the Let's Talk program in three district middle schools eight years ago with one key objective: fix a system that disproportionately disciplines students of color, Hayes, who's also a coordinator for the program, tells Axios.

The district has since expanded the program to nearly all of its 12 middle schools...

Let's Talk is run by AMOS, a network of dozens of metro churches, neighborhood groups and community organizations.

The program helps students resolve conflicts peacefully, and ultimately aims to disrupt the "school-to-prison pipeline" — the link between punishments and the criminal justice system.

Inspiration for the restorative justice program came from "The New Jim Crow," a book about the U.S. legal system and how it has led to the mass incarceration of Black men, Hayes says.

What they do: Volunteer mediators, such as retired judges, go into schools to help resolve student conflicts or other disciplinary issues through discussion.

Oftentimes, mediators help students work through home-life traumas that are a factor in problems surfacing at school, Hayes says.

Program facilitators also assist with cultural awareness training among district educators to help improve teaching and disciplinary practices.

What they're saying: Hayes says organizers believe Let's Talk is a factor in why disciplinary referrals — generally those involving assaults or weapons — were down in grades 6-8 during the first four months of this school year [as reported by Axios, February 2022].

[Photo credit: Let's Talk via Axios]

Reducing Violence in Des Moines Public Schools, Axios [pdf]

AMOS Leaders Testify For Diversity Position at Ankeny IA School District


AMOS (A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy) leaders in Ankeny, Iowa, organized in support of an additional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) position to serve in the Ankeny School District. AMOS pastors Fr. Michael Amadeo, Our Lady's Immaculate Heart, and Pastor Beth Wartick, Resurrection Lutheran Church, provided testimony at the Ankeny school board meeting. AMOS leaders are calling for school board decisions that will support the success of every learner in the district.

[Top photo credit: KCCI News DeMoines]

Ankeny Parents Rally in Support of Diversity HiringKCCI News Des Moines

Fr. Michael Amadeo Testimony, Facebook [video]

Pastor Beth Wartick Testimony, Facebook [video]

OneLA Enrolls 115 in Health Program

Last Sunday, One LA-IAF leaders from Clínica Msr. Oscar A. Romero and La Placita Church worked together to enroll over 115 low-income residents into healthcare programs including My Health LA and Med-Cal. Many of these undocumented seniors will now have access to healthcare services in Los Angeles County for the first time.

My Health LA is a program that was created with the support of One LA-IAF to allow low-income and undocumented immigrants to access health services in Los Angeles County.

CTI Partners with Huston-Tillotson for Conference in Support of Funding for Historically Black Colleges & Universities

Central Texas Interfaith (CTI) collaborated with Huston-Tillotson University for the first Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) conference in Texas.  In the conference, CTI organizers and leaders worked with students to tell stories and challenge state legislators to identify funding for the colleges.  

[In photos: right, Robert Ceresa, Doug Greco (CTI lead organizer) and Theodore Francis, credit Aaron E. Martinez, Austin American-Statesman; Left, students, top to bottom, Jeffrey Clemmons and Marcus Workman; Aja Fulton; Caleb Brizuela.]

Texas HBCU’s Hold Statewide Conference At Huston-Tillotson to Address Funding Inequities, Austin American-Statesman [pdf]


Neighborhood Walk Confirms Suspicions about Housing, NCG Works with County to Address Shortage


When going around to speak with neighbors in the downtown area recently, Pastor Paul Hansen started knocking on doors at a small, six-unit complex that usually rented for less than $1,000 a month. 

As a member of Nevadans for the Common Good, a faith-based coalition that organizes around social justice issues including housing affordability, he was hoping to speak with renters about what’s happening in their neighborhood, which included collecting their thoughts about changes at nearby school John S. Park Elementary.

“We asked the first unit if the residence had any school-aged children,” he said. “They told us no they were just short term vacation renters – tourists.”

As it turned out, every unit in the building, as well as the six-unit building next door, was occupied by short-term renters visiting....

At a time where rents are rising to unaffordable rates and housing stock is scarce, Barbara Paulsen, who leads Nevadans for the Common Good, said the volume of short-term rentals is eating into the already limited supply of affordable housing. 

“At least 10,000 homes on the market are short term vacation rentals or Airbnb, which might be good for tourists but not long term renters and buyers – our teachers, nurses and hospitality workers and many others,” she said.

Paulsen joined members of the faith coalition Wednesday to speak with Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones about regulating short-term rentals, building affordable housing and increasing protections for renters.  

[Photo Credit: Michael Lyle, Nevada Current]

Faith-Based Group Urges Clark County to Do More to Address Housing CrisisNevada Current 



National Catholic Reporter Spotlights EPISO's Preparation of 222 to Lead Synodal Conversations in El Paso


In preparation for the synod, EPISO/Border Interfaith and Bishop Mark Seitz of the El Paso Catholic Diocese convened 222 ministry leaders from 39 parishes for two days of training in how to lead effective conversations.   

Sponsored by CCHD, Mission & Ministry Impact, EPISO/Border Interfaith, and Organizers Institute, Recognizing the Stranger prepares trainees to put their faith in action through institutional organizing practices designed to strengthen their parishes.  Teachings from Ezra and Nehemiah were recently integrated to support synodal strategies. 


In the colonias, or unincorporated communities, surrounding El Paso, Texas, volunteers are knocking on doors, asking residents how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted them, and how the church can help them regroup and get back on their feet.

"It takes a lot of initiative to meet with people who aren't already in your [social and church] circles," said Surya Kalra, a lead organizer with the El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization, which is working with the Diocese of El Paso to listen to local voices for the synod.

"If you're doing a consultation with the people who are already in the pews, who are already coming to church, that's great, and helpful," Kalra told NCR. "The difficult part is figuring out how to reach out to people we don't see [in church], who used to be here, or would be here if we were different. That requires much more persistence and creativity."

Pope Francis Says Synod Should Hear 'Excluded' VoicesNational Catholic Reporter [pdf] [pdf]

Recognizing the Stranger Draws 123 Leaders in Galveston-Houston Area


Bishop_Dell'Oro_with_TMO_(1).jpgOrganized by The Metropolitan Organization of Houston (TMO), 123 participants were joined by Bishop Italo Dell'Oro of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston for a two-day 'Recognizing the Stranger' training.  Ministry leaders from 21 parishes of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston participated, as did leaders from the Diocese of Beaumont. 

Recognizing the Stranger training equips immigrant parish leaders with the skills needed to make connections within immigrant communities and with non-immigrant allies, applying the tools of organizing to address issues facing their congregations and communities.

Training sponsors include the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Mission & Ministry Impact, Gulf Coast Leadership Council and the Organizers Institute.

In photo at right, Bishop Italo Dell-Oro recognizes TMO for teaching ministry leaders listening skills through house meetings, particularly with people on the periphery.  

VOICE OKC Condemns Oklahoma Corporation Commission As Utilities Saddle Ratepayers with Storm Costs

As states grapple with the repercussions of last year's severe winter storms, VOICE-OKC condemns a related Oklahoma Corporation Commission decision. With only one dissent, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission approved a plan from Oklahoma utility companies to recover costs for the February 2021 winter storm by transferring them to residents over decades.


The dissenting opinion comes from the one corporation commissioner who voted against the utility plans.

Bob Anthony, who wrote the dissenting opinion, is saying “Oklahoma rate payers deserve an explanation.” In the filing he also asks “why are resulting energy costs so shockingly high and who pays how much?”...

“We are being stuck with the bill for that and getting nothing in return,” Nick Singer [with the VOICE Coalition] said. “There’s nothing that is requiring these companies now to invest in infrastructure to prepare for future cold weather or natural disasters.”

[Photo credit: KFOR]

Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner issues dissenting opinion on winter storm cost recovery plans for Oklahoma companiesKFOR News [pdf]


Together Louisiana Fights to Keep Corporate Tax Breaks in Check


Together Louisiana is pressing for a bill that would retain local government say in the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), the corporate tax break that has cost local communities billions in past tax revenues. 


Stephanie Riegel, a former journalist who is working for Citizen Voice, the advocacy arm of Together Louisiana, to push the bill, said there’s no evidence Louisiana is losing jobs over the changes made by [Gov.] Edwards, while locals are indisputably seeing more money flowing into their coffers. The governor’s changes allowed locals to keep 20% of tax revenue from new investments; industry gets an 80% exemption, down from 100% previously. It also gives local governments the ability to approve or reject exemption requests, where previously that authority rested wholly with the state Board of Commerce and Industry, whose members are appointed by the governor.

A Together Louisiana analysis found property tax revenue statewide increased by at least $262 million from 2016 to 2021, money that went to schools, law enforcement and other local services. The figures are preliminary and based on a review of about 90% of the exemptions over that period, meaning it’s likely a conservative estimate.