With the state of Louisiana continuing to reel from the impact of the coronavirus, parent and community leaders of Together Louisiana are calling on Congress to invest the funds needed to safely reopen schools. Parents and teachers worry that students' return to in-person classes without necessary health and safety precautions will spread the virus further and expose people with pre-existing conditions to lethal risk.
Building on online civic academies with experts including Tulane epidemiologist Dr. Hassig and Danielle Allen of Harvard University, leaders are turning to Congress to finance the cost of ensuring health safety at schools. Measures proposed by Together Louisiana include funding to:
- bridge the digital divide with school districts providing broadband internet free of charge for every public school student who needs it;
- hire more teachers, aids & tutors to decrease class size for districts where contagion levels make in-person school safe;
- make a "pod school" model accessible to low and moderate- income families, not just the wealthy, for districts where in-person school is *not* safe;
- build in-school testing capacity with same-day-results, so that EVERY child gets tested before school starts and periodically throughout the year;
- extra bus routes and drivers to allow for social distancing in transit; and
- create a school-based contact tracing operation, with adoption of masks and where appropriate, PPE.
In a budget process that the Houston Chronicle says "devolved into a clash of wills," TMO clergy and leaders leveraged a major wage win for workers: $14 per hour for 3,000+ of the lowest paid employees in the Houston Independent School District, employees who keep children safe, nourished, and schools clean.
In testimony to the HISD Board, Deacon Sam Dunning, Director of the Office of Peace and Justice in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston argued: "A budget is a moral document...it is time to treat all workers with dignity."
Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis of Northside Episcopal Church argued, "There is a price to be paid for allocating funds that is not equitable to all classes and that price will be paid by your hourly workers and their family members... in the form of hunger, inadequate housing, anxiety, fear and stress." Rev. Jimmy Grace of St. Andrew’s Episcopal, Rev. Darrel Lewis of New Pleasant Grove Baptist, Rev. Jacqueline Hailey of New Hope Baptist, Rev. Rhenel Johnson of St. Andrew's UMC and Chava Gal-Orr from Temple Sinai spoke at Board meetings and press conferences as well.
This spring, TMO was part of a delegation of 300 Texas IAF leaders that called on state legislators to increase spending in public education in order to retain the talent upon which public schools rely. After passage of HB3, which put millions of dollars into public schools across the state, TMO leaders worked locally to make sure Houston Independent School District used its funds for the lowest paid workers.
[Photo Credit: Top photos from footage by Univision]
Houston ISD Trustees Approve $1.9 Billion Budget, Houston Chronicle
Video of clergy statements [first skip to 14:33 and then to 19:05]
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.
Colorado IAF is standing with teachers as they negotiate with the Denver Public School District to improve teacher compensation and classroom conditions. After a winter assembly, in which hundreds of Colorado IAF leaders challenged school board members to stand with teachers, many elected officials publicly declared their support, including a Colorado State Senator, Denver Public Schools Boardmember and local City Councilmember.
When the Governor announced his intent to stay out of the fight, Colorado IAF leaders commended him for "respecting the right of educators in Denver to strike if necessary."
Teachers propose that the district address turnover by eliminating the School Performance Framework rating system, decreasing one-time pay incentives and increasing salaries for all teachers. As the school district has, so far, failed to concede, leaders and teachers continue to push back.
Becky Epstein, Executive Director of B’nai Havurah Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, a member of Colorado IAF said: “Our message to the Board and Superintendent is this: the people who best know how to retain teachers, how to support teachers, and what kind of incentives teachers need, are the teachers themselves. We trust them and you should too.”
[Photo Credit: Conor McCormick-Cavanagh, Westword]
Colorado IAF Letter to the Governor
Building upon a three-year conversation campaign, Albuquerque Interfaith burst back onto the political scene with a clear cut strategy for the 2019 biennial New Mexico Legislative Session.
Through house meetings, civic academies, research actions and nonpartisan accountability assemblies, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders developed a legislative agenda to address four areas of concern: 1) Neighborhood Preservation, Community Safety and the Criminal Justice System; 2) Strengthening Schools and Public Education for All; 3) Immigrant Justice, Worker Protection and Workforce Development; and 4) Rebuilding our Behavioral Health System and Health Security for All.
Acting in teams, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders plan to track relevant legislation, gather political intelligence, testify, and advocate for their legislative agenda through collaboration with key legislators supporting bills that intersect with the ABQ Interfaith agenda. Sunday handoffs between institutional teams are already happening to ensure no political intelligence is lost.
Through public action in the Legislative Session, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders hope to restore the foundation of public investments in children and fulfill their vision of creating an “inclusive, multicultural community where children thrive and there is justice and well-being for all.”
Colorado IAF Secures DPS Boardmember Pledges to Negotiate with Teachers in Fight for Fair Compensation
One month before a potential strike vote for Denver educators, who have been negotiating with the district for over a year to improve compensation and address teacher turnover, nearly 400 educators, students, parents, and community members gathered at the Montbello High School Auditorium to share stories regarding the state of schools in Northeast Denver and discuss the need for increased teacher compensation. Organized by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) and the Colorado Industrial Areas Foundation (CO IAF), the assembly represented a broad-based network of schools, congregations, unions, and non-profits.
Colorado IAF and DCTA leaders secured commitments from DPS board members Jennifer Bacon and Dr. Carrie Olson to participate in the upcoming bargaining sessions and to support teachers’ demands for fair compensation. This will be the first time in recent memory that DPS board members will take an active role in bargaining to support teachers.
When Ms. Bacon and Dr. Olson were asked if they would support the union’s demands for fair compensation, they both answered with a resounding “yes!” Ms. Bacon, whose district includes Montbello, assured the assembly that she has instructed the senior staff to “get to work and find the money” to support the teachers. Dr. Olson made the commitment “not just to listen, but to act.”
DPS interim superintendent Ron Cabrera and the next superintendent, Susana Cordova, were present. Sen. Angela Williams, Rep. James Coleman, and City Councilmember Stacie Gilmore also committed to working with DCTA and Colorado IAF to address the issues raised.
As the assembly unfolded, DPS board members Angela Cobian and Barbara O’Brien reached out to the organizations, committing to meet with them and answer those same questions before bargaining resumes in early January.
Teachers in Colorado make on average 37.1% less than other professionals with similar education, and compensation for Denver teachers lags that of nearby districts. Furthermore, Denver’s salary system for teachers, ProComp, puts substantial money in one-time incentives that are unreliable and unpredictable – meaning educators cannot plan for their future. This contributes to a high teacher turnover rate, resulting in over 3 of 10 Denver teachers being in their first three years of teaching.
[COPS / Metro Alliance] hosted a town hall at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Helotes, and invited Republican and Democrat incumbents and challengers for state and Congressional offices that represent West Bexar County and San Antonio’s south and west sides to attend and publicly state their positions on four issues: restoring Texas public school funding; immigration reform; reining in the “payday lending” industry; and increasing job training and re-training programs for displaced workers and in historically under-served areas....
Mendoza says COPS/Metro Alliance decided to become active in more conservative, affluent suburban communities outside the city's inner and outer freeway loops because emerging economic and social challenges are not defined by geography or political affiliation.
With the 2018 midterm elections less than three weeks away, COPS/Metro Alliance today launches a get-out-the-vote phone banking and canvassing initiative....
[Photo by Morgan Montalvo, WOAI]
Braving torrential rains, hundreds of Louisiana Association of Educators and Together Baton Rouge leaders publicly launched, together, a public campaign to raise teacher pay (see photo above).Read more
Working Together Jackson (WTJ) collaborated with member institution Mississippi Association of Educators and Mayor A. Chowkwe Lumumba to prevent a hostile takeover of the Jackson Public School System by the state of Mississippi. WTJ worked with leaders, the Mayor and others to reach a compromise with Gov. Phil Bryant to develop the Better Together Commission and a totally new School Board to avoid the takeover. Four WTJ leaders are now on the Commission and new school board, planning for long-term reform.