Central Texas Interfaith
[Excerpt from FOX 7 Austin]
"The Austin ISD school board has voted against a multi-million dollar tax break for NXP, a semiconductor company...
"It is not fair that those who have the greatest ability to pay are the ones who don't want to pay a dime," Rev. Minerva Camarena Skeith of Central Texas Interfaith said.
The tax break called the appraised value limitation, or 313 agreement, lets potential businesses build property and create jobs in exchange for a 10-year limit on the taxable property value for school district maintenance and operation.
"We want more dollars for AISD and for every school district in this state. We want every child to have every opportunity they need," Rev. Miles Brandon with Central Texas Interfaith said."
NXP Fails to Gain School District Tax Incentives for Possible Factory Expansion, Austin Business Journal
With Weeks to Spare, Austin ISD to Vote on NXP Incentives, Austin Business Journal
Central Texas Interfaith Commends AISD Board for Rejecting Chapter 313 Deal with NXP, Central Texas Interfaith [pdf]
Dallas Area Interfaith
[Excerpt from Dallas Morning News]
"Amid pressure from community advocates, the Dallas schools administration pulled a vote to approve a property tax break for a manufacturing company just before trustees were to weigh in on it Thursday night.
The Texas Economic Development Act – commonly referred to as Chapter 313 based on its position in the tax code – will expire at the end of the month. Companies across Texas are rushing to get deals approved with school districts and lock-in tax abatements ahead of the deadline...
“Does it make sense to continue to grant certain large corporations these huge tax breaks?” Dallas Area Interfaith leader Bill deHaas said ahead of the meeting. “We already know that we have a crunch on educational spending.”
Come December 31, 2022, the law that had allowed [major corporations] to keep more than $10 billion in school property tax revenue off the ledgers over two decades will be no more. But companies wasted little time grieving. There was still plenty of life to live after the session ended sine die.
Since then, companies have applied for close to 500 tax break deals for projects all over the state—for everything from wind and solar farms, oil and gas processing, carbon capture, and biodiesel production. By comparison, the Texas comptroller received an average of 90 applications annually in the past decade.
“It’s like hogs at the trough,” said Bishop John Ogletree, a leader with the Houston chapter of the [Texas] Industrial Areas Foundation, a faith-based coalition that helped bring down Chapter 313. “Multi-billion-dollar oil, gas, and tech corporations asking for school districts and taxpayer dollars to bolster their profits. If these applications get approved, it will blow a hole in our state and school district budgets for a generation to come.”
Unsure whether the state will revive or replace the program in the 2023 session, companies have grown increasingly aggressive in trying to lock in future tax breaks for speculative projects that may—or may not—come to fruition many years out.
No More Hogs at the Trough-Containing Corporate Subsidies in Texas, Nonprofit Quarterly [pdf]
The Sun is Setting on Chapter 313 Incentives, Austin Business Journal
Companies Lining Up for Future Tax Breaks as Texas Incentive Program Nears End, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
What Could Epic Samsung Expansion Mean for Texas?, Austin Business Journal
Point Isabel School District Rejects Texas LNG Tax Abatement, Brownsville Herald [pdf]
'Smoke and Mirrors' or Long-Range Planning? Possible Samsung Tax Breaks Stir Debate, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
NXP Seeking Up To $140 Million in Tax Breaks for School Districts, Austin-American Statesman [pdf]
Chapter 313 Incentives: What They Are and Why They're Suddenly the Talk of the Town, Austin Business Journal [pdf]
Oped: Don't Ask Texas Schoolchildren to Fund Your Corporate Expansion, Austin Chronicle [pdf]
Statement on Austin ISD and Round Rock ISD Chapter 313 Votes, Central Texas Interfaith
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]
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 Hiring, KCCI News Des Moines
Fr. Michael Amadeo Testimony, Facebook [video]
Pastor Beth Wartick Testimony, Facebook [video]
Valley Interfaith Project (VIP), along with allied organizations, temporarily averted a $1 billion funding crisis for Arizona public schools. A decades-old spending limit would have required school districts to abide by 1980 spending levels without legislative action. Normally, the legislature would vote to override the limit as a routine procedure. However, partisan brinkmanship, amidst a closely divided legislature, led to individual legislators withholding their votes.
While school district budgets were based on funding that the Legislature had approved last year, this arbitrary spending limit, if left unchecked, would have resulted in massive budget cuts as soon as April 1, 2022. The cuts would have amounted to $1.2 billion statewide, resulting in widespread layoffs or school closures.
VIP leaders met with individual legislators and mobilized a flood of constituent phone calls in key areas. On February 21st, only one week before the statutory deadline, the Senate followed the House's lead and voted to allow school districts to exceed the arbitrary spending limit for the current school year.
While leaders celebrated the last-minute fix, the long-term outlook has Arizona revisiting this crisis every year until voters can repeal the outdated spending limit. VIP leaders hosted a leaders assembly with two senators to explore a more permanent resolution.
[In photo: Revs. Brooke Isingoma and Martha Seaman discuss the spending limit with State Senators Tyler Pace and Sean Bowie.]
"Arizona Senate Votes to Raise Education Spending Limit, Avoiding Big School Funding Cuts," Arizona Republic [pdf]
"I have seen firsthand how this accountability system targets neighborhood schools and our students of color,” said Germaine Padberg-Ludlow, a Denver elementary teacher and member of Coloradans for the Common Good, a coalition of community, union and faith groups supporting the audit.
Padberg-Ludlow previously taught at Denver’s John Amesse Elementary School, which was closed and then reopened with new leadership over the objections of parents and teachers. At the time, Denver Public Schools had its own rating system and a more aggressive school closure process than required by state law. She said the system drives teacher turnover, forcing students to build new relationships and widening achievement gaps.
[Photo credits: Nathan W. Armes, Chalkbeat, left; Coloradans for the Common Good,right]
Colorado School Accountability Audit Moves Forward, Chalkbeat [pdf]
Recently, Jeffco’s program has been under fire from leaders in the faith, nonprofit, service and education communities. A virtual forum was held Dec. 9, 2020, hosted by the group, Coloradans for the Common Good (formerly Colorado IAF). Pastor Reagan Humber, House for All Sinners and Saints, led the meeting. Taking the District to task for what he considered inadequate access to the program for families in need, Humber called on Interim Superintendent Kristopher Schuh to meet with representatives from the group to discuss changes. In a separate interview, he said the CCG coalition’s main concern was what they perceived to be deficiencies in Jeffco’s program in comparison to similar programs.
“Denver and Cherry Creek are open every day for kids to be able to get hot lunch,” Humber said.
While he agrees the recent expansion of hours and locations is a step in the right direction, his group is still concerned about distances between pick-up points creating long walks for kids who have no other transportation options to pick up meals.
Regarding the newly launched bus delivery routes, Humber said his group is thrilled the District has begun this pilot program, and delighted to know their efforts in highlighting the issue paid off.
He also sees issues with meals the district provides that require reheating, pointing out the need for ready to eat options for families who are homeless or living in cars.
As for the meeting between Schuh and the CCG folks, Humber said the Interim Superintendent has tentatively agreed, but no date has been set.
[Photo Credit: Glenn Wallace/Golden Transcript]
Jeffco Schools Pivot — Expand Grab and Go Food Program, Golden Transcript [pdf]
Jeffco Schools Pivot — Expand Grab and Go Food Program, Arvada Press [pdf]
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.
Beacon Hill Academy parents and students gathered in a parking lot Wednesday morning to watch a dilapidated old school building on the campus fall to a demolition crew. Children donned pink and yellow plastic construction hats that hung low over their eyes and cheered each time “the claw” of an excavator punctured a side of the building.
The 1915 campus building designed by renowned architect Leo Dielmann has long been the bane of campus staff and San Antonio Independent School District officials.
The fate of the aged structure, located near the school’s present building, became the focus of a prolonged debate between SAISD and the city of San Antonio during the two decades when the building sat vacant. Over the last year and a half, Beacon Hill parents and community members teamed with COPS Metro Alliance and rallied to push the district to make a deal with the city to raze the structure, allowing the campus with growing enrollment more space.
Demolition Begins on Historic Beacon Hill Campus Building, Rivard Report [pdf]
Victoria Cavazos, of Communities Organized for Public Service Metro Alliance, has a daughter in kindergarten at Beacon Hill Academy. Cavazos said the old building is not only cutting into the children's green space, but as of April, the children haven't been allowed to use the playground.
"The district had an assessment done of the building, and because of the hazard of the building, they put a fence around, not only the perimeter of the building, but it also includes the playground," Cavazos said.
SAISD spokeswoman Leslie Price said the district has no need for the building and it would be extremely expensive to restore. In fact, the district has requested a demolition permit from the city.
"We'd really like to demolish the building to give children the space that they deserve," Cavazos said.
"We've worked with a lot of different people and a lot of groups to try and get that money," said Michelle Ricondo, of COPS Metro Alliance. "But no one has come forward with the money to renovate the building."