Policy Connection Spotlight Archive 2012
A Snapshot of Families Experiencing Homelessness
Family homelessness has become an epidemic throughout the nation, with the population steadily rising since the recession. In Massachusetts, the only "right to shelter" state in the country, the state continues its efforts both sheltering families in emergency housing needs while preventing homelessness in the first place. These attempts have been met with varied opinions, including push back from human service and housing advocates.
On January 1, 2013, the MA Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) announced another reform to the Commonwealth's family sheltering system: the state will phase out the use of emergency shelter motel/hotel program by June of 2014. With a myriad of assistance programs, and rising demand, what does this exactly mean for children and families experiencing homelessness?
According to the National Center on Family Homelessness (NCFH), 1.2 million American children, or one in 63 children, are homeless as of 2007. The average family experiencing homelessness is headed by a single mother and contains two young children.
As of May 2012, 2,824 families were housed in motels or hotels through the MA DHCD's emergency assistance shelter program (DHCD, 2012). Families experiencing homeless are diverted to these spaces because DHCD's temporary shelter beds are at capacity, with 1,736 families in shelter placements since May of 2012. What's more, HomeBASE, the state's new subsidy program aimed at transitioning families to independent living, is at capacity. The wait list for the program has reached over 100,000 families and an approximate waiting period of nine years.
Here are some more facts about the challenges facing homeless families and children from the NCFH:
• More than half of all homeless mothers do not have a high school diploma.
• 29% of adults in homeless families are working.
• Homeless families have much higher rates of family separation than other low-income families.
• Over 92% of homeless mothers have experienced severe physical and/or sexual abuse during their lifetime. For 63%, this abuse was perpetrated by an intimate partner.
Children experiencing homelessness...
• Are sick four times more often than other children.
• Go hungry at twice the rate of other children.
• Have three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems compared to non-homeless children.
• By age 12, 83% have been exposed to at least one serious violent event.
• Almost 25% have witnessed acts of violence within their families.
• Children experiencing homelessness are 4 times more likely to show delayed development.
Assistance to Homeless Families in Massachusetts
Massachusetts provides assistance to families experiencing homelessness through the following programs:
• The Massachusetts Emergency Assistance (EA) shelter program, run by MA DHCD, helps pregnant women and families with children who are homeless by providing temporary emergency shelter and helping families find permanent housing.
• Massachusetts Shelters and Transitional Programs: Emergency shelters and transitional programs give temporary housing and support services to the homeless in Massachusetts. These shelters accommodate families with children, runaway teens and teen parents, women and children fleeing domestic violence, and single adult men and women without children. Staff provides a number of services that help residents transition to permanent housing and independent living. To be eligible for family shelter, Massachusetts families must contain one or more dependent children or pregnant women who are experiencing, or at-risk, of homelessness. Families must also seek shelter for specific reasons such as domestic violence, natural disaster, no-fault eviction or significant health and safety risks, and meet financial criteria.
• HomeBASE is an alternative to shelter for Massachusetts homeless families. The program offers financial subsidies for families who are eligible for EA to pay rent, utility bills, security deposits, and other expenses of a market rate rental units for up to three years, allowing a family to stay in current housing or move to new housing instead of EA. The program has been overwhelmed by demand, as stated above.
• Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) is a homelessness prevention program that gives short-term financial assistance to low-income families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Similar to HomeBASE, RAFT helps families who are behind on rent, mortgage payments, or utility bills. RAFT also helps families who have to move but do not have enough money to pay a security deposit, utility startup costs, or first/last month's rent.
Currently, the EA system is at capacity, with its 2,000 shelter beds occupied. This has left the state no choice but to utilize motels and hotels to house families, an option that is costly. On December 27, 2012, Aaron Gornstein, undersecretary of the MA DHCD, noted that housing families in motels/hotels costs the state an average of $3,000 per a month for every family, amounting to a total of $45 million over fiscal year 2012. What's more, housing families in hotels/motel units for sometimes up to eight months is detrimental to child development, particularly given the young age of many homeless children who need space in order to meet key physical and developmental milestones. This is a fact Massachusetts has recognized. On January 1, 2013, the Boston Globe reported that the state will phase out the use of hotels/motels, which currently houses 1,700 families, by June 30, 2014.
Advocates argue that many families in need are not represented in the current EA population because they are excluded through strict eligibility criteria. Families must fall at or below the monthly income limited of $2,209 for a family of four and meet one of the four criteria discussed above - fleeing natural disaster, domestic violence, unfair eviction or significant unsafe conditions/health emergencies. In addition, families must provide proof that they are residents of the Commonwealth. Advocates say that this excludes families suffering from financial difficulty and leaves them with little options other than doubling up with families and friends or living on the streets and in cars.
Despite these arguments, it does not appear that eligibility for EA assistance will change. Undersecretary Gornstein noted that even with this criteria in place, no other state offers the level of assistance and resources to families compared to that provided through the state of Massachusetts, accounting for a huge portion of state spending every year. Gornstein also announced that the state will create 1,000 additional supportive housing units in light of the motel/hotel phase out.
Homelessness and housing security are complex issues often tied to intergenerational poverty and other social issues. There is no clear solution, although affordable housing, education, employment opportunities and adequate child care clearly all play a large role in helping families down a path of self-sufficiency. As the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and states across the nation continue to grapple with the complexity of addressing family homelessness, Wheelock College will provide support through the community service our students provide to human service and nonprofit based organized across the state. This task - and the task of addressing family homeless - directly aligns with Wheelock College's mission to improve the lives of children and families everywhere, especially those in vulnerable situations such as homelessness. We encourage you to find out more about this social problem and particularly urge our students to consider field education placements that address the needs of this population.
Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development - http://www.mass.gov/hed/economic/eohed/dhcd/
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless - http://www.mahomeless.org/
Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance - http://www.mhsa.net/matriarch/default.asp
Homes for Families - http://homesforfamilies.org/
National Center on Family Homelessness - http://www.familyhomelessness.org/
National Coalition to End Homelessness - http://www.naeh.org/
The Fiscal Cliff Comes to Massachusetts: Please Hang on for Our Children & Families!
On December 4, 2012, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced a 1% cut from the current year's fiscal budget to meet a budget deficit of $540 million. These "9C cuts," referring to the section of law that grants the Gov. authority to balance the budget (MGL Chapter 29, Section 9C), will amount to $225 million with the additional funds being withdrawn from the state's "rainy day fund" as well as federal revenue and reserves. Less than expected tax revenues and a dismal economic recovery, coupled with greater need for safety net services, in part, are to blame.
Source: Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center
The recent cuts made to the state budget have a direct impact on many important services in the lives of children and families. Below are highlights of those programs and the funding cuts that could mean layoffs, decreases in services, even further limited access to shelter, reductions in needed reimbursements to schools and so much more. A complete list of cuts can be found here.
The Fiscal Cliff
Further intensifying the situation is the unresolved debate over the "fiscal cliff" in Washington. Without a compromise from the U.S. Congress on spending cuts and tax increases, there will be an immediate impact on much needed programs through slashes in the "discretionary spending" budget. Beginning in January, sequestration cuts will be automatically implemented with $55 billion a year in "discretionary spending" reductions lasting from 2013 to 2022. Defense will also be cut by an equal margin. Likely exempt from sequestration are mandatory programs for low-income people such as Medicaid and SNAP/Food Stamps and Social Security benefits; however, discretionary programs such as Head Start, child care, and women's health services could be drastically diminished.
Massachusetts could be one of the worst hit states if this fiscal nightmare comes to fruition. The state will lose an additional $300 million in tax revenue this year, and could stand to lose up to $1 billion next year as well as millions in federally allocated funds.
As a result, Governor Patrick has warned that an additional $75 million in cuts to this year's state budget could be made soon if a compromise is not reached in the near term between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. The Governor's budget chief, Jay Gonzalez, Secretary of Massachusetts' Executive Office of Administration and Finance, warned on December 5th that losses in federal funding would impact "really important programs like special education and heating assistance for low income households, and child care subsidies for critical programs that people need."
Let's take a closer look at what this could mean for Massachusetts:
562,000 low-and middle-class families in Massachusetts would lose access to the child tax credit, which is equates to a $1,000 loss per a year for every family.
217,000 families in the state would lose assistance from the federal government in paying for college.
The amount Massachusetts' small businesses can take as a tax deduction would be reduced by $225,000 a year.
What Can You Do? Advocate!
Massachusetts' fiscal position will only grow bleaker if agreement is not reached in Washington over the fiscal cliff soon. Contact your U.S. Congress person and Senator now. Ask them to do all that they can to reach a compromise as soon as possible. Below are suggested advocacy resources to help you contact your members of Congress as well as share your stories of how these cuts will impact you.
Head Start - http://www.supportheadstart.org/7650/help-ensure-sequestration-does-not-happen/
National Women's Law Center - http://www.nwlc.org/stories/share-your-story-flip-side-coin
Share Our Strength - https://secure.strength.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=113
Send your own message by finding your Member of Congress' email or mailing address
U. S. House of Representatives - http://www.house.gov/representatives/
U. S. Senate - http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
Overview of the Presidential Election Results
Despite the fact that many political experts and pundits predicted a close race, President Obama handily won a second term in office with 332 electoral votes and 62,176,163 popular votes. This put the President ahead of Governor Mitt Romney by 126 electoral votes and 3,350,496 popular votes. Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin - key battleground states - were all won by the Obama campaign. North Carolina was the only swing state Mr. Romney and the GOP picked up at 49.2% to 46.2%.
Click here to view electoral map - http://www.politico.com/2012-election/map/#/President/2012/
Why were the results not as close as was predicted? As always, who turned out determined the race and will very likely foreshadow the future electorate of the United States.
The 2012 Electorate
Peter Wallsten explored Romney's lost in the Washington Post on November 7th: "If Republicans seemed to cling to a 20th-century formula that helped elect Ronald Reagan - 89 percent of Romney's voters nationally were white - Democrats saw in Tuesday's results the contours of their long-lasting coalition."
Nationally, the White vote dropped by 2% from 2008 to 72%. This is consistent with recent trends around a national population with growing minority groups compromising a larger portion of the American public. Less than a decade ago (2004), White voters comprised 77% of the electorate. These voters were a substantial voting block for Gov. Romney, with 59% going his way. However, Gov. Romney failed to make gains among all racial/ethnic minority populations, as well as younger voters, who proved to be a growing and powerful portion of the voting population.
71% Hispanics/Latinos voted for the President with 27% voting for Gov. Romney, according to national exit polling by CNN.
Among African Americans/Blacks, Mr. Obama won 93% of the vote. Key, however, was where African Americans/Blacks turned out. In Ohio, for example, this group comprises 12% of the key battleground state's population, yet accounted for 15% of votes.
CNN exit polls also show that President Obama led Gov. Romney among young people 60% to 37%.
If nothing more, the 2012 election shows that the electorate is changing as the United States grows closer to reaching the minority-majority population predicted for the 21st century. What's more, these future dominating groups of the electorate are yielding their influence through the ballot box in record numbers.
Women in the Electorate and Congress!
As discussed in the October, 2012 Spotlight, women mattered a great deal in this election. Obama won among women by 9 percentage points. With unmarried female voters, the President beat Gov. Romney by 36 percentage points. The influence of this voting block was not only seen in the Presidential race, but also in Congressional wins across the country.
Massachusetts elected its first ever female Senator, Elizabeth Warren. Its neighboring state of New Hampshire will send an all-female delegation of Congresswoman and Senators to Congress this year. NH voters also elected a new female Governor, Maggie Hassan, to head the state's executive branch.
The 113th Congress will have a Senate comprised of 20 female senators, the most women to ever be part of the upper chamber in U.S. history. In addition, newly elected Senator Tammy Baldwin will be the first ever openly gay Senator, and Mazie Hirono will be the first Asian American woman to be part of the U.S. Senate. The number of women serving in the House of Representatives will also break records, with 77 Congresswoman (and possibly more as close races are determined) comprising the chamber.
In Massachusetts, there were three primary ballot questions, two of which passed and one that Bay Staters voted down.
Question 1: Deals with vehicle owner and business protections in the state. More information can be found here - http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/ele12/ballot_questions_12/quest_1.htm
APPROVED BY 86% OF VOTERS
Question 2: Establishes an "Act Relative to Death with Dignity." More information can be found here - http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/ele12/ballot_questions_12/quest_2.htm
FAILED WITH 51% VOTING NO
Question 3: Legalizes the use of medical marijuana in MA. More information can be found here - http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/ele12/ballot_questions_12/quest_3.htm
APPROVED BY 63% OF VOTERS
In the coming weeks, we will be shinning more attention on the potential impact of these new laws through the Policy Connection's blog postings. Question two was a controversial issue with both sides spending on political ads to sway voters. Ultimately, the measure narrowly failed.
However, question three, legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, passed with a strong majority, making Massachusetts the 18th state to legalize medical marijuana. What does this mean for the Bay State? People with serious medical illness and a doctor's permission will be able to buy marijuana from state licensed dispensary centers beginning in 2013. Some aspects of the law we already know include:
• Patients with serious conditions will be allowed to have a 60-day supply of marijuana. They will be licensed by the state with a card to show eligibility.
• Patients may designate a caregiver, who also must be licensed and at least 21 years of age, to assist in administering the marijuana.
• There will be one treatment center per county but totaling no more than 35 statewide at first. Treatment personnel must be 21, registered with the state, and have felony-free records.
• Treatment centers may cultivate marijuana in secure facilities so patients with disabilities and in far distance have access.
Exactly how this law will be implemented and its impact will not be seen for some time. The MA Department of Public Health will draft and promulgate regulations over the next four month. Opponents of the ballot measure argued it would result in expanded use of recreational marijuana and greater access for teens, a point that Wheelock, and others strongly committed to children, youth and families, will be closely watching as the law takes effect over the next year.
Further information about the new law and how state government and municipalities are starting to grapple with its implications can be found in these two recent articles from the Boston Globe and South Coast Today.
New England Ballot Highlights
• Maine: The state became the 7th in the nation to allow same-sex couples to marry.
• New Hampshire: All three ballot initiatives failed. These questions included restricting the NH legislature from imposing any new taxes or fees on personal income; giving the legislature concurrent power to make rules governing the NH court system; and creating a constitutional convention to revise or amend the state constitution.
• Rhode Island: All seven of Rhode Island's ballot measures won approval by voters. These questions pertained to gambling and bond issues.
• Connecticut: Questions did not appear on the ballot for 2012.
• Vermont: Questions did not appear on the ballot for 2012.
2012 Election - Women Matter
In early April 2012, Democratic political operative Hilary Rosen became a lightning rod when she stated that Ann Romney, the wife of Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney had "never worked a day in her life." The comment, which Rosen later apologized for making, has resulted in a reignited public debate over the "mommy wars." More poignantly, it's called attention to a very important fact in the 2012 election: women matter.
Women Voters in 2008
Sixty six percent of women voted in the 2008 Presidential election compared to sixty two percent of men. While President Obama only slightly led Senator John McCain among men (49% to 48%), he led among women by 56% to 43%, a 13 point difference. Based on the 2008 turnout figures, married women over the age of 50 are more likely to vote than younger women. However, unmarried women played a pivotal role in deciding the outcome of the 2008 Presidential election.
Married vs. Unmarried Women in the 2008 Election
Unmarried Women in 2008
According to the Voter Participation Center, President Obama would have lost the 2008 election without support from unmarried women. Despite the group's propensity to not vote in comparison to married women, unmarried women comprise 26% of the voting population, with numbers of new registrants among this group only growing. Twenty percent of newly registered unmarried women voted for President Obama in 2008, while only 4% of married first time voters voted for the President. According to Women's Voices, Women Vote, "Obama improved Democratic support among married voters, but marital status still drove the vote, to the degree that this election saw a record 44-point "marriage gap," calculating the difference between how married and unmarried women voted."
The Courtship - 2012
Democratic courtship of unmarried women, and Republican attempts to break the two up, were visible early in the Republican primary. Both conventions featured star studded lists of female speakers, such as the President of NARAL Pro-Choice America Nancy Kennan, equal pay activist Lilly Ledbetter and Caroline Kennedy at the DNC, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez at the RNC.
A number of occurrences around "women's issues" have also been used by both sides to target unmarried women. Hilary Rosen's comments on Ann Romney's work status; Todd Atkin's comments on pregnancy from rape; and Rush Limbaugh's name calling of Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown Law student, for testifying to a Senate Committee in support of health insurance coverage of birth control - all illustrate that point and show that THE chosen "women's issue" of the candidates is reproductive rights. Certainly, reproductive rights and health is an important issue to all women no matter where someone stands on the political spectrum, but what else impacts the lives of unmarried and married women in the United States?
The wage gap, work/life balance, poverty, and household finances are just some of the issues impacting women each day. According to the U.S. Census Bureau 2011 figures, the median earnings of women who worked full time, year-round was 77 percent ($37,118) of that for men working full time, year-round ($48,202). Recently in her New York Times op-ed, "The Myth of Male Decline," Stephanie Coontz reinforced that the wage gap is still very real. The gap of a women's earnings to that of her husband's too often becomes chasm once they have children, revealing a prejudice against working mothers. 31.2 percent of families with a female householder and 16.1 percent of families with a male householder lived in poverty. The poverty rate for men decreased from 14.0 percent to 13.6 percent, while the poverty rate for women was 16.3 percent from 2010 to 2011. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce's report on Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being, women aged 25-34 are now more likely than men of that age group to have attained a college degree, reversing the norm of 40 years ago. Student loan debt in the U.S. reached over $1 trillion dollar, disproportionally impacting women who make up more than 50% of undergraduates nationwide. The Federal Reserve reports just 9 percent of 29-to-34-year-olds received a first-time mortgage from 2009 to 2011, compared to 17 percent in 2001.
Married, unmarried, low-income, middle class, or upper class - all women and the issues that impact them should matter, yet in this election the more likely voters (see chart below) and the issue of reproductive rights continue to dominate attention. How will this centerpiece yet polarizing issue impact the voter turnout of women? On November 6th we will see the result of these tactics. Unmarried women might once again turn out in droves or there could be a repeat of 2004 when 20 million unmarried women stayed away from the polls.
The Minimum Wage
In 2009, as many as 13 million US workers received a much needed pay raise to $7.25, after a decade held at $5.15 per hour. This minimum wage increase was set in July 24, 2009 as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); passed by a Democratic Congress in 2007. Nonetheless, concerns remain: the real value of the minimum wage today buys less than it did in 1956; workers who rely on tips have not received an increase in wages since 1991; and the federal minimum wage has been stagnant for three years and it doesn't automatically rise with inflation. Many states set their own minimum wage laws; but employers across the country must comply with both federal and state wage regulations. In addition to establishing standards for minimum wages, the Fair Labor Standards Act provides regulations for overtime pay, record keeping, and child labor, affecting more than 130 million workers in the private and public sectors. Recently there have been additional Congressional efforts to address the minimum wage concerns, including:
The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012
Introduced by Representative George Miller on July 26, 2012, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012 will increase the minimum wage in three 85-cent increments, over three years, from $7.25 to $9.80 per hour. After the third year, the rate will then be indexed to inflation. Also, the legislation will increase the required cash wage for tipped workers in annual 85 cent increases, from $2.13 per hour until the tip credit reaches 70 percent of the minimum wage. The bills are sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in the Senate, and Representative George Miller (D-CA), ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. This bill currently resides with the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
Click here to see facts on the Fair Minimum Wage Act
The Living Wage
In many areas of the country, families working in low-wage jobs make insufficient income to live given the local cost of living. The living wage is the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet basic needs including housing, transportation, food, and clothing. The living wage differs from the minimum wage in that the latter is set by law and can fail to meet the requirements of a living wage. MIT developed a living wage calculator to estimate the cost of living by specific community or region. The calculator lists typical expenses, the living wage and typical wages for the selected location.
To calculate the living wage in your area visit: http://livingwage.mit.edu/
In Massachusetts, several communities have enacted living wage ordinances to assure that employees of vendors who contract with the city/town to provide services earn an hourly wage that is sufficient for a family of four to live on or above the poverty line. These communities include Revere, Boston, Cambridge, Brookline, Somerville, Cambridge and Northampton.
The Crittenton Women's Union, a Boston-based nonprofit organization, with a mission to transform the course of low-income women's lives so that they can attain economic independence has released several reports on the living wage in the State. The report titled: "Fits & Starts: The Difficult Path for Working Single Parents" looks at the tough choices low-wage workers must make between taking higher paying jobs and losing critical public support programs before they can afford to meet their basic living expenses. A single parent not receiving housing and child care aid will be up to $1,666 a month short of meeting her basic living costs when earning the $8 an hour minimum wage, and will not earn enough to meet all her family's living expenses until she earns $29 an hour or $58,000 a year. To read the full report visit: www.liveworkthrive.org/reports.php
A Closer Look at the Minimum Wage in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, a bill filed by Sen. Marc Pacheco, could give Massachusetts the highest minimum wage in the U.S. Titled "An Act to promote the Commonwealth's economic recovery with a strong minimum wage," (Bill S.951) this bill proposes raising the State minimum wage to $10 by incremental increases over three years. A minimum wage of $10 would leapfrog Washington State, whose $9.04 minimum is the currently the nation's highest. The Labor and Workforce Development Committee voted to endorse the bill in March, and it currently sits with the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
Click to view the full text of the bill
The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center released a report titled: The Minimum Wage and Job Creation. The report finds no substantiation that the minimum wage increases has inhibited job growth in the State. Massachusetts has raised the minimum wage six times since 1995; it currently stands at $8.00. During this time period, it was discovered that: "job growth has been stronger in industries with high concentrations of minimum wage workers than in industries with low concentrations of minimum wage workers." The report establishes that an increase in the minimum wage would increase the pay of workers who earn less than the new wage and it could help to stimulate wage increases for other low-paid workers. The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center projects that an increase to $9.00 per hour would affect about 325,000 workers in Massachusetts; while an increase to $10.00 per hour would affect about 581,000 workers based upon data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey.
Other highlights of the findings:
Today's minimum wage is 24% lower than it was in 1968 (adjusted for inflation).The gap between what minimum wage workers earn and what other workers earn has grown substantially over time--especially at the top of the income spectrum.
- A full-time minimum wage worker in Massachusetts will make $16,000 in 2012, about $5,000 less than the $21,040 he or she would earn if the minimum wage had the same value as in 1968.
More than one-third of those who would be affected work full time, and about one-quarter are parents of children under 1.
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Children's Health and Wellness Initiatives
For the upcoming Olympics, First Lady Michelle Obama is leading the U.S. Delegation to the 2012 Olympic Games. She is calling on families around the country to support our athletes by getting active in their own communities by participating in "Olympics-inspired" Meetups.
The Mattahunt Wheelock College Partnership
In 2010-2011, Wheelock College was introduced to the urgent needs in the Mattapan community by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the City of Boston. The Mattahunt Community Center, located in Boston's Mattapan neighborhood, was closed in 2010 because of severe city budget constraints. Mayor Menino sought solutions to addressing community needs by forging public-private partnerships that would ensure continued attention and more importantly continued services and programs in the greater Mattapan Community.
Wheelock College believes its mission-to improve the lives of children and families-extends well beyond the borders of our Boston and Brookline campuses. The Mattahunt Community Center is an ideal example of that philosophy in action. With support and guidance from the Mattahunt Wheelock Community Advisory Board, the Center officially reopened in 2011 with refurbished facilities, including a pool, a basketball court, athletic fields, and a new computer center with wireless access.
This summer, the center is active with a range of summer camp programs, sports programs and a program training high school students to provide college awareness and financial literacy workshops to other elementary, middle and high school age youth in the Mattapan area.
Throughout the past year, the partnership has revitalized the Center and made an impact on the lives of nearly 200 families per day who are benefiting from a robust portfolio of programs and activities.
Highlights from year one:
• 107 children aged 5-12 enrolled in the Boys & Girls Club After School Program.
• 219 adults and children participated in sports based activities at the Center.
• Over 150 Volunteers attending the City Year & Boston Celtics CommUNITY Crew with special guests: Governor Deval Patrick, Danny Ainge (Boston Celtics), Senator Scott Brown and Police Commissioner Ed Davis.
Find Out More
Wheelock College has committed to manage the Mattahunt Community Center for at least four years (2011-2015). The Center has come a long way, but there is still much to be done. Please visit the web page for more information: www.wheelock.edu/mattahunt
Did you know that close to 2 million children have at least one parent who serves in the armed forces? Forty-three percent of American troops are parents, with most of them being fathers.
The sacrifices made by our servicemen, women, and their families too often go under acknowledged. Military kids and military families make sacrifices and alongside service members. Our July Spotlight will provide an update on National Military Affairs, with a focus on military families and children, and look at the VALOR Act passed in Massachusetts in May, 2012.
Historically, veterans have been more likely to find employment than non-veterans; however, for the veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan this is not the case. The unemployment rate for these veterans climbed from 11.5% in 2010 to 12.1% in 2011. Compare this to the 2011 unemployment rate of 8.7% percent for the general population and it is clear there is a pressing need to try to ameliorate this high unemployment rate. Most concerning is the 30% unemployment rate in 2011 for the veterans aged 18 to 24. These veterans have learned invaluable skills including leadership and decision making, but too many of these veterans cannot find an employment opportunity back at home.
Recently, Congress has taken action to help veterans find work. There is a new tax credit in place worth up to $5,600 for employers that hired unemployed veterans. This doubles the tax credit for employers that hired disabled veterans out of work at least six months, moving it to $9,600. In his speech at Golden Valley, Minnesota on June 1, 2012, President Obama outlined his vision for how Congress can be doing even more to help businesses create jobs for veterans. This plan includes the creation of a Veterans Job Corps, job search services through the Veterans Gold Card program and an online Veterans Job Bank to help veterans find jobs that meet their talents. The Department of Defense has been directed to establish a task force charged with finding opportunities for service members to use the skills they have gained in the military.
Women on Submarines
It has been six months since the Navy ended its ban on having women on submarines. Twenty-five women reported to their boats in November in the first group to break the Navy’s gender barriers. According to several women interviewed by the Associated Press, they are acclimating well and being accepted among their crews. Once on the submarine, the officers indicated that they did feel divide between genders: “Once you get down there, you’re not a female, you’re a submarine (junior officer).”
Wheelock Center for Excellence for Military Children and Families
At Wheelock, we extend our mission to improve the lives of children and families to include military-connected individuals. The Wheelock Center for Excellence for Military Children and Families was established in 2011 in collaboration with the Massachusetts National Guard and the Military Child Education Coalition to draw attention to the many services available to aid military children and families, maximizing the visibility of military support systems and offering the resources of the Wheelock community to military families. As the number of service men and women returning home increase, the adjustment challenges that families face grow as well. The goal of the Center for Excellence for Military Children and Families is to provide social, emotional and intellectual support amid great change. More information, please visit:Wheelock Center for Excellence for Military Children and Families
The VALOR Act "An Act Relative to Veterans' Access, Livelihood, Opportunity, and Resources”
On May 31, 2012, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed the VALOR Act. This act increases supports for veteran-owned businesses, Gold Star Families, military children, and higher education access.
Provides greater access to financial assistance for small businesses.
Affords greater opportunities for service-disabled veterans to participate in public projects
Makes it easier for military children to transfer between school districts/states.
Expands supports from the Massachusetts Military Family Relief Fund to Gold Star Families.
The fund derives from voluntary tax check off on income tax returns and funds living expenses of members of the Massachusetts National Guard.
MA will join Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children to make transferring schools easier.
The average military child transfers more than twice during high school alone and typically attends between 6-9 school systems during K-12.
Calls for the state Board of Higher Education to require each institution of public higher education to develop a set of policies governing evaluation of a military member's service career for institutional credit by March 1, 2013.
Prohibits local hiring authorities from requesting medical records not requested by the Human Resources Department.
Eliminates the $2,500 property income tax credit limit that applies to the surviving spouse/family of deceased service members that applies from year 6 onwards.
To learn more about resources and services for Massachusetts veterans and military families, visit: www.MassVetsAdvisor.org.
Resources to find additional information:
Massachusetts National Guard and Reserves: http://states.ng.mil/sites/ma/Pages/Default.aspx
The Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC): www.militarychild.org
The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE): www.aacte.org
United State Department of Defense: http://www.defense.gov/
Race to the Top Background
On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the historic American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (AARA). Specific to education, ARRA supports reform by nurturing innovative strategies and setting a vision for improving results of student's and the productivity and effectiveness of the public school system. As part of the Obama Administration's commitment to reforming America's public schools, the President challenged states to compete in a "Race to the Top" funded by $4.35 billion from the AARA budget. Its mission is to provide every child with access to a complete and competitive education through innovative approaches to teaching and learning. States which demonstrate success in raising student achievement and commitment to reform are rewarded and will serve models to guide other states. This groundbreaking plan is built around four core education reform areas:
• Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy.
• Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction.
• Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most.
• Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.
Race to the Top-K-12
Year One update: 12 states were awarded Race to the Top Grants in rounds 1 and 2 covering the academic year of 2010-2011. Click below to view the performance reports for each state
The Third Heat Is On: Race to the Top District Competition
The third heat of Race to the Top began on May 22, 2012. Differing from the first two state rounds, this time individual school districts will compete for a share of $400 million in grants. Instead of adopting common standards and assessments, the focus of this round is personalized education. Applications are due in October 2012, and the Education Department expects to announce winners in December 2012.
Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge
As a core component of the Obama Administration's comprehensive early learning agenda, Race to the Top--Early Learning Challenge was created to guide all children down a path of success in kindergarten by closing the school readiness gap. Improvements in childcare and the strengthening of the Head Start program are also key factors in the early learning agenda. Because both learning and development are focuses of this program, it is jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. Specifically the areas of focus are:
• Increase the number and percentage of low-income and disadvantaged children in each age group of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who are enrolled in high-quality early learning programs.
• Design and implement an integrated system of high-quality early learning programs and services.
• Ensure that any use of assessments conforms with the recommendations of the National Research Council's reports on early childhood.
On December 16, 2011, it was announced that nine states were awarded grants from the $500 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge fund-California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington. Progress updates on the states awarded grants will be posted to the Department of Education's Early Learning Challenge website.
Race to the Top-Higher Education
President Obama proposed a $1 billion version of the Race to the Top competition for states to improve their higher education systems on January 27, 2012. The program would fund states aligning entrance and exit standards between K-12 and college to ease the transition. However funding for Race to the Top--Higher Education was absent from the approved $68.5 billion budget for the Department of Education for fiscal year 2013.
The DREAM Act
Each year, approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school. However, because they are not citizens, these youth do not get the opportunity to work, join the military, or otherwise pursue their dreams. Often they are culturally American, having little attachment to their country of birth. This impassable situation was the impetus for the creation of the DREAM Act (acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) ‒ under which qualifying undocumented youth would be eligible for a 6 year long conditional path to citizenship that requires completion of a college degree or two years of military service.
Since 2001, the DREAM Act has been under consideration in a bill of some shape. On May 11, 2011 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reintroduced the DREAM Act in the Senate and as part of the reform to the US immigration system. It was supported by President Obama; however, Congress has yet to pass this act.
In May and June of 2012, the call intensified for Obama to issue an executive authority to halt deportations of those who would be eligible for the DREAM Act. The White House asserts that only Congress can pass the Dream Act, but that it can offer deportation relief on a case-by-case basis. However 90 immigration-law professors do not agree. On May 28 advocates sent Obama a letter, explaining the ways he could grant these young people "administrative relief" while they wait for Congress to pass the Act. There is a precedent for other presidents using executive authority to protect groups for humanitarian reasons. Ex. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton shielded Cubans and Haitians from deportation and President Obama with orphans after Haiti's earthquake.
With the DREAM Act being stalled, two states have taken action: in July 2011, California enacted its own version providing illegal immigrants access to private college scholarships for state schools. In August 2011, Illinois authorized a privately-funded scholarship plan for children of immigrants both legal and illegal.
No Child Left Behind Act
Enacted in 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act is the source of considerable debate in the education community due its reach into all government-run schools receiving federal funding. NCLB expanded the oversight of the federal government with the aim to improve education for students who may be at a disadvantage. No Child Left Behind requires all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. Highlights of the plan:
• Annual Testing: By the 2005-06 school year, states were required to begin testing students in grades 3-8 annually in reading and mathematics. By 2007-08, they had to tests students in science at least once in elementary, middle, and high school.
• Academic Progress: States were required to bring all students up to the "proficient" level on state tests by the 2013-14 school year.
• Report Cards: Starting with the 2002-03 school year, states were required to furnish annual report cards showing a range of information.
• Teacher Qualifications: By the end of the 2005-06 school year, every teacher in core content areas working in a public school had to be "highly qualified" in each subject he or she taught.
• Reading First: The act created a new competitive-grant program called Reading First, funded at $1.02 billion in 2004, to help states and districts set up "scientific, research-based" reading programs for children in grades K-3.
In 2012, President Obama began granting waivers from NCLB requirements to several states. In exchange for the wavers, the states "agreed to raise standards, improve accountability, and undertake essential reforms to improve teacher effectiveness" per a statement from the President. Almost two thirds of all states have requested or received waivers from the Department of Education; these wavers give the individual states the flexibility to prepare and evaluate students based on standards best suited to each state. The states granted waivers:
• February 9, 2012 - Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee
• February 15, 2012 - New Mexico
• May 29, 2012 - Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island
For updates on these initiatives and other educational reform, please follow the Wheelock Policy Connection on Twitter and Facebook. The below links can be used as reference for further information:
Race to the Top
No Child Left Behind
The DREAM Act
Massachusetts Celebrates Brain Building in Progress Week: April 22-28, 2012
From April 22-28 the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) celebrates The Week of the Young Child. This year, Massachusetts joins the weeklong celebration with the Commonwealth's Brain Building in Progress Week.
The Week of the Young Child focuses public attention on the needs of young children and their families, specifically highlighting the importance of early childhood education programs. Massachusetts will celebrate this year's NAEYC theme "Early Years are Learning Years" by increasing awareness about Brain Building in Progress.
So what is Brain Building in Progress?
Every time you see young children learning and interacting with an educational environment you are witnessing brain building in progress. Science shows that early learning experiences help build little one's developing brains, thus influencing how they think and grow throughout their lives. Early childhood education is extremely important in brain building, and helping young children develop their minds and prepare them for all future learning challenges.
In Massachusetts the Brain Building in Progress campaign is a public/private partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and a growing number of community partners, leaders, academics, child care providers and individuals. The mission of the campaign is to:
"Raise awareness of the critical importance of fostering the cognitive, social and emotional development of young children by emphasizing its future impact on economic development and prosperity for everyone in Massachusetts." - Brain Building in Progress Campaign
Why we celebrate Brain Building in Progress
The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow, and early education greatly impacts the way children will learn, grow and develop. Celebrating Brain Building in Progress helps spread the word about the importance of early childhood education.
What you can do to celebrate:
- Learn about the science of brain building - The science behind brain building is important to understanding why Early Education matters so much. Take some time to learn about young children's brains and learning processes. Check out the Baby Brain Map by ZERO TO THREE. This interactive learning tool is a great introduction to the science of brain building.
- Spark brain building - One of the best ways to celebrate Brain Building in Progress Week is to spark brain building in the children you interact with. Whether you are a student, a parent or an educator you all have the power to help children develop their minds. Next time you interact with a baby, play a game with them. Next time you speak to a child, get down on their level, look them in the eye and really talk to them and listen. These simple interactions are great ways to help children connect to others. In more structured environments you can organize group activities around unique learning experiences to help young children. For a list of activity ideas click here or look at the NAEYC's event planning handbook. For tips for families, check out this quick tip sheet.
- Spread the word - Talk with friends and family about the importance of brain building and early childhood education. Talk about your experiences with brain building and children and let others know how you see early learning impacting children. Share your plans to celebrate Brain Building in Progress with the Massachusetts campaign team here.
For more information on Early Childhood Education in Massachusetts check out the below sites and blogs:
- The Massachusetts Department of Early Education & Care (DEEC)
- Brain Building in Progress
- In the Know - Boston's Early Childhood Blog
- Eye on Early Education
- Speak United - A United Way Blog
For information on national policy and data about Early Childhood Education visit:
MAY SPOTLIGHT 2012:
Teacher Preparation Programs under Scrutiny: The Federal Government Proposes Change
Teacher education is a hot topic in local school systems and current federal policy discussions. According to an article in Education Week, almost half of all educators leave the teaching profession within their first five years on the job, and about a third of all teachers are expected to retire in the next five years. These deficiencies in the teaching system have led many to question the methods for training and retaining strong educators. Federal rules on teacher preparation programs are being challenged and redefined.
Teacher Education Reform Plans
In the next 10 years, 1.6 million new teachers will be needed to take the place of teachers who will retire. Many of these educators will pass through traditional teacher preparation programs. While there are many good teacher education programs in this country, far too many of the programs that prepare our teachers are inadequate. Improving these programs is essential to ensuring our nation's students receive the education they deserve. ("Our Future, Our Teachers")
Not everyone was onboard with the President's plan, and negotiators nominated by the Education field held meetings on February 27-29 to draft a new set of regulations to give to the Department of Education. The new proposal would require states to classify their teacher-prep programs in four categories ranging from "low performing" to "exceptional." States would also have to assess outcomes of higher education teacher prep programs by surveying graduates and school districts, documenting teacher-placement rates, and looking at student-achievement results through standardized tests. Debate around these assessment measures continues as many don't agree on the amount of responsibility a higher education institution should have in the performance of a teacher. The Education Department is set to prepare another version of the draft regulations before the final negotiating session in April.
Funds Rewarding Teacher Preparation
President Obama's FY 2013 budget also proposes new reforms to teacher preparation by offering funding opportunities to those states willing to reform their teacher preparation and assessment programs.
Allocating $3 billion to the Excellent Instructional Teams fund, President Obama's budget proposal would consolidate many teacher funding programs and would maintain the current institutional and state report cards for teacher education (under Title II). His plan would include the following funding opportunities
$2.5 billion for Effective Teachers and Leaders State Grants - States would receive grants to help them develop new definitions of "effective" and "highly effective" educators to be used in assessment systems. States would also have to specify how they plan to equally distribute their "effective" educators.
$400 million for Teacher Leader Innovation Fund - States and locals would be eligible for grants by making a commitment to improving the effectiveness of teachers in high-need schools. Proposed programs would need to outline new conditions for identifying and rewarding high performing educators.
$75 million for Teacher and Leader Pathways - This would continue funding for current grants including School Leadership, Teacher Quality Partnership, and Transition to Teaching.
While the intention of this plan is to create a stronger workforce of educators, many teachers are against assessment of teacher quality, and arguments around what factors will be used to assess teachers continue to be debated by many.
February Spotlight 2012:
What is Federal Financial Aid?
"Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, ensures that all eligible individuals can benefit from federally funded financial assistance for education beyond high school. We consistently champion the promise of postsecondary education to all Americans—and its value to our society." -FederalStudentAid.ed.gov
What different types of aid are offered?
- Grants - student aid funds that do not have to be repaid (other conditions apply).
Click here for a list of Federal Grants
Click here for a list of Massachusetts Grants
- Work-Study - a part-time work program to earn money while you are in school.
- Federal Loans - student aid funds that you must repay with interest. Types of federal student loans:
- Direct Stafford
- Direct PLUS (graduate and professional degree student borrowers)
- Direct PLUS (parent borrowers)
- Direct Loan Consolidation
Steps to Apply for Financial Aid
- Gather documents such as income tax returns (yours and your parents), W-2 forms, other income records, and identification documents (social security cards, drivers licenses)
- Apply online at www.fafsa.ed.gov. The process is free. (Remember you will need a PIN to sign your FAFSA. You can get this PIN before filling out the forms here)
- After your FAFSA is submitted results are sent to the schools you listed on your application. You will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR).
- Your SAR will contain your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and Data Release Number (DRN). If you need to make changes to your SAR do so immediately either online at fafsa.gov or through the mail.
- Once your school receives information from FAFSA you will get an award package from your institution that will indicate the amount and type of federal, state and school aid you have access to.
(Above information from the Federal Student Aid website http://studentaid.ed.gov)
Where does most aid come from?
Above image from College Board Trends in Student Aid 2011.
Understanding Student Loan Interest Rates
Federal Student Loans made up 39% of all undergraduate aid in 2010-11, the largest single category of aid. In President Obama's State of the Union address, he asked Congress to prevent federal student loan interest rates from doubling later this year. These pending rate increases are part of a long history of student loan rate changes. To view a detailed history and explore the current status of loan interest rates check out the following piece from the New America Foundation:
Student Loan Interest Rates: History, Subsidies, and Cost By Jason Delisle, New America Foundation February 9, 2012
January Spotlight 2012:
State of the Union
On Tuesday January 24, 2012 at 9:00 p.m. ET, President Obama gave his State of the Union address to Congress.
Below are 10 Key Points from President Obama's 2012 State of the Union Address (via CBS News)
- A call to impose the "Buffett rule" (If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes; if you make under $250,000 a year your taxes shouldn't go up)
- Call for extension of mandatory school attendance age (youth must stay in school until they either graduate or turn 18)
- Creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit (to investigate unfair international trading practices)
- Commitment to increase job training (by partnering community colleges with local businesses)
- Urge for immigration overhaul (stopping illegal immigration and enhancing the efficiency of the citizenship process)
- Establishment of Financial Crimes Unit (to crack down on large-scale fraud)
- Creation of prosecutorial unit to protect homeowners from abusive lending
- Proposal to help homeowners save on their mortgages (allowing people to refinance at historically low rates)
- Push for increase in student aid (extending the tuition tax credit)
- Announcement of Defense Department's clean energy initiative (the Navy plans to purchase enough clean energy capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year)
More Resources on the State of the Union 2012
The Chronicle of Higher Education - Obama Highlights Education's Role in Reaching National Policy Goals
The White House - 2012 State of the Union - Enhanced Version Vide
USA Today - State of the Union Full Text
State of the Commonwealth Address - Massachusetts
On Monday January 23, 2012 Massachusetts Govenor Deval Patrick gave his State of the Commonwealth (or "State of the State") Address. The address faced mixed reviews. Democratic leaders say they are working on many initiatives already, but many Republicans felt the address did not focus enough on the commonwealth's businesses. A major focus of the speech was about Massachusetts' 15 community colleges. Patrick hopes the centralizing of authority for the community colleges and new emphasis on job training will help enhance these schools. He proposed better cooperation between community colleges and local employers could be the key to giving citizens the skills they need to fill an estimated 120,000 current job openings in the commonwealth.
Click here to view the text of Govenor Deval Patrick's 2012 State of the State Address in Massachusetts.
Review of the Address:
State of the City Address - Boston
On January 17, 2012 Boston Mayor Thomas Menino gave the State of the City address. This address was the Mayor's 19th annual address and 14th State of the City address. He has given five inaugural addresses.
Click here to read the text of Mayor Thomas Menino's 2012 State of the City Address in Boston, Mass.
To view a video of the State of the City Address, click here.
To view the City of Boston Press Release summarizing the address, click here.
More Spotlight Archives:
Empowering parents and caregivers
Providing healthy food in schools
Improving access to healthy, affordable foods
Increasing physical activity
For the upcoming Olympics, First Lady Michelle Obama is leading the U.S. Delegation to the 2012 Olympic Games. She is calling on families around the country to support our athletes by getting active in their own communities by participating in "Olympics-inspired" Meetups.
Creating a healthy start for children