November 23, 2014

Reports Add Up to Show Charter Fraud, Charter Failure, and Incapacity to Realize What Was Promised

In a new blog post Gene V. Glass, who, earlier this year with David Berliner published the excellent 50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools, recently posted, Are Charter Schools Greenhouses for Innovation and Creativity? Glass declares: “The rationale for the charter school movement went something like this: ‘Public education is being crushed by bureaucratic regulation and strangled by teacher unions. There is no room left for creative innovation; and tired, old traditional educators have run out of energy and ideas. Let free choice reign!’ It sounded good, especially to people who were clueless about how schools actually run. How have things actually worked out? What new, revolutionary ideas have come out of the charter school movement that can teach us all about how to better educate the nation’s children?” Glass describes the conclusion in his and Berliner’s new book: “that in our opinion the vast majority of charter schools were underperforming traditional K-12 public schools and that the charter school industry was shot through with fraud and mismanagement.” You’ll have to check out his blog post to read the story of his confrontation with two young charter teachers who recently tried to prove to him that their school was more innovative than the surrounding public school district only to learn that the International Baccalaureate program their charter had just launched was introduced ten years ago and continues to be offered in the public schools. Berliner’s critique of charters comes among a recent rash of news reports about the woes of the charter sector.

Statement Regarding the Disappearance of 43 Students in Mexico

We are men and women from different denominations and civil society organizations, as part of the Chiapas Ecumenical Network.

We send our Greetings of peace in the midst of a national situation full of violence, forceful disappearances, organized crime “allowed by our own governmental authorities,” apathy and indifference from some religious and political sectors, denounces and statements from civil society, Non-Governmental Organizations and from different religious experiences.

On September 26th, 2014, students from Rural Teaching School “Raul Isidro Burgos” on Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico, were attacked by municipal police from the counties of Iguala and Cocula. In the attack, three students as well as three other civilians died, twenty-five people were injured and forty-three were taken against their will to places not revealed even until the present time.

DHS to Open Largest Family Detention Center in US

Today, Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) condemned the U.S. government's decision to continue detaining mothers and children, many of whom are fleeing extreme violence, death threats, rape, and persecution in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) announcement to close the temporary detention facility in Artesia, New Mexico (housed within the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center) comes with continued plans to dramatically expand for-profit family detention through a new center in Dilley, Texas.

This new family detention center will be the largest immigration detention facility in the U.S. with a capacity to detain 2,400 family members. The detention center at Dilley will be run by the Corrections Corporation of America, a for-profit private prison company that ran the family detention facility in Hutto, Texas, that was shut down in 2009 following litigation over human rights abuses.

Reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act

On Wednesday the President signed the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014 into law. The law, which Congress passed with strong bipartisan support, reauthorizes the child care program for the first time since 1996 and represents an historic re-envisioning of the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) program. You can watch video of the signing here.

The law makes important statutory changes focused on better balancing the dual purposes of CCDF – to promote families’ economic self-sufficiency by making child care more affordable, and fostering healthy child development and school success by improving the overall quality of early learning and afterschool programs. It also makes significant advancements by defining health and safety requirements for child care providers, outlining family-friendly eligibility policies, and ensuring parents and the general public have transparent information about the child care choices available to them.

Summer Mission Interns

Disciples Home Missions is inviting applications for summer mission interns, and we need your help. This is such a great program for leadership development as well as summer adventure! But among our biggest challenges is getting the information into the hands of potential applicants. We know that not all of you work directly with young adults; we are asking if each of you would please forward this message through your networks to pastors, congregational leaders, and others who can directly share this invitation for young adults to engage in servant leadership next summer. And for those who can, please help us by getting this information directly into the hands of potential applicants.

Short answers to the most frequent questions:

Faith Leaders Praise Georgia and Slovakia For Humanitarian Global Leadership

Five Guantanamo detainees were resettled in Europe today, three in Georgia and two in Slovakia. Two prominent American faith leaders -Rev. Ron Stief, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and Diane Randall, executive secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation - released the following response:

Rev. Ron Stief, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, said, “The reality of indefinite detention without charge or trial at Guantanamo is not only a moral problem for the U.S., it is an affront to all humanity. Georgia and Slovakia deserve thanks from U.S. citizens today. This act of humanity stands in stark contrast to our own country, which has refused to accept any Guantanamo detainees - including those who our government says are not a threat to anyone.”

National Religious Leaders Respond to President's Historic Action on Immigration

Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Jewish and Muslim leaders from across the religious community are responding to the President Obama announcement of temporary relief for millions of undocumented immigrants.

Selected quotes from national religious leaders:

Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):
“Tonight the prayers of millions have been answered. Soon many of our neighbors will no longer be at risk of deportation. Still, we lament for those who will not gain relief from this program. This church will stand with those that qualify for relief as they enter the process and we will also continue to stand with those still at risk of deportation by visiting them in detention, protecting them in our sanctuaries and by praying and pressing for broader and more lasting relief through comprehensive immigration reform.”

Editorial by Ken Brooker Langston: Immigration Reform and General Assemblies

Thursday was a day of celebration for many immigrant communities and families within the United States, for many immigrants who worship and serve in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and for our Refugee and Immigration Ministries and its partner ministries. It was a day of celebration for those Disciples who went to meetings inside the White House, those who protested bad policies outside the White House, those who marched, those who fasted, and those who were arrested for their prophetic witness.

But, having just received in the mail a flier about General Assembly 2015, I am reminded that there is another group of Disciples who should be proud at this time: the delegates of past General Assemblies. Their thoughtful and prophetic voice helped empower us and guide us as we involved ourselves more and more in the crucial issue of immigration reform.

Click here for the full editorial. 

Editorial by Jennifer Butler: Freedom from Fear

“Scripture tells us, we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger -- we were strangers once, too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too.”

For years, faith leaders across the country have invoked words such as these in the effort to reform our broken immigration system. Last night, President Obama spoke them in the East Wing of the White House as he announced his executive action plan that will provide as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants with relief from the threat of deportation.

Our movement is succeeding. While comprehensive, common-sense federal legislation is still needed, this is a moment to rejoice. The yoke of constant fear has been lifted from millions of families, workers and students.

World-wide Faith-Based Service Organization Celebrates the President's Action on Immigration

Humanitarian organization Church World Service welcomes President Obama's decision to offer millions of U.S. undocumented community members the opportunity to apply for temporary relief from deportation.

“Our immigration system has been broken for far too long," said CWS President and CEO, the Rev. John L. McCullough. "The president has the full constitutional authority, and a moral obligation to keep families together and stop needless deportations. We applaud his historic leadership and we urge all members of Congress to support the implementation of this executive action. We celebrate alongside millions of our immigrant brothers and sisters who will be able to shed the fear of deportation and live anew. But we also remember the millions who are still in need of relief. As people of faith, we believe in the dignity of all people, in the unity of all families, and in the power of redemption, and that the implementation of this executive action should reflect those values."

November 16, 2014

WaPo Article: Catholic Bishops Back Obama Acting Alone on Immigration

The nation’s Catholic bishops are jumping into the increasingly contentious battle over immigration reform by backing President Obama’s pledge to act on his own to fix what one bishop called “this broken and immoral system” before Republicans assume control of Capitol Hill in January.

In an unscheduled address Tuesday (Nov. 11) at the hierarchy’s annual meeting, Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the migration committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the USCCB would continue to work with both parties to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

But, Elizondo said, given the urgency of the immigration crisis and the electoral gains by Republicans who have thwarted earlier reform efforts, “it would be derelict not to support administrative actions ... which would provide immigrants and their families legal protection.”

“We are not guided by the latest headlines but by the human tragedies that we see every day in our parishes and programs, where families are torn apart by enforcement actions especially,” he said.

This Week's State of Belief: Equality Below the Mason-Dixon Line

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Rev. Welton Gaddy gets an update on the latest innovations and most exciting changes in interfaith practice and politics. We’ll hear from Robby Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute to get a window into the religious and political dynamics of this years election. Dr. David Gushee and Brad Clark of Project One America fill us in on breaking developments in the relationship between religious communities and LGBT equality. Finally the Rev. Gina Campbell will share her experience at the Washington National Cathedral’s first ever Friday Muslim prayers held this past week.

The Voters and Their Values

We can’t start a conversation about religion and politics without some good data about how America’s religious communities view social and political issues and the electoral process. That’s why Welton kicks off this week’s show by checking in with Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, about his recently released “2014 Post-Election Values Survey.” Welton will ask Robby about how religious Americans voted this season, the issues they cared most deeply about, and what results Robby found most surprising.

Can We Stop Using Tests To Drive Education Reform?

“Stop using tests to try to drive education reform.”

That’s the conclusion from a recent in-depth report examining the pros and cons of new education standards called the Common Core and the standardized tests that accompany the new achievement targets.

The report, “Questioning The Common Core Tests,” from American Radio Works, a project of American Public Media, examined the rollout of the new standards, particularly in the state of New York, where that rollout has been accompanied by huge controversies over dramatic increases in the failure rates on new state tests.

The reporter, Emily Hanford, casts the new standards as mostly a good thing. She quoted a “a mom and a former math teacher” who claims the standards have led to changes in her children’s school that encourage them to “think more.” And Hanford spoke with Carol Burris, an award-winning principal from a high school on Long Island, New York, who “would like to see students at all schools in the United States get the kind of education that’s laid out in the Common Core standards.”

November 15, 2014

“The Making Of Ferguson” And Preventing The Next Ferguson

The conditions that made Ferguson, Mo., a powder keg waiting for a spark didn’t happen overnight, and it will take more than putting cameras on cops to prevent the “next” Ferguson.

An NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) and the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) forum — “The Making of Ferguson,” featuring EPI Research Associate Richard Rothstein and LDF Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill — today focused on the role “a century of purposeful federal, state, and local policy to segregate the St. Louis metropolitan area by race” played in the making of Ferguson. (See the entire forum on YouTube.)

Ifill opened the discussion by reflecting on her historical research into the impact of racial violence on black communities, to introduce the question the forum would address.

Human Rights Day Webinar With UN Special Rapporteur, Dec. 10

Join us for a special NRCAT webinar event marking Human Rights Day on December 10. Professor Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and Dr. Rebecca Gordon, author of “Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States” will bring us up to date on the current issues faced by anti-torture activists, and what we can do as people of faith. There will be time for you to ask questions and I hope you will plan to join us on Dec. 10.

RSVP for the Dec. 10 webinar, 12:30pm-1:30pm EST.

This December 10th, the world commemorates the 66th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As people of faith who seek to protect the God-given dignity of every human being, we reaffirm the Universal Declaration's statement that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." 

Ebola Debt Relief

The US government is asking the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cancel $100 million of debt of the three developing countries most impacted by the Ebola epidemic. US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is proposing a plan at the G20 meetings. Jubilee USA urged the White House at regular meetings during the Ebola outbreak to take this action. The Treasury Department announcement calls for relief for Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia to come from a special IMF trust fund set aside for countries impacted by natural disasters. The fund was established in 2010 when Jubilee USA called for the cancellation of Haiti's debt after its devastating earthquake. The three countries owe the IMF approximately $370 million. Guinea, where the outbreak began, spends more money annually on debt than on public health.

"This is absolutely fantastic news," said Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious debt relief organization, Jubilee USA. "We are so grateful that Secretary Lew and the Administration are bringing this plan for debt relief for the Ebola-stricken countries."

ICE Issued 39% Fewer Detainers in FY2014

There has been a dramatic drop in the number of detainers issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to the latest available data from the agency. In the eighteen month period from the end of FY 2012 through March 2014, there has been a 39 percent decrease in the number of ICE detainers sent to local, state and federal law enforcement officials. This 39 percent decline translates into around 9,000 fewer ICE detainers issued each month, or more than 100,000 fewer a year.

Detainers, often called "immigration holds," have been a primary tool that ICE uses in order to detain and deport individuals it is seeking. These official ICE notices ask local, state and federal law enforcement agencies not to release suspected non-citizens held at their facilities in order to give ICE an opportunity to take them into its custody and initiate deportation steps.

Here are the numbers. During FY 2012, ICE issued over a quarter of a million detainers — an average of 22,832 detainers each month. This volume fell to a monthly average of 17,777 during FY 2013. The most recent data covering the five month period ending in March 2014 reveal that the average monthly number of ICE detainers issued has now fallen to just 13,898. These results are based upon detainer-by-detainer records obtained from ICE by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Save the Date: 12/3 Young v. UPS Day of Action

On December 3, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Peggy Young v. UPS, a pregnancy discrimination case that will determine whether and when the Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires an employer to make accommodations for a worker who needs them because of pregnancy. The decision in this case will have a major impact on the health and economic security of women and families across the country.

Please join us for Day of Action—on the Supreme Court steps and nationwide—to show support for pregnant workers and raise awareness about this very important issue and case.

Over 160 National Groups Tell Congress to Enact Full-Year Funding

The Coalition on Human Needs was joined by 162 national organizations today in urging Congress to pass a full-year funding bill that meets urgent needs before the current temporary appropriations bill expires on December 11. The organizations include faith groups, a wide range of service providers, labor, expert policy groups, and other important advocates, together representing millions of people nationwide.

In the letter, the organizations call on Congress to approve full-year FY 2015 appropriations that responds to current needs, addressing inadequate funding in many human needs programs and providing for emergency spending to meet unanticipated and urgent needs related to Ebola and child migrants fleeing violence in Central America.

Nevada Shows National Leadership in School Nutrition

Nevada now leads the nation when it comes to ensuring children are not bombarded with junk foods and junk food marketing on school property. The American Heart Association is thrilled to share that the Nevada Department of Agriculture recently adopted a new and robust School Wellness Policy that provides two key provisions that help our kids grow up healthy. First, all items sold to Nevada students on campus during the school day must now meet the Smart Snacks Nutrition Standard as established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In addition, only marketing consistent with Smart Snacks Nutrition Standards is allowed at schools. This includes any advertising and other promotion on campus during the school day whether they are oral, written or visual. The AHA is proud to have partnered with Nevada in efforts to improve school health and recognize Nevada as one of the first states to reflect in public policy what 72 percent of parents are expecting from their schools, as noted in a poll released last month by The Pew Charitable Trusts. We are grateful to the Partners for a Healthy Nevada, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and to the leadership of the Nevada Department of Agriculture and its School Wellness Policy Taskforce Members. All of these partners played a critical role in this monumental step forward in ensuring the health of all Nevada school children.