Friday, September 14, 2012

New Initiative to Address Homelessness and Keeping Families Together

The Administration for Children and Families, Casey Family Programs, and the Robert Wood Johnson, Annie E. Casey, and Edna McConnell Clark foundations have announced $25 million in grants as part of a $35 million initiative to address homelessness and keep families together.

According to the Philanthropy Digest:

Through the initiative, three nonprofits and two government agencies will receive funding to demonstrate the effectiveness and potential cost savings of projects that incorporate stable housing for low-income families and services focused on child well-being, positive family functioning, and reducing foster care placements. Launched in June, the initiative is modeled after the Keeping Families Together  program in New York City, which paired supportive housing with on-site case management and comprehensive services for families experiencing chronic homelessness, substance abuse and mental health problems, and child welfare involvement.

Local partners in the initiative include Kids in Distress, Inc. in Wilton Manors, Florida; Four Oaks Family and Children's Services in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; the Community Alliance for the Homeless in Memphis, Tennessee; the San Francisco Human Services Agency; and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.

The Digest continues:

ACF will provide $1 million annually over five years to each of its partners to implement a project in their communities. The remaining $10 million from the four foundations will be used to provide technical assistance and to formally evaluate the projects for their impact on housing stability, health, and social and emotional outcomes among children and their caregivers and the need for child welfare involvement.


September 14, 2012 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

World Universities Rankings: Rising Global Student Mobility

The International Herald Tribune (IHT) is reporting that the compilers of a leading league table of the world's top universities on Tuesday reported an “unstoppable rise” in the numbers of students choosing to travel abroad to study.

“Global student mobility is on a seemingly unstoppable rise, with those seeking an overseas education targeting the leading universities,” wrote John O'Leary, an academic adviser to the London-based Quacquarelli Symonds, which produces the annual QS World Universities Rankings.  O'Leary continued: “Even after considerable growth in recent years, the latest rankings show an extraordinary rise of almost 10 percent in international student numbers at the top 100 universities.”

According to the IHT,

This year’s listings saw Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) overtaking Britain’s Cambridge University as the top place in the influential league table, which is based on a range of factors that include the opinions of academics and prospective employers.

American and British institutions continued to dominate the QS rankings, which were launched in 2004, occupying all 10 top places.

QS factors foreign student and faculty numbers into the rankings.  This practice is reflected in this year’s listing.  According to O'Leary, “Cambridge, for example, has seen a significant increase in international students, but has dropped five places in this measure, contributing to its fall from first to second place in the overall ranking.”

Similarly, a drop in the ranking of the University of California at Berkeley — down to 22nd place from 2nd in 2004 — reflected not only a comparatively poor faculty-to-student ratio, but also “low attractiveness for international faculty and students,” said QS adviser, Martin Ince.

The IHT continues:

QS noted that the most successful universities competed to attract the world’s best students and faculty. “Simple evaluations of the proportion of international students and international faculty serve as indicators of an institution’s diversity and international attractiveness,” it said.

Traveling abroad to study has obvious attractions for students who want the very best education available globally. There is also an economic incentive for the institutions themselves, and the countries that host them, in terms of fees and foreign earnings.

However, the IHT notes, mobility depends on the readiness of governments to allow access to foreign students.


September 11, 2012 in Current Affairs, In the News, International, Studies and Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kellogg Foundation Donates to Growing Power

Today's Philanthropy News Digest is reporting that the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan, has announced a five-year, $5 million grant to Milwaulkee-based Growing Power to expand the organization's urban agriculture program to low-income neighborhoods and communities of color across the country.  The grant will be used to help communities develop urban farm centers that produce locally grown food, train new farmers, and provide healthy produce for children and families in Detroit, New Orleans, Taos (New Mexico), and the Mississippi Delta region of Arkansas and Mississippi.  According to Growing Power's CEO, Will Allen, the organization will use the funds to help "local community food centers build organizational strength through strategic planning, leadership development, infrastructural development, financial sustainability guidance, anti-racism education, and promoting networking opportunities."

According to the Digest:

Building on the success of Growing Power's own Community Food Center and production farms, which support fifteen hoop houses for year-round production of plants and vegetables, more than a hundred thousand fish, and a livestock inventory of chickens, goats, honeybees, and worms in a space no larger than a small supermarket, each food center will be tailored to fit local needs.

In announcing the grant, Kellogg Foundation vice president, Gail C. Christopher, "One of the Kellogg Foundation's core beliefs is that all people — particularly vulnerable children — deserve access to good food.  This investment will develop and support leaders and their work in communities to help more families and communities get the healthy and good food they need to be healthier and thrive."


September 11, 2012 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Another Day, Another Church Violates Political Activity Rules

On Sunday, September 2, the Church of St. Catherine of Siena, in NYC, published and circulated to parishioners a church bulletin containing a column by the Rev. John Farren, a member of the congregation’s pastoral staff.  The column, which is ostensibly about religious freedom, reproduced in full a letter from several former U.S. ambassadors to the Vatican criticizing the Obama administration and concluding, “We urge our fellow Catholics, and indeed all people of good will, to join with us in this full-hearted effort to elect Governor Mitt Romney as the next President of the United States.” (Note that this is a quote from the ambassadors' letter, reproduced in full in Fr. Farren's column, not a quote from Fr. Farren himself).  The reproduced letter, in fact, mentions Romney specifically a half-dozen times, and in each paragraph other than the very first.

Father Farren perhaps thought he had protected himself from violating the political campaign prohibition rules by framing his column as one about religious freedom, and including the following sentence: "I am aware that I and no church authority may endorse candidates for political office, but because that letter focuses on the centrality of religious freedom, I believe it is worth reproducing here." Or perhaps he thought that reproducing someone else's endorsement of Romney in an official church publication was OK as long as the endorsement words didn't come out of his mouth.  Either way, he was dead wrong.

Aside from the fact that Father Farren's statement is pretty transparently a ploy to signal his approval of Governor Romney (he could easily have made his arguments regarding religious freedom without reproducing a letter that is essentially a campaign ad for Romney), the statement in the church bulletin quite clearly violates the rules the IRS laid out in Rev. Rul. 2007-41.  I cited these rules in my previous post about Bishop Jenky of Peoria, but here they are again.  In assessing whether a communication that is ostensibly about an "issue" rather than a political endorsement, the IRS considers the following factors: 

  1. Whether the statement identifies one or more candidates for a given public office;                
  2. Whether the statement expresses approval or disapproval for one or more candidates’ positions and/or actions;                    

  3. Whether the statement is delivered close in time to the election;

  4. Whether the statement makes reference to voting or an election;

  5. Whether the issue addressed in the communication has been raised as an issue distinguishing candidates for a given office;                    

  6. Whether the communication is part of an ongoing series of communications by the organization on the same issue that are made independent of the timing of any election; and                    

  7. Whether the timing of the communication and identification of the candidate are related to a non-electoral event such as a scheduled vote on specific legislation by an officeholder who also happens to be a candidate for public office.

My analysis is that Fr. Farren's column in the church bulletin managed to violate all seven of these criteria; a perfect (negative) score.  To analogize to speeding, this isn't going 75 mph in a 65 zone; this is going 120.  The fact that the rules were (mostly) broken in the context of reproducing a letter from outsiders is irrelevant; this is similar to a web link that would take you to a web page with the original endorsement.   The Revenue Ruling is quite clear that one is responsible for the content behind such links in this context - in other words, you can't escape the rules by re-publishing someone else's endorsement.  Link to it, or re-publish it approvingly, and it becomes your own.

As I indicated in my prior post about Bishop Jenky, it's high time the IRS made a stand on the political activity rules.  Either enforce your ruling, or withdraw it and give up.  



September 11, 2012 in Church and State, Federal – Executive | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)