W/SWIAF organizations have been busy!

Austin Leaders Leverage School Victory

Austin Interfaith leaders camped out for a late night school board vote on their proposed in-district charter school -- the first in which parents, teachers and campus administrators would have the autonomy and capacity to redesign their curriculum and school hours.  With over 80 parents and teachers from member institutions Education Austin and Travis Heights Elementary in attendance, the AISD school board unanimously approved the in-district charter.

DAI Challenges Texas Governor to 'Opt-In'

Dallas Morning News says, 'finally, DAI forces some debate!'  At the prospect of Texas turning down $6 Billion in federal healthcare monies to extend Medicaid to an estimated two million low income adults, DAI leaders denounced the possibility as "unconscienceable" and organized a  rollicking crowd to publicly challenge Texas Governor Rick Perry to "opt-in."  Signature collection hit 1,000 signatures within days of the launch.  Texas supporters can sign on here.

One LA Helps Shape Insurance Exchange

LA Times says group will play a critical roleAfter challenging the director of the California Health Benefits Exchange (HBEX) to make the program more affordable and accessible, leaders subsequently met with State Senator Ed Hernandez and  traveled to Sacramento to an HBEX Board Meeting.  There, they recommended multi-year plan requirements for companies participating in the Small Business Exchange and announced plans to launch a mobile enrollment strategy in partnership with the LA County Dept. of Health Services.

COPA Jump-Starts Low Income Health Care Program

Monterey County Board of Supervisors vote to resurrect ViaCare. 
In addition to protecting the wages of home healthcare workers in Santa Cruz and Monterey (in partnership with SEIU Union of Long Term Care Workers), COPA discovered a lapsed initiative to provide healthcare to low-income adults.  Leaders soon organized an assembly with county supervisors who committed to busting through the political blockage.  Two weeks ago, the Monterey Board of Supervisors voted to resurrect the Low Income Healthcare Plan and extend coverage to as many as 1,500 adults.

Neighborhood Transformation

OTOC Changes Treatment of Immigrants

After a public challenge from OTOC leaders, the Omaha Police Department Chief issued an official bulletin to all officers about the validity of the matricula consular (identification issued by consulates) as alternative ID. Also at OTOC’s urging, local ICE implemented a new program which would allow some parents of small children to return to their families while awaiting their deportation hearings.

Bulldozers Welcomed in SW Houston

After four years of battle with City officials, TMO leaders celebrated the roar of bulldozers in Southwest Houston that would soon get rid of an abandoned, burned out condominium complexthat had been described as a "public nuisance."  Leaders credit community organizing and the cooperation of city council members with this move to eradicate blight.  

Water Lines Installed in El Paso Colonias

For the first time ever, clean water will flow into the homes of two hundred families in El Paso colonias, thanks to the efforts of Border Interfaith leaders who successfully fought for El Paso Water Utilities to install new water distribution systems.  Says Rev. Pablo Mata: "the people got it done!"   

IESC Forces Trash Companies to Pay

In collaboration with environmental allies, the Associated Pomona Teachers, and Cal Poly Pomona, the Inland Empire Sponsoring Committee (IESC) forced developer Valley Vista to pay $100K per year for City air quality code enforcement at the project site.  The company also agreed to additional investments in a "Clean and Green Fund" administered by the Pomona Community Foundation."

Baton Rouge Leaders Take on Transit

Having organized broad public support for a historic $17 Million bond election to fortify and revamp public transit in Baton Rouge, Together Baton Rouge leaders shifted the political culture of the city by publicly critiquing the Transit Authority for lack of transparency and slow rate of change.  The Baton Rouge Advocate notes, "this is the first time...a group of just citizens is holding a public agency accountable."  Their delegates assembly drew 30 of 32 candidates.

Working Together Jackson Battles Blight

Working Together Jackson launched its first Delegates Assembly in November with representatives from 35 member institutions committing to build congregational organizing teams and to develop five neighborhood collaboratives.  Mid-City leaders are exploring strategies to combat blight.  Other action teams will focus on education, workforce development and local public sector accountability.


Work

Governor Writes Project IOWA into Budget 

At the urging of AMOS, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad dedicated $100 thousand for workforce development program Project IOWA in his proposed two-year state budget.


Austin Celebrates Living Wage Advance

After five years of Austin Interfaith shaping the public conversation about wages and incentives, three Austin city council members formed an economic incentive sub-committee and proposed (with the support of leaders) an $11 / hour wage floor for corporations applying for economic incentives.  Leaders need one more vote for the proposal to pass.  The organizations' long-term work also resulted in the County of Travis adopting a similar wage standard.


Project QUEST Celebrates 20th Anniversary

A gala luncheon marked the 20th anniversary of Project Quest with over 400 business and community leaders, graduates and participants celebrating the achievement of pulling nearly 5,000 individuals out of poverty and into middle-class careers. Honorary co-chairs included three former San Antonio Mayors: Henry Cisneros, Phil Hardberger, and Howard Peak. Honorees included Tom Frost, Charles Cheever, Jr., County Judge Nelson William Wolff, current Mayor Julian Castro and W/SWIAF Director Ernesto Cortes. The event raised over $166,000 for Quest.  

Louisiana Leaders Celebrate New Hires

NCLSC leaders celebrated the hiring of 20 NOVA graduates in Lake Providence, many with living wages of $40,000 per year with career path and benefits.  NOVA is a workforce development program established by the Northern & Central Louisiana Sponsoring Committee.

Education

COPS / Metro Backs Successful Pre-K Bond

One thousand Cops / Metro Alliance leaders from 35 member institutions assembled to support a successful bid for a sales tax increase to fund Pre-K education.  The 1/8th cent sales tax increase will expand access to full-day Pre-K through model centers located throughout the city, benefiting families across San Antonio.


EPISO Fights School Finance Disparities

When El Paso leaders discovered profound spending disparities between schools within the Clint Independent School District, they acted swiftly.  Hundreds of El Paso leaders organized and successfully leveraged commitments, from all school board candidates, to eliminate disparities in per-student funding.  More here

Border Interfaith Challenges Test Regime

In response to stories from teachers and school administrators about the negative impact of excessive testing, hundreds of Border Interfaith leaders assembled with candidates for state and federal congressional seats and leveraged commitments that they work to reduce the number of tests required.


Civic Engagement

Northern Cali Leaders Say...

"Let the real politics begin."  On the heels of the Bay Area Organizing Committee's "Assembly for the Common Good," which drew leaders from over 20 congregations and non-profits who engaged local officials and committed to working together, Marin Organizing Committee leaders asserted in an Marin Independent Journal op-ed that citizenship requires active participation in the decisions affecting the public -- over and beyond voting.

Cortes Honored at Harvard

Executive Director Ernie Cortes, Jr. was honored at Harvard University for "restoring American democracy" by teaching "thousands of people how to harness and direct their anger."  


Seminars with Harvard & MIT Professors Inform Work
In October, the Interfaith Education Fund hosted seminars with Harvard University public health professor Kathy Swartz and MIT labor economist Frank Levy.  Sixty-seven leaders and organizers analyzed opportunities and dangers within the Affordable Care Act and well as the costs and benefits of paying for community college with loans.   Leaders returned to their cities and launched successful campaigns around healthcare, public education and the labor market.

The Interfaith Education Fund works with the West / Southwest IAF organizations to teach ordinary people how to effectively engage in the civic life of their communities to promote the interests of their families and neighborhoods.  Through action, reflection and mentorship, leaders learn how to build constituencies and skillfully negotiate at the local, state and national levels.
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