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Granite State Rumblings: Putting Children And Families First in the Primary

The Iowa caucus is over and on Tuesday, February 9th the voters in New Hampshire will have their say on the candidates they feel will best lead their party to victory in November. This primary season has seen candidates come and go, different issues take center stage, and viewpoints change.

Through it all, the staff of Every Child Matters in New Hampshire has followed the candidates across the state, helped raise the issues that are important to children and families in the state and across the country, and asked every major candidate a question on those issues. We have participated in round table discussions, Conversations with the Candidates, town hall events and forums, held weekly Twitter Chats about the issues with our partner MomsRising, and worked to educate potential voters about the process and the issues.

During this last week before the First in the Nation NH Primary, the candidates will be back in the state. Here are several things that you can do to continue to raise the issues.

  • Please take a look at our Every Child Matters Digital Dialogue – which is a collection of brief snapshots for each of the two major parties’ presidential candidates – a sample record of what they’ve been saying and doing on some issues that we at Every Child Matters have worked on for years.
  • Then continue the conversation by:

to ask a question about their position on an issue that is important to you.

You also have 2 more chances to hear what almost all of the candidates have to say first hand.

On Thursday evening February 4th, the 3 Democratic Candidates will participate in a debate at UNH in Durham hosted by MSNBC. The Union Leader is giving voters a chance to submit a question that they would like to have asked of the candidates. We also encourage you to join us in tweeting questions for the candidates to moderators @chucktodd, @maddow. And don’t forget to watch the debate live on MSNBC at 9 pm. on Thursday, February 4th.

On Saturday, February 6th, some (number is still undetermined) of the Republican candidates will participate in a debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester hosted by ABC News. Join us in tweeting debate moderators @DavidMuir and @MarthaRaddatz with questions for candidates.

All of these things will help you to make an educated decision about the candidates and your issues when you go to vote on Tuesday, February 9th.

GROWING UP GRANITE

Come to YWCA NH in Manchester this Saturday, February 6th from 11 am – 2 pm as we co-host the first NH Primary Family Fun Day! FREE FUN for the whole FAMILY! Join us in counting down the waning days of this Primary Season!

Basic RGB

Pregnant Or Returning To Work? Know Your Rights Learning Session In Nashua Dec 15th

Stand With Women Logo

Recently the New Hampshire Citizens Alliance and Granite State Progress launched a new campaign, Stand With Women or Stand in the Way.  The campaign is focused on advancing Freedom, Family Values, Opportunity, and Fairness for women.  Either you stand with women or you are standing in the way.

Tomorrow, December 15th, The Stand With Women campaign will be hosting a learning session in Nashua from 6-7pm at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Nashua.  Below is a short description of what they will be focusing on at this event and a flyer to share with friends and co-workers.

Dealing with morning sickness or returning to work after the birth of your child are hard enough, don’t let workplace non-compliance with your rights make it more difficult. Come learn about the three major acts – Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, and Fair Labor Standards Act – that protect you in the workplace and what to do if they are not being met. Then hear an update on other state and federal legislation in the works to strengthen economic security for women and their families.

Pregnant or Returning to Work After a Baby, Know Your Rights - Nashua Flyer

Amherst Education Association Correcting Mis-Information About Amherst Schools

A statement from the Amherst Education Association:

As you may be aware, there have been several presentations at Amherst School Board meetings and in other public venues in recent months from groups and individuals about public education in Amherst. 

The professional educators of the Amherst Education Association believe that many points addressed in such presentations have been inaccurate or misleading, which is why approximately 70 teachers attended the November Amherst School Board meeting to share an educator’s viewpoint.

Among our concerns are the following:

1. Fiscal data being presented to the public is being used in inaccurate or misleading ways.

2. Standardized test results should not be the sole measure of academic quality.

3. The Amherst School Board is already engaged in much of the work these presentations have said the Board should be doing. This work is conducted openly in public sessions with published agendas and minutes. 

4. Statements are being made about the teachers’ collective bargaining agreement as if math teachers, school nurses, English teachers, librarians, art and music teachers, social studies teachers and science teachers and all of our colleagues are the biggest problem faced by the community. Many of these assertions have been made using inaccurate or misleading information.

We firmly believe that making teachers the problem is a misguided approach. As a group of committed professional educators, we will not stand for people coming before the school board and disrespecting the teachers of Amherst who have devoted our careers toward improving our school district and the quality of education for our students.

If the goal is to make Amherst one of the best school districts in the state, a goal we wholeheartedly support, the most productive way to make that happen is to work with teachers, not against them.

The next Amherst School Board meeting is Thursday, December 17th at 6:00 pm in the Souhegan High School learning common – parents and community members who support public education in Amherst are encouraged to attend!

Featured image by Rocksee (Flickr CC)

Ten States, Including NH, To Introduce Resolutions And Legislation To Make College Debt Free

By Vanderweil Engineers Boston [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Vanderweil Engineers Boston [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Progressive Democrat Marjorie Porter, State Representative from Hillsborough, NH, plans to introduce a resolution to the NH House pushing the state towards a goal of Debt Free College.

The idea of Debt Free College is being floated by all three of the Democratic Presidential Primary candidates. Though they vary on how they would like to accomplish this goal, the idea is that a basic college education should be open to everyone and be covered by the state like we cover elementary schools.

For too many students the cost of a college degree is too much to bear, even with Pell Grants and the ability to take out student loans. This keeps many stuck in the low-wage job cycle, as more and more employers are requiring a college education before being considered for employment.

We already know that workers with a college degree earn higher wages. In 2011, college graduates earned between $20,000-$25,000 more annually that those with only a high school diploma.

Even our community college system is unaffordable for many students. 40% of all community college students must take out a loan just to receive a two-year associates degree. Considering that 40% of all college students attend community colleges that equates to a ton of students.

stategraph

Click image to enlarge

New Hampshire is leading the country when it comes to student debt and cost of higher education. This is not something to be proud of.

New Hampshire is the number one state in the country for the percentage of students who graduate with massive student debt. 76% of graduates walk out of New Hampshire colleges with an average of $33,410 in student loans.

New Hampshire is also dead last in the amount of money given by the state to support our public universities. The state spends about $104 per capita for higher education. The national average is more than double what NH spends at $242.45.

As a matter of fact, New Hampshire spends more money on prisons that we do on our colleges and universities.

Many states are still struggling to recover from the 2008 recession and the severe cuts to their budgets as a result of lost revenue. In budgetary funding New Hampshire is still 26.8% below where we were prior to the crash in 2008.

Budgetary cuts and low funding to our public colleges and universities have shifted the burden directly to the students. To compensate for the lack of support from the state budget, NH colleges and universities have been forced to increase tuition putting NH squarely at the top of the list for highest in-state tuition.

Legislators from ten different states (NH, IA, SC, MA, HI, SD, IL, WI, and MO) plan to submit similar resolution to evaluate the potential of making their public colleges and universities debt free.

If our goal as a nation is to have the best educated population in the world, we must ensure that every student has the ability to attend college without being saddled with overwhelming student debt. This all begins with making public colleges and universities debt free.

 

Granite State Rumblings: Syrian Refugee Children Need A Safe Place To Grow

 Image by DFID - UK Department for International Development FLIKR CC


Image by DFID – UK Department for International Development
FLIKR CC

As we gather with our families and loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I am reminded of the many blessings in my life. My most precious treasures are all of the children who have been a part of my life over the years.

I am fortunate to have three beautiful, articulate, resourceful, and resilient daughters, and two handsome, articulate, resourceful, and resilient sons. I gave birth to two of them and gained the other three through marriage, a grandson who brings me nothing but joy, 2 nieces and 3 nephews who I never get to see often enough, 4 boys who were entrusted to me for their care by the State of NH’s foster care system, and the hundreds of children who I taught or cared for in my 20 plus years in early childhood education.

My life has been blessed because of children. I cannot imagine it any other way.

That is why it has been so distressing the past two weeks to hear the fear and anxiety that many have about the Syrian refugees being directed at the children. Over 2 million Syrian children have sought refuge in neighboring countries according to Save the Children Federation. Most are in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. More than 7,000 children have been killed. Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school.

One of the things that I know as a parent, grandparent, foster parent, and teacher is that children need a safe environment in which to grow. They need caring communities, a place to run and play, healthy food and clean water, and adults in their lives who have their best interest at heart. Your children and my children deserve these things and so do the children of Syria.

By opening our hearts and minds we can help ensure that children who are being forced to flee their homes and in many cases their families will find safe refuge.So, because I know that the most effective way to overcome fear and misinformation is through education, let me do some educating. And please, feel free to pass this along to others.

A refugee is defined as a person outside of his or her own country of nationality who is unable to return because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinions, and is unable to obtain sanctuary. The definition is sometimes expanded to include people fleeing war or other armed conflict.

Syrian refugees face a long security screening process before being admitted for entry to the United States. Averaging 18 months to 24 months, the process is the most intensive of any check conducted for people seeking admission to the United States. It is specially designed to mitigate any threats and helps ensure Americans are not placed in harm’s way.

Here is The Screening Process for Refugee Entry Into the United States

Recurrent vetting: Throughout this process, pending applications continue to be checked against terrorist databases, to ensure new, relevant terrorism information has not come to light. If a match is found, that case is paused for further review. Applicants who continue to have no flags continue the process. If there is doubt about whether an applicant poses a security risk, they will not be admitted.

1 – Many refugee applicants identify themselves to the U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR. UNHCR, then:

  • Collects identifying documents
  • Performs initial assessment
    • Collects biodata: name, address, birthday, place of birth, etc.
    • Collects biometrics: iris scans (for Syrians, and other refugee populations in the Middle East)
  • Interviews applicants to confirm refugee status and the need for resettlement
    • Initial information checked again
  • Only applicants who are strong candidates for resettlement move forward (less than 1% of global refugee population).

2 – Applicants are received by a federally-funded Refugee Support Center (RSC):

  • Collects identifying documents
  • Creates an applicant file
  • Compiles information to conduct biographic security checks

3 – Biographic security checks start with enhanced interagency security checks

Refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the United States.

  • U.S. security agencies screen the candidate, including:
    • National Counterterrorism Center/Intelligence Community
    • FBI
    • Department of Homeland Security
    • State Department
  • The screening looks for indicators, like:
    • Information that the individual is a security risk
    • Connections to known bad actors
    • Outstanding warrants/immigration or criminal violations
  • DHS conducts an enhanced review of Syrian cases, which may be referred to USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate for review. Research that is used by the interviewing officer informs lines of question related to the applicant’s eligibility and credibility.

4 – Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/USCIS interview:

  • Interviews are conducted by USCIS Officers specially trained for interviews
  • Fingerprints are collected and submitted (biometric check)
  • Re-interviews can be conducted if fingerprint results or new information raises questions. If new biographic information is identified by USCIS at an interview, additional security checks on the information are conducted. USCIS may place a case on hold to do additional research or investigation. Otherwise, the process continues.

5 – Biometric security checks:

  • Applicant’s fingerprints are taken by U.S. government employees
    • Fingerprints are screened against the FBI’s biometric database.
    • Fingerprints are screened against the DHS biometric database, containing watch-list information and previous immigration encounters in the U.S. and overseas.
    • Fingerprints are screened against the U.S. Department of Defense biometric database, which includes fingerprint records captured in Iraq and other locations.
  • If not already halted, this is the end point for cases with security concerns. Otherwise, the process continues.

6 – Medical check:

  • The need for medical screening is determined
  • This is the end point for cases denied due to medical reasons. Refugees may be provided medical treatment for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis.

7 – Cultural orientation and assignment to domestic resettlement locations:

  • Applicants complete cultural orientation classes.
  • An assessment is made by a U.S.-based non-governmental organization to determine the best resettlement location for the candidate(s). Considerations include:
    • Family; candidates with family in a certain area may be placed in that area.
    • Health; a candidate with asthma may be matched to certain regions.
  • A location is chosen.

8 – Travel:

  • International Organization for Migration books travel
  • Prior to entry in the United States, applicants are subject to:
    • Screening from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center-Passenger
    • The Transportation Security Administration’s Secure Flight Program
  • This is the end point for some applicants. Applicants who have no flags continue the process.

9 – U.S. Arrival:

  • All refugees are required to apply for a green card within a year of their arrival to the United States, which triggers:
    • Another set of security procedures with the U.S. government.
  • Refugees are woven into the rich fabric of American society!

Safe travels and enjoy your Thanksgiving and dinner table conversations!

Granite State Rumblings: Wages, Child Care And The Working Poor

If you have been following the Presidential candidate debates, you are beginning to hear some very important policy differences not only between the two parties, but between the candidates themselves. One of those differences is quite evident when the talk turns to low and stagnant wages for the working poor.

The Democrats are in agreement that the minimum wage should be increased, though they differ on how high, based on their comments at the debate last Saturday evening. The Republican candidates have mainly talked about other ways of addressing stagnant wages and income inequality. Plans that have been discussed include cutting business taxes to spur more job growth and opportunities for jobs with higher rates of pay, boosting worker productivity, more technical job training, and an overhaul of higher education.

While all of these ideas may be valid, there is one issue for low-income workers that remains, even as they see incremental increases in their wages, or an increase in the minimum wage – Work Support Programs – also known as public assistance programs. Work supports help close the gap between low earnings and the cost of basic expenses.

But, public assistance for the working poor isn’t designed to allow parents the opportunity to incrementally increase their wages to work toward self-sufficiency.

In many cases, as a parent’s earnings increase and they rise above the poverty level, they begin to lose eligibility for assistance programs such as child care subsidies, housing subsidies, food stamps, and health care coverage, even though they are not yet self-sufficient.

I saw this play out way too often for many of the single moms at the child care center where I worked. In some cases even as little as a fifty cent increase in wages could mean a budget breaking rise in her out of pocket child care cost. The raise she had worked so hard to achieve would not cover the increase, so she was left with the decision of turning it down, trying to dig deeper in an already stretched budget, or finding less expensive (and lower quality) care for her child(ren) while she worked. This is called the Cliff Effect, and it results in many women refusing pay increases, rather than lose their shelter, lose their quality child care so that they can work, or have to give up health care or meals for themselves. The dream of self-sufficiency becomes the reality of assistance dependence.

Colorado Public Radio has been exploring the lives of Colorado children who are living in poverty. The story below is part of that work.

Why Getting Ahead Often Feels Like Falling Behind When You’re Poor

BY MEGAN VERLEE/ CPR NEWS

Call it poverty’s “glass ceiling.”

Longmont resident Tracey Jones grows vegetables from her garden to feed her family in the summer. Since Jones started making too much to qualify for food stamps, she’s had more trouble keeping food on the table.

The way many public benefit programs are structured, even minor increases in income can result in a big loss in assistance. That’s sometimes so large a loss that it can send families tumbling backwards just when they thought they were finally getting ahead.

Longmont resident Tracey Jones knows all about the phenomenon, often called the “cliff effect.” She’s been living at its edge for several years now.

In the past few years, she’s moved from unemployment to a rewarding full-time job as a certified nursing assistant for a hospice program. But in some ways she’s lost as much as she’s gained. Food stamps, for one thing. When she started making too much to qualify, Jones had to turn to food banks. And she took up gardening, “to take a little bit of the edge off my food insecurity.”

As her income has risen, Jones has lost other benefits too. Her big worry currently is Medicaid. She went through a major surgery a few months ago, and in the weeks leading up to it kept getting conflicting letters about whether or not she was still covered.

“I got three notices in one week,” Jones said. “‘Oh, you have insurance, yay!’ Two days later: ‘You do not have insurance.’ Then the end of the week: ‘You need to fill out this paper for your insurance.’ I don’t know. At this point, I’m just praying it all works out.”

This uncertainty has permeated her life for years — it’s the dark side to her improving income.

“It doesn’t make sense to me. It’s kind of like you get punished for trying to get out of poverty,” Jones said.

Programs Offer Perverse Incentives

The cliff effect stems from the fact that most government assistance programs have hard and fast income limits: start making even a little more than the cut-off and a person stands to immediately lose a lot of benefits.

Jessica Valand oversees job training programs through Colorado’s Department of Human Resources. The way she sees it, both policy makers and the poor themselves value work over assistance, but the way the system is set up, it ends up encouraging the exact opposite.

“If someone wants to give me a dollar raise, or even a $2-an-hour raise, but I know that that $2-an-hour raise is not going to make up for the $1,500 in child care subsidy I’m going to lose, what is my incentive to keep going?” Valand said.

Many don’t keep going. When the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and the Bell Policy Center asked focus groups of poor single mothers whether they’d ever turned down a raise or extra hours at work because they were afraid of losing their benefits, about a third said yes.

“In any given month, a woman may need to monitor very closely the hours she’s working to make sure she’s always maintaining her eligibility,” says the Foundation’s Louise Myrland. The group considers the cliff effect a women’s issue because the impacts often fall most heavily on working mothers and their children.

Official concern about the cliff effect has picked up steam in recent years, as data has shown that despite the improving economy, many working poor appear to be stuck relying on public benefits.

“It’s like, how did we get people this far, and they can’t get to the next step?” said Jefferson County Human Services Director Lynn Johnson.

But while there may be increasing agreement that the cliff effect is a problem, the solution won’t come cheap. In order to taper higher income people off of benefits more gently, the government will either have to increase overall funding for programs, or put more limits on the total number of people they can serve.

“Are we here to be just the safety net, the handout? Or is it a handout and up and off?” asks Johnson, who thinks easing the fiscal cliff would save money in the long term. “The more successful people are moving out of our system, the more money we should have to invest.”

Jefferson County is one of 10 counties taking part in a new state experiment to try to fix the fiscal cliff in one big program: child care assistance. Instead losing their entire subsidy when they hit a hard and fast income limit, families in these counties just have to pay a slowly increasing chunk of their daycare costs out of pocket. Bell Policy’s Rich Jones lobbied the Legislature to invest in this pilot effort. He said the idea is to turn the benefits cliff into more of a gentle slope.

“As you move further up the economic ladders, you still get some support, but you get a lot less. And then you gradually work your way off,” Jones explains.

The child care assistance pilot only started over the summer, but anecdotal reports suggest it’s so far succeeding in its goal of allowing families to earn more money without worrying they’re about to be crushed by a giant new daycare bill.

Two Families Stuck On The Cliff

Nicole Davis found out about the cliff effect the hard way. Nearly a decade ago the preschool teacher and her husband George, who worked in manufacturing, made getting off of all public assistance their goal. They succeeded, but that success almost destroyed their family.

“A lot of times we would have time to decide which bills that we wanted to pay. And sometimes it would mean that George or I would go without meals,” said Davis, recalling life without any government benefits. “When we realized we weren’t brining in enough money to pay rent … we went to the church for help and they basically said, ‘you need to get on assistance!'”

Instead, Davis and her young children ended up homeless. It took years for the family to work their way back to stability.

Today, the Wheat Ridge resident says she’s stopped even thinking about trying to make it to self-sufficiency. The cliff is just too daunting.

“I am intrigued myself by the fact that our family tried to get off of all the services and all the things that happened when we were getting off,” she said. “I’m surprised by what happened.”

For another Wheat Ridge mother, Sheila Lucero, the benefits cliff has turned life into a balancing act.

After struggling through the Great Recession, things have been looking up for the Lucero’s; Sheila’s husband Ian is an HVAC contractor and the housing boom means lots of work. But they’ve been making sure his income stays low enough to keep qualifying the family for Medicaid.

Lucero believes in small government; it’s painful to her to rely on taxpayer money. But she puts up with it for her children’s sake.

“You know, we’re not proud of being in this situation, but we definitely need our kids to have their check-ups and stuff,” Lucero said. “The cliff effect just puts people back where they were, or in a worse position, and it makes them not want to try.”

As an increase in the minimum wage is discussed and debated at both the federal and state level, now is a good time to start the discussion and debate about benefit eligibility levels. Hard working parents should not be penalized for trying to do better for their families.

GROWING UP GRANITE 

Here are several opportunities to discuss class and classism in our state, a conversation that can be both difficult and challenging, but so very necessary. These workshops are hosted by a coalition of NH organizations.

Exploring Class and Classism in New Hampshire Building Unity in our Community

  • Why is class often so difficult to talk about? How does class impact your work?
  • What is your class story?

Discuss these questions and more at Class Action’s New Hampshire open workshops hosted by a coalition of NH organizations.  Class Action has spent 11 years developing creative ways of asking questions, sharing personal experiences and helping people to engage with issues of class in a meaningful way. Their workshops are highly interactive, engaging and focused on learning from one another in the room. All workshops are on a sliding scale, $75 – $20. Scholarships available. To inquire, please send us an e-mail.

Dates and Locations

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Berlin, NH

Hosted by: North Country Listens and Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network

Register

Friday, December 4, 2015

Claremont, NH

Hosted by: United Valley Interfaith Project and Rethink Health

Register

Friday, December 11, 2015

Manchester, NH

Hosted by Investing in Communities, NH Citizens Alliance and New Futures

Register

Saturday, December 12, 2015 

Pittsfield, NH 

Hosted by Investing in Communities, NH Citizens Alliance and New Futures

Register

Featured Image by US Army on Flicker

At Raising Wages Summit The “Voices Of Workers” Highlight The Struggles Of Working Families

The first ever New Hampshire Raising Wages Summit was held in Concord on Saturday. The summit, a policy discussion with a focus on the importance of raising wages, drew more than 200 people to hear a whole host of speakers.

The headliners, Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, both spoke about raising the minimum wage and the affects of the proposed TPP on workers.

Interlaced between the headliners was what organizers referred to as the “Voices of Workers.” The Voices of Workers were short speeches from local workers and union activists.

Deb Howes, a Nashua teacher and American Federation of Teachers member, talked about the impact of our current low-wage employment system on the children in her classroom. She explained how living in poverty affects a child’s ability to learn, and chastised politicians who want to take away free lunch programs that ensure that children can get at least one healthy meal a day.

Howes is also the chairwoman of the Nashua Labor Coalition that is currently building momentum against the proposed privatization of AFSCME custodians in the Nashua School District. At the summit Howes stated, “eliminating good paying jobs for low-wage contractors will only hurt our community.”

(video link)

The elimination of good paying jobs was the forefront of the Fairness at FairPoint campaign as International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Communication Workers of America (CWA) members spent months on strike last winter.

James Lemay, an IBEW member and FairPoint employee spoke about how hard it was for workers during the strike. He talked about how the company did not seem to care about the workers or bargaining in good faith with the union, they only cared their stock prices and earnings statements.

After months on strike the IBEW and CWA reached an agreement with FairPoint and workers could finally go back to work.

(video link)

Janice Kelble, a retired postal worker and American Postal Workers Union member, talk about her struggles bouncing from job to job and the discrimination she endured as a low-wage worker.   Even though it has been a number of years since Kelble was living on minimum wage, the fact is that her story could have been told by any low-wage work struggling to survive on today’s poverty wages.

Kelble eventually got a job with the USPS service where she immediately joined the union, became a steward and began her unofficial career as an advocate for workers.

Kelble said she often wonders how different her life would have been if not for her good paying union job.

(video link)

As Kelble pointed out it has been many years since she had to survive on minimum wage, that is not the case for recent Manchester high school graduate Adol Mashut.

As an immigrant, a woman, and a recent graduate she has quickly learned how hard it is to live on minimum wage. Mashut struggles to balance her work and college classes in hopes to get a degree that will allow her to get a better paying job in the future.

Mashut is also the product of an amazing community outreach program called the Granite State Organizing Project. GSOP is a faith based, non-profit that helps immigrants and low-income families through mentoring and assistance. GSOP continues to push for policies that help working families like raising the minimum wage and expanding access to affordable healthcare and opposes policies like “title loans” that charge people upwards of 400% for an emergency loan.

 

(video link)

Mashut is working and taking classes in the hopes of acquiring a college degree, but college is not for everyone. Thanks to unions there is still a way for workers to learn a valuable skill and work their way into the middle class.

Samantha Novotny is starting her second year as an apprentice with the IBEW local 490 in Concord. “The union provides great classroom training as well as on-the-job training and work experience,” she said.

As she progresses in her apprentice training she will continue to gain more certifications and real world experience which will ultimately result in higher pay and the chance to start saving for her retirement.

Novotny recently became “sworn in” as an official member of the IBEW. “I truly feel that I am setting myself up for a long-lasting and successful career,” said Novotny.

(video link)

 

While many of these Voices of Workers’ stories were positive, the reality of low-wage workers is not as bright and shiny. Many are living paycheck to paycheck working 50 to 60 hours a week between multiple jobs with little to no hope for the future.

Millions of people across the country are living in poverty due to the fact that we have failed to ensure that their hard work will actually pay the bills.

As the 2016 elections continue to ramp up, we need to ensure that every candidate, from Presidential to State Representative to Mayoral will work to raise the minimum wage and help lift these workers out of poverty.


 

Please read our other stories about the Raising Wages Summit

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Addresses the NH Raising Wages Summit

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro Inspires The Crowd At The NH Raising Wages Summit

Governor Hassan Will Continue To Fight To Raise Wages and Expand Middle Class Opportunity

How Raising Wages Effects Seniors and Social Security, a speech by NH Alliance for Retired Americans President Lucy Edwards.


 

 

Granite State Rumblings: Budget Agreement Ups And Down – We Must End The Sequester

Congress West Front Last week Congress passed a budget proposal that locks in funding for the next two years.

It also did several other important things:

In addition to providing more funding that can be used for children’s programs by significantly curtailing for the next two years the “sequester” cuts, that were enacted in 2013, the agreement prevents a 20% cut in disability benefits that some children receive, and it protects the program for the next several years.

Additionally, this agreement ends the threat of government shutdowns and defaulting on the federal government’s debt for the next two years.

These events would have damaged the American economy and threatened jobs.

To see what else the deal entails click here.

On Monday morning President Obama signed the agreement. Here are his remarks:

Remarks by the President at Signing of the Budget Act of 2015

Oval Office

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, last week, Democrats and Republicans came together to set up a responsible, long-term budget process, and what we now see is a budget that reflects our values, that grows our economy, creates jobs, keeps America safe.

It’s going to strengthen the middle class by investing in critical areas like education and job training and basic research.  It keeps us safe by investing in our national security and making sure that our troops get what they need in order to keep us safe and perform all the outstanding duties that they do around the world.  It protects our seniors by avoiding harmful cuts to Medicare and Social Security.  And it’s paid for in a responsible, balanced way — in part, for example, by making sure that large hedge funds and private equity firms pay what they owe in taxes just like everybody else.

And by locking in two years of funding, it should finally free us from the cycle of shutdown threats and last-minute fixes. It allows us to, therefore, plan for the future.

So I very much appreciate the work that the Democratic and Republican leaders did to get this to my desk.  I think it is a signal of how Washington should work.  And my hope is now that they build on this agreement with spending bills that also invest in America’s priorities without getting sidetracked by a whole bunch of ideological issues that have nothing to do with our budget.

So this is just the first step between now and the middle of December, before the Christmas break.  The appropriators are going to have to do their job; they’re going to have to come up with spending bills.  But this provides them the guidepost and the baseline with which to do that.  And I’m confident that they can get it done on time.  And there’s no better Christmas present for the American people because this will allow the kind of stability and will allow the economy to grow.  At a time when you’ve got great weakness in economies around the world, this puts us on a responsible path and it makes sure that the American people are the beneficiaries.

So I very much appreciate the work.  Let’s keep it going.  With that I’m going to sign it.

(The bill is signed.)

And I want to thank, in particular, the staffs of both Democratic and Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate because they worked overtime to get this done.  I want to thank my own staff — in particular, Katie Fallon and Brian Deese, who are standing in the back.  They gave up a bunch of lost weekends to make this happen, but they did an outstanding job.  And we’re very proud of them.

Thank you very much, everybody.

While the Every Child Matters Education Fund believes that the federal government needs a comprehensive approach, with significant new resources, to address the 16 million children and youth living in poverty who lack a fair shot at success in life, we support this budget agreement and are pleased that the President has signed it.

This agreement is good step in the right direction toward limiting the harmful effects of the sequester cuts. In recent years budget cuts have put enormous pressure on programs that support children and families. According to experts, overall domestic funding is set to force investments in domestic programs to historic lows over the next few years as a percentage of the economy. Yet while this budget deal will not undo these cuts, the deal eliminates 90 percent of the harmful sequester cuts that would have taken effect in fiscal year 2016 and 60 percent of the cuts that would have taken effect in fiscal year 2017 without action.

We asked you to write, e-mail, and call your Members of Congress with the message that the harmful sequester cuts must end. Your actions helped to convince them to vote for this budget agreement.

Budget Act of 2015 votes:

NH – Senator Ayotte, Senator Shaheen, Congresswoman Kuster – AYE

NH — Congressman Guinta – NAY

ME – Senator Collins, Senator King, Congresswoman Pingree,

ME — Congressman Poliquin – AYE

Thank you for taking action!

But our work is not finished.

As our friends at the Coalition on Human Needs point out:

Appropriators in Congress will now begin to divvy up these new top-line dollar figures for the different departments in the federal government and draft legislation that must pass by December 11 when the current government funding runs out. There will be many challenges along the way – both in terms of making sure the money we’ve all fought so hard for goes to the programs that need it, and that no ideological policy changes (known as riders) harm human needs programs or stop the legislation in its tracks and cause a government shutdown.

Advocates across the country need to continue to weigh in with their members of Congress to ensure that we cross the finish line with a funding package that does the most it can to meet the needs of human needs programs and our neighbors they serve.

We will keep you updated as the appropriations process moves forward.


GROWING UP GRANITE

The excerpt below is from the Introduction of a new report from the Center for American Progress by Danielle Ewen and LeighAnn M. Smith.

Fostering School Success with Standards for Nonacademic Skills

When we look at a newborn, we rarely think about the child’s potential for success and skills development for college and career readiness. Instead, we are awed by the baby’s mere existence: her strong grip; her smile; how her eyes track loved ones; how each cry communicates a need to be met. We now know that each of these moments is also an opportunity for the child’s brain to grow; to make new social, emotional, and cognitive connections; and to form important neurological pathways.

As children move from infancy to toddlerhood and into preschool, their brains continue to grow and change. Parents, caregivers, and other trusted adults provide input that helps children master the basic skills they will need in order to climb slide ladders, hold pencils to spell their names, excitedly tell the story of their day, and understand when they are asked to put their toys away.

As children move into kindergarten and first and second grades, they begin to build on these earliest social, emotional, physical, and academic skills. They learn to read and do math; to play with their friends; and to follow rules in the classroom and on the playground. Each new milestone sets these children on the path to college and career readiness.

New evidence highlights the importance of social and emotional skills alongside academic skills for success in school and beyond. Academic skills—including basic literacy and math skills—are well defined and include skills such as learning the alphabet and counting. Social and emotional skills, meanwhile, include sharing, self-control, and building relationships with peers and adults. Yet, when states look to align early learning standards with those for K-12, social and emotional skills are often left out of the standards for children in elementary, middle, and high school—even as new research highlights the importance of these skills throughout elementary school and beyond.

This report explores the reasons for including social and emotional learning in early education standards, as well as detail about the five domains of learning—cognition, approaches to learning, social and emotional development, physical development, and language development—and how several states have incorporated them into their learning standards. By using these examples as guidelines for their own educational standards, other states can align early learning guidelines with standards for K-12 in order to support academic and social-emotional skills for all children.

The Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy is hosting viewing parties for the broadcast premier of Raising NH this Thursday, November 5th.

Can you come?

WHAT: “Raising New Hampshire” watch parties
WHEN: This coming Thursday night, Nov 5th at 8pm
WHERE: Concord, Manchester, Wolfeboro, Salem, and more.
RSVP NOW!

This fascinating new special produced by NH Public Television and the Endowment for Health delves into the ways New Hampshire’s kids and parents are impacted by the early education system – what’s working, what’s not, and how it can be fixed.

It’s a must-see for anyone who cares about the next generation of Granite Staters.  And the discussion is going to be great.

RSVP to join us for a free screening near you right now.

There are watch parties confirmed in Concord, Manchester, Salem and Wolfeboro– and we’re adding more every day. Be sure to invite your friends and family to come along.

See the screening locations and sign up for a watch party today.

Granite State Rumblings: Strong Bi-Partisan Support For Early Childhood Education Programs

The Presidential candidates are roaming the hills, to the valleys, to the seacoast of New Hampshire. They are being asked a lot of questions on their stances on everything from Social Security and Medicare to climate change. But the one issue that I seldom hear asked of them on the campaign trail is their stance on early childhood education.

And yet, a new bipartisan poll released last week by the First Five Years Fund finds that 76 percent of voters express support for a proposal that would provide 10 billion federal dollars per year for 10 years in state grants to provide low- and middle-income four-year-olds with access to high quality pre-K programs.

As Aaron Lowenberg writes for New America EdCentral, “At a time when partisan polarization seems to have reached a fever pitch, what’s surprising about the poll results is just how bipartisan the support for investment in early education seems to be. The 76 percent of poll respondents who express support for increased federal investment in early childhood education include 59 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of Independents, and 94 percent of Democrats. Majorities of every partisan persuasion also express support for making early education and child care more affordable, helping states and local communities build better pre-K services, improving early learning programs for infants and toddlers, and providing home visiting and parent education programs to first-time parents.”

He goes on to write:

More than two-thirds of voters express the belief that children currently enter kindergarten lacking the skills and knowledge needed for success. And despite the current climate of fiscal austerity, 74 percent of poll respondents express support for increased early childhood investment even if it increases the deficit in the short-term but pays for itself in the long-term. Multiple studies have shown that this is completely plausible because the return on investment for early childhood education is so high: the programs pay for themselves in the long run by improving children’s education, health, and economic situations so that less government spending is needed later.

A few other findings stand out from the poll results that should grab the attention of candidates running for public office. Fifty-four percent of voters report that they would feel more favorable towards a candidate who supports increased federal investment in early childhood education as opposed to only six percent of voters who would think less favorably of a candidate who supports such investment. Finally, a majority of the most critical swing voter groups report feeling more favorable towards candidates who back increased investment in early education, including Hispanics, Millennials, moderates, and Independent women.

This new poll makes clear there is widespread, bipartisan support for increased investment in high-quality early childhood programs.  At a time when many presidential candidates are struggling to build a winning coalition, candidates would be wise to start talking more about one issue that Americans can agree on regardless of party: the importance of early childhood education.

gsroctober15Here are the key points from the poll:

  • Voters say children getting a strong start in school and education are the best ways to strengthen the middle class.
  • There is continued support for investments in enabling states and communities to provide early childhood education opportunities. Support is evident across the partisan spectrum.
  • In fact, voters would prioritize early childhood education over college.
  • Majority is favorably impressed by a presidential candidate who supports such an approach on early childhood education.

It is clear that voters understand the value of early childhood education and want to see the federal government invest in programs at the state and local levels. Will you help us deliver this message to the Presidential candidates?

We’ll tell you how below.

Growing Up Granite

We Know You Support Kids –
Help Us Hear How the Presidential Candidates will Support Kids

Each Presidential Candidate has been invited to a Candidate Forum at UNH to answer questions related to children, youth and families.

What:  Single Candidate Forums on Children, Youth and Families

Hosts:  Every Child Matters in New Hampshire, MomsRising, and The Department of Social Work at the University of New Hampshire

When:  November and December – dates to be determined

Where:  University of NH, Durham, NH

Each candidate will be encouraged to spend time talking about their plans to ensure every child has the opportunity to grow up healthy, safe, and well educated; and their policies that will support a family friendly workplace and economy.

Here’s What We Need You to Do!!

Tweet the candidates and ask them to participate in an ECMNH/MomsRising/UNH Candidate Forum.

Sample Tweets:

.@marcorubio We want you at an @ECMNH @MomsRising forum on child & family issues in NH http://bit.ly/1GpPaf5 #VoteKids #MomsVote                 (CLICK HERE TO TWEET)

.@hillaryclinton We need your voice on kids & families in an @ECMNH @MomsRising forum in NH http://bit.ly/1GpPaf5 #VoteKids #MomsVote                 (CLICK HERE TO TWEET)

.@martinomalley NH wants to hear your policies on kids & families at an @ECMNH @MomsRising forum http://bit.ly/1GpPaf5 #VoteKids #MomsVote                (CLICK HERE TO TWEET)

.@jebbush Granite Staters want you at an @ECMNH @MomsRising forum on kids & families in NH http://bit.ly/1GpPaf5 #VoteKids #MomsVote                (CLICK HERE TO TWEET)

Candidate Twitter handles:

Hillary Clinton — @hillaryclinton
Martin OMalley — @martinomalley
Bernie Sanders — @berniesanders
Jeb Bush — @jebbush
Ben Carson — @realbencarson
Chris Christie — @chrischristie
Ted Cruz — @tedcruz
Carly Fiorina — @carlyfiorina
Lindsey Graham — @grahamblog
Mike Huckabee — @govmikehuckabee
Bobby Jindal — @bobbyjindal
John Kasich — @johnkasich
George Pataki — @governorpataki
Rand Paul — @randpaul
Marco Rubio — @marcorubio
Rick Santorum — @ricksantorum
Donald Trump — @realdonaldtrump

Please help us to get the candidates talking about the issues that affect children, youth, and families by inviting them to participate in a forum. We’ll be sure to let you know the minute we get a response.

Building Racial Equality In Our Schools

Some people say “racism is dead,” however that is a lie.

The outright discrimination of African-Americans is now illegal but that does not mean that racial discrimination does not still exist.  Just look at our public school system.  Do you think it is an accident that rich, white, sub-urban schools are better funded than the inner-city, mostly poor, where they majority of students are people of color?  No, it is not an accident.

Nationally we have seen states tightening their belts and squeezing their school budgets, forcing deep cuts and even school closures.  Class sizes in the inner-city schools are larger, the teachers – fresh out of college – are paid less, a large percentage students live in poverty, and people wonder why they are under-performing.

This week, the American Federation of Teachers released a report focusing on ways to bring racial equality to our public school system.

“Separate but equal is no longer the law of the land, but systemic inequity in education has relegated millions of children of color to under-resourced, struggling schools,” said AFT’s Executive Board.

Inequality in our schools leads to severe economic problems for the individual as well as the community.  Without a good education, individuals are forced to work in low-wage unskilled jobs that continue to keep them in, or on the edge of, poverty for their entire lives.  African-Americans earn on average “$224 a month less” than their white counterparts.

Robert Putnam, a Harvard University professor, talked about this in his book “Our Kids,” where he refers to it as the “opportunity gap.”  This means lower incomes for workers, lower tax revenues for cities and towns, and less spending in the economy.  Research shows that this leads to a societal loss of $529,030 per person (lifetime).  If nothing is done, this will lead to over $4 trillion dollars in lost revenue and lost economic opportunity.

AFT’s new report, Reclaiming the Promise of Racial Equity in Education, Economics and Our Criminal Justice System, highlights some possible ways to directly address racial inequality in our schools.

We envision an equitable education system that guarantees world-class, properly resourced public schools that provide wraparound services in every neighborhood, where young black male students have the opportunity to achieve by:

  • Ensuring the fair enforcement of discipline policies and practices to create supportive learning environments for black males.
  • Guaranteeing that all schools provide safe, welcoming and caring spaces for students and educators.
  • Working for policies and practices that favor education over incarceration and that decrease the disproportionately high number of black males dropping out of schools into jails.
  • Radically increasing the percentage of young black male high school graduates who are ready for college, career and citizenship.
  • Ensuring a diverse teaching force that includes black male educators as role models for African-American male students.

African-American’s face a 10% unemployment rate and a growing opportunity gap.  Before we can talk about closing the opportunity gap and getting more African-Americans into college, we first must help them graduate from high school.

Getting a good paying job and being a productive member of our economy begins with a strong public education.

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