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Policy Corner: Janet Forbush on September policy developments


Written by Janet Forbush, Senior Advisor with the Center for the Advancement of Mentoring

September 2017

Amidst the recent backdrop of several devastating hurricanes, earthquakes, extreme losses of human life and massive human peril and disruption, there have been magnificent glimpses of the resilience and grace of human beings helping one another try to cope and survive.  Coming together during times of tragedy is a signature imprimatur of people throughout the world and provides a comforting cloak for us as we enter the fall season.

That said, we need to brace ourselves for potential public policy shifts at the national level that seem to run counter to the spirit of helping those in need during a challenging time.

Federal Developments

Affordable Care Act: There is a new Republican plan under discussion to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  This new approach would replace ACA and provide each state a federal block grant for health care using an intricate formula that cuts funding for several states and permits some funding increases in others.  The block grants would replace federal money currently being spent on Medicaid expansion and on subsidies to help people be able to afford insurance.  The bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate last week by Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.  If passed it would cause 36 states to face funding cuts in 2026.

In an analysis of estimates provided by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the New York Times calculated the funding impact on individuals should these cuts go into effect in 2026.  The analysis took into account the number of people currently receiving Medicaid benefits, those who purchased insurance in the ACA marketplaces and those who are uninsured.  Nineteen states and the District of Columbia face the cuts and the amounts ranged from just over $1,000 to over $2,000.  The largest cuts would occur in Oregon, Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York.

According to comments from GOP Senator Roy Blount of Missouri on September 20, the “likely” day of this new vote on Obamacare repeal is Wednesday, September 27, three days before the end of the current fiscal year.  This repeal is even more extreme than earlier versions considered in July.  This latest iteration would devastate Medicaid, hike up the prices for families and children in need nationwide, and take healthcare away from as many as 30 million Americans.

U.S. Census Bureau Poverty Rate Report: On another federal front, the poverty rate in the United States was recently reported by the U.S. Census Bureau to have declined to 12.7 percent in 2016, down from 13.5 percent in 2015 and 14.8 percent in 2014.  That 2.1 percentage point drop is the largest two-year decline since 1969,

Very important in these latest findings is the impact of much needed government programs.  As shown by the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, without Social Security, the total number poor would have been more than 26 million higher (with nearly 1.5 million more children poor).  Housing subsidies and Supplemental Security Income each lifted more than 3 million people out of poverty.  The Trump administration and the House Budget Committee have requested big cuts in some of the programs most effective at reducing poverty, including tax credits, SNAP/food stamps, and housing assistance.  Many of these supports have been instrumental in helping to lend some  level of security to families with children in mentoring and youth development programs.  It is important to build on the progress made to date on reducing poverty rather than run the risk of turning that tide in the other direction.

The Chronicle messaged to our readers in August that we would keep you posted on any movement of the proposed Mentoring to Succeed Act introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) in late July.  There has not been further activity on this proposal at this time.

City Features:

New York City Offers Free Lunch for All Public School Students

Carmen Farina, chancellor of New York City Public Schools, announced earlier this month that lunches will be free of charge to all 1.1 million students beginning this school year.  “This is about equity,” Ms. Farina is quoted as saying when she noted on September 6 that “All communities matter.”  This policy shift had long been sought by food-policy advocates, members of the New York City Council, and, countless parents and caregivers.

The majority of New York City public students are poor:  about 75 percent of them had already qualified for the lower cost received it for free.  However, 200,000 additional students will be able to get meals through this new initiatives enabling their families/caregivers to save $300 per year.  The full price for a school lunch in the New York jurisdiction is $1.75. per day.  New York joins other major cities already providing free school lunches including Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Dallas according to Liz Accles, the executive director of Community Food Advocates.

D.C. School Chancellor Prioritizes Higher Test Scores and Narrowing Achievement Gap

Antwan Wilson, newly appointed D.C. Public Schools Chancellor (February 2017), recently laid out his first five-year plan for the schools.  In the plan, he outlined goals for improving graduation rates, test scores, narrowing the achievement gap across diverse populations, and, increasing social-emotional learning at schools.  His plan was carefully developed following a series of community meetings held in all 115 of the city schools, meeting with principals and the teacher’s union.  Like other large urban school districts, Washington, D.C. has endured a significant achievement gap that lags behind the national average.

Chancellor Wilson’s goals are ambitious:  1) Double the percentage of students who rate college- and career-ready, and triple the number of students who meet that threshold; 2) Get all of the students in K-2nd grade reading at grade level; 3) Graduate 85 percent of students within four years and 90 percent within five years; 4) Ensure all students feel “loved, challenged and prepared.”;  5) “Ensure all schools are “highly rated” or “improving” and, 6) Boost enrollment in public schools to 54,000 and ensure 90 percent re-enroll.

Recommended Fall Reading

Earlier in this column, reference was made to the U.S. Census Bureau’s recent drop in overall poverty in the country in the past few years.  A cautionary note…or rather a recently published volume that speaks to the poverty landscape in the United States today is described in stunning and illustrative means through narrative, tables, and charts. places in need – The Changing Geography of Poverty, authored by Scott W. Allard, is a meaningful resource for scoping out the fabric of poverty that is shrouding the lives of people in many different communities in our country.  Dr. Allard is professor at the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington.  This can serve as a useful resource in framing grant proposals to government and philanthropic entities.

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