The Houston Independent School District (HISD) provides public education to more than 200,000 students.
Recently, HISD made a last-minute proposal to close five neighborhood schools at the end of the 2014 school year. Although three schools have been saved, a Thursday vote will determine if the remaining two schools will close.
If the board chooses to close the schools, students will be forced to travel farther from home and into Houston’s other, already overcrowded public schools. Class sizes will grow, students will receive less individual attention, and overall educational outcomes will worsen.
Texas is 49th out of all 50 states in education spending. We need to invest in our public schools, not make the situation worse than it already is.
In response to this, Working America members decided to take action by engaging local media, community members and key decision makers at the school board.
We’re hosting a press conference tomorrow to discuss the potential closing of the schools, at the HISD Administration building, 4400 W. 18th St., at 4 p.m.
Other actions we’ve taken
Our members Matthew Rigney and Elizabeth Johnson, a former HISD student and daughter of an HISD teacher, headed up outreach to fellow Working America members and the larger community. Together, they signed up 25 new Working America members at a district-sponsored meeting held for those affected by the proposed school closures.
Members also organized a phone bank to follow up with new members and invite them to join in the fight.
“The district may be able to ignore one or two people speaking out about this proposal, but they cannot ignore us all,” Rigney said. “If we really want to stop the attack on public education, we need to build our power through community support.”
Activist Mike Hicks, a single father of an HISD student, spoke out against the plan in a radio interview with KPFT 90.1FM on Friday Feb. 28, saying, “When you close a school, you ruin a community. Families with kids move out in search of other, more conveniently located schools, leaving only empty houses behind.”
Carol McGregor, activist, and mother of four public school-educated daughters, wrote a letter to the Houston Chronicle urging teachers, parents and community members to partner together to change the appalling pattern of overcrowded, underfunded schools.
“How [is the district] considering the closure of five Houston schools when more than 1,200 classrooms are overcrowded? If HISD thinks school closures and bigger classes are acceptable, we’re headed in the wrong direction,” McGregor said.
With little less than a week remaining before the vote, members have set their final plans into motion.
On Thursday, March 13, Working America members will head to Houston Independent School District’s headquarters to raise their voices about this important issue.
Take action now: send a message to the HISD and tell them to keep our schools open.
To get involved with Working America in Houston, contact Taylor Thompson, Working America Member Coordinator at email@example.com.
Photo courtesy of scarlettgreen on Flickr.
Here’s the truth: House Speaker John Boehner could single-handedly take steps to fix our nation’s broken immigration reform.
A bill passed by a wide bipartisan majority in the Senate, S. 744, has been sitting around since the summer. It contains a clear path to citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented men, women, and children, many of whom are exploited by employers who take advantage of their fears of coming out of the shadows.
While almost no one considers this bill “perfect,” many Republicans and Democrats in the often contentious House are supportive of the bill. If Speaker Boehner brought S. 744 to the floor for a vote, it would probably pass with bipartisan support.
But he refuses to do so.
In February, when asked about the status of the immigration bill, Boehner kicked the can down the road:
“The American people, including many of our members, don’t trust that the reform we’re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be…”
“Listen, there’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws. And it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”
In other words, until after the 2014 election, in which Boehner hopes his party will retain or expand control of the House and take over the Senate as well.
The Speaker is wrong about one thing: the American people want reform, and they don’t want to wait some amorphous time period just because Boehner and some of his colleagues “don’t trust” the federal government (which he works for, and is a leader of) will enforce this or any law. A gigantic majority of Americans, 79 percent say they will be “disappointed” if Congress does not tackle immigration this year.
That majority includes Working America member Theodosian Swain of Greensboro, North Carolina, who wrote this letter to the News & Record. We’ve reprinted it in full:
Congress wastes time as immigrants wait
I am writing in response to the article “Hopes low for immigration reform” (Feb. 7). The GOP stating that it will wait until the elections are over is just another political ploy for Congress to not get anything done. There have been people who have lived in this country for years who have become working members of society. Undocumented immigrants pay more than $200 million in sales tax every year and have basically become members of our community. This is just our political leaders telling us “tough luck” once again on measures that are important to the general public. We have people who want to become American citizens and are willing to work and contribute. Why wouldn’t we let them?
I’d like for people to look at this issue more practically and take in all the ramifications of passing a comprehensive reform bill. I think it’s possible for us to separate our politics from what needs to be done for our community. This is just the right thing to do.
Text TIMEISNOW to 30644 and tell your member of Congress that it’s time to fix our broken immigration system.
Tags: immigration, John Boehner, North Carolina, speaker boehner
You’ve got to feel bad for folks who go through life so distrustful and suspicious of their fellow citizens that they believe people are always trying to get away with something, trying to game the system. Like those millions of jobless workers who would rather lay back and collect $300 or so a week in unemployment insurance (UI) benefits than go out and try to find a job that pays a decent wage and gives them a chance to support a family, keep a roof over their heads and climb a step or two up the ladder.
Yep, you’ve got to feel bad for Republican senators. You see, that must be the way they feel about the nation’s 3.8 million long-term jobless workers. Why else would they introduce a bill that renews the Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits they let expire at the end of 2013 (and have voted against three times) but would also allow states to deny help to jobless workers who are not in a job training program or completing 20 hours a week of so-called ”community service” or jumping through new hoops to prove they are looking for work.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about this Republican proposal from Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.) who’s obviously more concerned about pushing conservative policy based on myths about people without jobs.
There are nearly three unemployed men and women for every job opening in the United States. So it’s not as if all the jobless have to do is shine their shoes and head out the door to the job market.
Republicans have long led the drive to cut funding for job training—even for those who have had their jobs exported (see Trade Adjustment Assistance). Most states now lack funding for job training and job retraining for all who need it.
“Community service” may sound like a good idea, but 20 hours a week cleaning up parks or painting benches is 20 hours a week taken away from a job search. BTW, current federal law prohibits states from requiring unemployed workers to engage in community service to public workers projects as a condition of receiving benefits.
The Republican bill sets up new administrative hurdles for both jobless workers and the states to prove that unemployed workers are indeed job hunting instead of golfing with those 20 hours less a week to look for work.
What happens if an unemployed worker fails to meet the new standards? The worker is disqualified for benefits “indefinitely” or until he or she is re-employed for at least four weeks and earns at least four times the weekly benefit amount. Take a minute and read that again carefully. A worker who can’t find a job can only receive jobless benefits after he or she finds a job that pays more than the unemployment benefit.
The next time you hear some Republican senator claiming to support restoring UI for the long-term jobless, remember, thanks to their inaction, 2 million jobless workers have lost benefits and that number will continue to rise. (Mouse over the photos from the National Employment Law Project in this post to learn more about three workers who were cut off from long-term unemployment benefits.)
Call your senators at 845-809-4509 and urge them to pass a clean emergency unemployment benefits extension, not the Republican bill offered by Heller that punishes workers more than it helps.
Read anonymous confessions from jobless workers here.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Dean Heller, Jobs, nevadea, unemployment, unemployment benefits extension, unemployment insurance
Privatization of public services on the march
How billionaires use minority groups to push an education privatization agenda.
The growing power of Michelle Rhee’s pro-privatization political arm, Stand for Children.
Does the privatization of public services save money? Not according to, well, numbers.
Booming business at Alabama shipyard fuels union campaign.
Key Quote: “The young kids, and there are a lot of them [at the shipyard], just don’t know anything about unions…They’re young and they’re not really scared of anything.”
The power of public worker unions in Southern organizing.
Missouri considers bill to force disclosure of model legislation.
Wisconsin Republicans push voter restrictions, lobbyist-friendly bills ahead of election.
Epic takedown of Pennsylvania’s paycheck deception supporters.
Finally: The ugly side of SAT prep
Wage theft, union-busting, terrible work environments at Kaplan.
Have you ever thought about how much money your employer is saving when you perform job duties off the clock?
Well, a group of bus drivers in Baltimore banned together and won a $350 million wage theft case against their employer, Durham School Services, for that exact reason.
From 2011 to 2013 Durham failed to pay workers overtime for things like bus inspections, cleanings and fueling, In These Times reports.
“We work hard and don’t make a lot of money to begin with,” Rosedale driver Martin Fox commented in a union press statement. “For many of us, the pay we didn’t receive was the difference between being able to pay the electric bill and having food on the table for our families. We are glad to finally win back the pay that was stolen from us.”
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 750 has been trying to organize drivers and aides for quite some time. The union was instrumental in getting the workers to file suit, and the union hopes that this move will be a stepping stone in the unionization process.
As it pertains to Durham School Services, there are several instances of this type of behavior. Worker complaints have been recorded in Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Florida. In 2011, California school bus drivers won a class action suit against Durham for $7 million in lost wages.
Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks on Flickr
A movement was reignited in Raleigh on February 8th.
The Moral March, better known as the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ), was held in support of fair voting standards and economically just policies in North Carolina.
That day, the streets surrounding Shaw University were choked with people as far as the eye could see.
We were joined by brothers and sisters from across the country, and we took to the streets to deliver a simple message to the state capitol: we’re not going to stand for regressive policies that hurt our families and communities.
Instead of tax cuts for the wealthiest few in North Carolina, we need to reinvest in our children’s educations, our colleges and universities, and our jobless. Instead of turning back time and making it harder for people to vote, we need to encourage participation in our democracy.
Supporters came out with signs in favor of immigration reform, women’s rights, labor, civil rights, education, environmentalism, faith, love, and basic human dignity.
This wasn’t a “fringe” group, by any means. We represented all stripes of North Carolinians. A Working America member told me this was the most exciting thing he’s ever seen and that he knows we’ve made it, because PTA groups from around the state were out in full force.
We’re fighting back
A policy that fueled the closely related Moral Monday movement last year was the passage of one of the most flagrantly undemocratic voting bills in the country. Among other things, the measure included cuts to early voting, eliminated same-day registration, photo ID requirements in 2016, and relaxed limits on campaign contributions.
These changes have the sole goal of making it harder for working people, poor people, minorities, students and seniors to elect people that represent their best interests.
“All these changes are just voter suppression. I think it’s unfair to keep people from their constitutional rights. We can fight back and protect the right of each American,” said Florence Price-Harrell, an activist from Greensboro. And fight back we will!
In addition to participating in the Moral Monday movement, our members are hard at work in our own communities. In January, Working America activists set a goal of educating 364,250 North Carolinians in the Triad about the voter suppression laws.
We’re reaching out to community groups, tabling at events, talking to friends and family, canvassing neighborhoods, and writing letters to the editor in hopes of ensuring these laws don’t have their intended impact: weakening the voice of the working class come election time.
With the Moral March in Raleigh on February 8th, we assembled again to make sure our voices were heard loud and clear. We’re back and bigger than ever. Forward together, not one step back!
To get involved in our team’s voter education efforts, contact Katie at 336-299-0635 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of alexmh17 on Flickr.
Senate Democrats plan all-night session on climate change.
In 2013, use of public transit reached highest level since 1956.
Key Quote: “We’re seeing that where cities have invested in transit, their unemployment rates have dropped, and employment is going up because people can get there.”
Is the 113th the worst Congress ever? Members of the 113th Congress think so.
ALEC goes hyper-local with American City Council Exchange (ACCE).
Is “right to work” alive in Ohio? Many fear a repeat of Michigan lame-duck session.
Related: Missouri workers deliver more than 7,000 letters to Speaker Tim Jones opposing “right to work.”
New Paul Krugman column: “Taking action to reduce the extreme inequality of 21st-century America would probably increase, not reduce, economic growth.”
Senator Bernie Sanders says he’s “prepared” to run for president in 2016: “somebody has got to represent the working-class and the middle-class of this country…”
Protesters are forgoing Congress and taking immigration reform into their own hands.
New York state is pretty close to giving workers paid family leave.
Finally: Despite conservative belief, the long-term unemployed aren’t prospering under the GOP’s “tough love”.
People who oppose raising the minimum wage are out of touch. That’s the key message to be taken from a new poll released Thursday. The poll, conducted on behalf of Small Business Majority, shows that 57% of small business owners support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Most of the respondents said that the higher wage would increase consumer demand and make them more competitive with large chain retailers like Walmart.
Nearly half of the poll respondents were self-identified Republicans or Republican-leaning, compared to only 35% who identified with Democrats. Overall, 27% strongly favored raising the wage to $10.10. The survey included a random sample of small business owners and was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner in February. Small businesses were defined as those with fewer than 100 workers. Several of the respondents spoke on the record:
“I welcome a nationwide increase that would pay all workers enough to survive,” said Zach Davis, owner of The Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz, Calif., on a call with reporters Thursday. “An increase to the minimum wage would allow us to compete far more effectively with bigger chains,” Davis added. That sentiment was echoed by Kris Kleindienst, co-owner of St. Louis-based Left Bank Books. “If big businesses have to pay an increased minimum wage as well, it would be much easier for us to compete for a talented workforce.”
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: minimum wage