McCormack Speaks

February 19, 2019
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Cliff Effects Webinar Draws in Over 250 Listeners From Around the Country

by Caitlin Carey, Doctoral Candidate of Public Policy and Public Affairs

On Tuesday, January 29th, the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Center for Social Policy hosted a webinar called, Cliff Effects: Turning Research into Action for Economic Mobility. The webinar highlighted the latest research on cliff effects from the Center for Social Policy and focused on how research is being deployed for policy and workforce practice.

Center for Social Policy Director Susan Crandall, along with Werby Intern, Magaly Vanessa, Saenz Somaribba, and PPPA doctoral student Caitlin Carey, presented their latest findings on cliff effects in Hampden County, Massachusetts, including an overview of policy solutions.

Michael Cole, Director of Budget and Analytics for the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, presented on the Learn to Earn Initiative and the CommonCalc Benefits Navigation Tool. With input from a CSP prototype, the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance is developing the CommonCalc Tool in order to better help workforce development providers assist program participants in getting over the benefits cliffs.

Milissa Daniels at Holyoke Community College, one of the five Learn to Earn grants recipients, spoke on the success to date of the medical assisting program. Anne Kandilis, Springfield WORKS/Working Cities Challenge Director, Economic Development Council of Western Mass, shared her findings from the Springfield WORKS initiative in which employers partnered with local workforce development providers ton increase employee retention. She also shared a detailed example of a family facing cliff effects, developed in partnership with the Center for Social Policy, entitled “Christina’s Dilemma.”

Abhidnya Kurve, Policy Associate & Coordinator for the On Solid Ground Coalition, spoke about On Solid Ground, which is cross-sector coalition of families and advocates, with the Center for Social Policy as the lead research partner. She highlighted new legislation to address housing stability and economic mobility for families living in Massachusetts.

According to Crandall, accessible webinars such as this that inform both the public and policymakers are an essential part of the Center for Social Policy’s mission. She commented, “I am thrilled that our Center for Social Policy research on cliff effects is being successfully deployed to develop tools, enhance practice, and influence policy for economic mobility. As an applied research center working at the intersection of employment practice and public policy, it is exactly what we aspire to do.”

February 19, 2019
by saadiaahmad001
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Being Black in America: Reflecting on Where We Are on the Way to Where We Are Going

by Olanike Ojelabi, Doctoral Student, Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs

As African Americans living in America, we have come a long way! From slavery to emancipation to a Black president who served two terms, to many other great accomplishments by Black iconic leaders and individuals for America. This progress made by peoples and communities of African descent is commendable; yet, the health of America’s democracy is questionable if there remain stark disparities in equity and social justice for all.

More than 100 years ago in 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois- a civil rights activist who died in Africa- specifically in Accra, Ghana- was a vanguard pan-Africanist, Black sociologist, historian, and the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard. Du Bois wrote “The Souls of Black Folk” [1] and many of his words in this groundbreaking book resonates with the experiences of many peoples of African descent in America today. In his first chapter “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” DuBois highlights this unasked question – How does it feel to be a problem? For Du Bois, Whites couldn’t ask this real question to him directly. Du Bois contended that between him (Blacks) and this other world (America), there remained an invisible line, making it difficult to attain equality. Du Bois would say that despite being free, peoples of African descent remain constrained by the veil – a metaphor for color line that makes it difficult to achieve a relative level of success in America.

Du Bois’ concerns then are still valid today. Racial segregation, discrimination, and inequality are not yet a thing of the past. They pervade many institutions saddled with the responsibility to serve all Americans. An encounter with one institution can affect opportunities in another institution, making it more difficult for many African Americans to succeed. For instance, African Americans are only 13.4% of America’ population; yet, they are over-represented in the criminal justice system, accounting for 40% of the more than 2 million people in it [2]. Our encounter with the criminal justice system can lead to loss of voting right, job, housing, and educational opportunities. These systems, the type of interactions among them, and the conscious or unconscious racialized policies in place continue to enhance racial nuances that have consequential effects for peoples and communities of African descent and America [3].

The school system, that ought to nurture the intellectual capacity of American children, is another example. Through policies and practices like the zero-tolerance policies, this same system fosters the journey of many Black kids into the criminal justice system in a phenomenon known as the school-to-prison pipeline [4]. According to the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights [5], Black students, even preschoolers, are disproportionately suspended from school. While Black students represent only 16% of student enrollment, they account for 31% of students subjected to a school-related arrest. This is concerning especially when compared with White students who represent 51% of enrollment, but only 39% of those subjected to a school-related arrest . This systematic racism tends to make us oblivious of the persistence of racism, but the experiences and effects linger in our society, even much more in the lives of African Americans who live in this reality.

W.E.B. Du Bois concludes his book with hopes for the future. This will be a future where all Americans irrespective of their identity can be assured equality and justice. We celebrate Black history month in remembrance and appreciation of great Americans – and Africans – like Du Bois, but the joy of celebration will become greater if we celebrate in the realization of their hopes- an America for all. So, let America and all its people rise for racial justice. We can make Black history month celebrate both accomplishments of Blacks in America, and the equality and justice that all Americans have truly achieved!

 

Footnotes

[1] W.E.B. Du Bois. (1903). The Souls of Black Folk. Chapter One “Of our spiritual strivings,” https://www.gutenberg.org/files/408/408-h/408-h.htm

[2] Wagner P., and Rabuy, B. (2019). Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017. Prison Policy Initiative https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2017.html

[3] Grant-Thomas, A., and Powell, J.A. (2009). “Structural Racism and Color Lines in the United States,” in A., Grant-Thomas and G., Orfield (Eds.). Twenty-First Century Color Lines: Multiracial Change in Contemporary America (pp. 118-142). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

[4] Cole, N.L. (2019). Understanding the School-to-Prison Pipeline. ThoughtCo.

https://www.thoughtco.com/school-to-prison-pipeline-4136170

[5] U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. (2014). Civil Rights Data Collection: Data Snapshot (School Discipline). U.S. Department of Education. https://ocrdata.ed.gov/Downloads/CRDC-School-Discipline-Snapshot.pdf

November 7, 2018
by saadiaahmad001
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What’s Cooking at the Center for Social Policy

by Susan Crandall

As the leaves tumble faster and the weather grows ever cooler, the mounting darkness seems to exacerbate the onslaught of tragedies that befall us. I’ve often wondered how people go on in times of upheaval, conducting their daily business as the world is shattering. But I am frequently reminded that tragedies like gun violence and homelessness have been part of the fabric of everyday life for many communities like our neighbors in Dorchester and Roxbury. If they can on, I can go on: deriving purpose through the Center for Social Policy’s dedication to shine a light on the root causes of economic hardship through our community-engaged research.

Aside from voting, to find comfort elsewhere, I cook soups and stews. With my multi-function Instant Pot, I saute, mix ingredients, simmer, walk away and return to a ready-to-serve meal – usually in less than an hour. It’s quick and easy! In contrast, our projects at the Center for Social Policy are more like cooking in an old-fashioned kitchen. We juggle multiple projects at a time, moving the simmering pots and pans from the back to front burners, sneaking a taste here and there, all while keeping some ideas warm in the oven. Here’s a sample of what’s cooking at CSP on cliff effects:

Cliff Effects

Our cliff effects research agenda, guided by CSP Senior Fellow and Professor of Economics Randy Albelda, tackles the dilemma of losing public benefits in response to working more. Now ready to serve is our new chart pack which analyzes more family types and benefit packages and spotlights the impact of housing assistance and universal childcare.

Next up, we are washing, slicing, and dicing the data to prepare our next set of cliff simulations based on our recent report on benefit packages authored by Research Associate Caitlin Carey. We are also analyzing the impact of the new minimum wage law on cliff effects, led by Professor of Economics Michael Carr in partnership with Mass Budget and Policy Center.

We provide technical assistance on public benefits and cliff effects for UTEC in Lowell and for the City of Boston Office of Financial Empowerment. These organizations are grantees in Learn to Earn, Governor Baker’s initiative to mitigate cliff effects for job seekers enrolled in workforce development programs to help them advance in their careers. Our cliff effect research also informs the work of On Solid Ground, a family-engaged statewide coalition with over 45 members that advocates for housing stability and economic mobility for vulnerable families.

Early Education and Care

Cliff effects are especially detrimental for very low-paid workers, such as early childhood educators. Thus the Center for Social Policy, along with the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy and the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation, launched a study on Massachusetts’ early care and education workforce. Our interdisciplinary research team is examining compensation and benefits, public benefits and cliff effects, debt load, and professional development in order to provide in-depth data to inform future policymaking for the early care workforce.

Workforce Development and Employment

Our CSP team, spearheaded by Senior Research Associate Brandynn Holgate, is partnering with the City of Boston Office of Workforce Development to map career pathways in the creative economy for non-traditional adult learners. This project is in collaboration with the UMass Donahue Institute, with whom we are also embarking on a study with the City of Cambridge Redevelopment Authority to expand job training and employment to more underserved Cambridge residents.

Meanwhile, Research Director Francoise Carre, with co-investigators Chris Benner of UC Santa Cruz and Chris Tilly of UCLA, is examining the workplace impacts of changing retail technologies, like automation. And through her work with Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), Dr. Carre lends statistical expertise on job classification for organizations such as the International Labor Organization to improve policies for informal work, such as domestic workers.

Student Homelessness

Workers and their families need stable housing to thrive. This is why the Center for Social Policy is proud to be selected as the evaluation partner for a cross-sector partnership to address the crisis of 4000 homeless students who attend Boston Public Schools. The collaborative is working together on a pilot program in seven schools to coordinate across housing, education, and health sectors to reduce homelessness and improve educational outcomes. Partners include the Chair of the Boston City Council’s Homelessness and Education Committee, Boston’s Chiefs of Housing and Education, Higher Ground, DSNI, Project Hope, New Lease for Homeless Families, Boston Public Schools, and the Boston Housing Authority.

In the Community

When we are not cooking up a storm in the kitchen, we are out and about in the community. Recently, I served on a panel of experts to speak to business leaders on the Modern Workforce, highlighting the need for tuition assistance and debt counseling to attract and retain today’s financially-burdened millennial workforce. I was also an invited speaker on cliff effects and workforce policy at the Department of Labor Employment and Training and Administration Region I Administrators meeting hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

September 26, 2018
by saadiaahmad001
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Latest Book by Mark Warren Chronicles Firsthand Experience of Educators and Students Fighting Systemic Racism in Schools

 

Mark Warren, Professor of Public Policy and Public Affairs at the McCormack Graduate School, recently published his fourth book, Lift Us Up, Don’t Push Us Out!: Voices from the Front Lines of the Educational Justice Movement. The book introduces readers to the struggles and accomplishments of the educational justice movement through firsthand accounts and personal narratives written directly by the parents, students, educators, and allies fighting on the frontlines in the resistance against systemic inequalities that target and disadvantage children of color in low-income households.

Over the course of the semester, he will be speaking with community and education activists featured in the book and touring cities across the country, including Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. His speaking schedule can be viewed here. McCormack Speaks sat down with Dr. Warren to learn more about his latest book and some of the goals that he hopes his book will help accomplish on these issues.

 

SA: Where did the idea for this book come from?

MW: I have been studying and working with community, parent, and youth organizing groups as well as with education activists for twenty years. Until recently, most of these efforts had been focused in local areas but over the past five years, I witnessed a growing national movement. I thought it was time to write a book about this new, emerging movement and wanted to have organizers and activists have a chance to speak for themselves – share their own personal stories, powerful analysis, and successful strategies for creating educational justice in schools and communities.

SA: What gap in the literature does this book address?

MW: This book approaches the failures of our educational system as a profound racial justice issue, rooted in the lack of power that low-income communities of color have in our society. It argues that we need a social justice movement led by those most affected – parents and students of color – as well as educators and allies in other movements to create power for communities and systemic change in public education. It also identifies effective strategies for how to build this movement and create equity-oriented change in schools and communities.

SA: What types of projects and dialogues do you hope this book will inspire?

MW: I hope this book will provoke a discussion about the depth of systemic racism in our public education system and what it will take to address it. I hope it helps people appreciate the important work [of] people who are often ignored in our society – like parents and students of color – but are leading change efforts across the country.

SA: How have your affiliations with the McCormack Graduate School and UMass Boston assisted with the publication of this book?
MW: I believe it is important for our public universities to be at the forefront of working with communities to create equity and justice in education and beyond. UMass Boston and MGS support this mission and the research and engagement work I do for educational justice.

SA: What are some other projects you hope to pursue in the coming years?

MW: The people who came together to create this book became excited about creating an idea and strategy space for movement building that we are calling the People’s Think Tank. We are touring the country engaging communities and educators around the need to create a stronger and more intersectional social justice movement with racial and educational justice at its center. We will be launching the People’s Think Tank next year as the culmination of this engagement process and take the next step to build strategic understanding and actionable knowledge for the movement and its supporters.

SA: Anything else that you’d like to share with the MGS community about this book?

MW: This book is very personal to me. I grew up in a blue-collar family and community and public schools gave me a chance to go to college and access the world. Too many young people, especially poor children and children of color, are denied that access and are consigned to lives of continued poverty or incarceration. This book shines a light on the way forward for our country to reject our racial history and create a better future for all our young people.

 

 

March 17, 2017
by McCormack Speaks
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The Future of Food Stamps

by Anonymous, a McCormack Graduate School student

groceriesWithin the United States there has been an increasing level of opposition regarding one of the most important government programs for those in need, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP benefits are managed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered by state agencies. Within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Department of Transitional Assistance provides this food assistance to low-income households. SNAP benefits are essential in bridging the gap for those with low income, part-time employees, the elderly, the disabled, and other households in need.

Twenty years ago, welfare reform passed, transforming the welfare entitlement program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) into the grant program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), TAFDC in Massachusetts. TANF gives states flexibility in the ways in which they allocate grant money and set the program eligibility standards. In fact, states can raise standards to decrease program eligibility and use funds for other approved programs.

Similarly, SNAP has become a target for reform, just as AFDC was leading up to welfare reform. However, unlike AFDC and TANF, SNAP benefits are specifically for food. It is SNAP’s status as an entitlement program that guarantees all of those who meet the federal qualifications will be provided with food assistance benefits, regardless of the federal budget. Food and water are basic necessities of life – an entitlement.

The current administration and the Republican-majority Congress have been working to revamp the SNAP program. Allegations of widespread fraud by non-citizens, the addicted, and the “lazy”  fuel their plans. Additionally, the increased numbers of program participants and resulting increases in the federal SNAP budget are seen as examples of a ballooning budget and further waste of taxpayers’ money. The proposed solution includes annual budget cuts for SNAP that would lead to its transformation from an entitlement to a grant program by as soon as 2021.

President Trump and our Congress should focus on the socioeconomic reasons that create influxes in clients needing SNAP, not on the program itself. Heavy reliance on SNAP represents an assortment of other problems including, but not limited to, low minimum wage, housing costs, education, and additional socioeconomic factors.

SNAP provides an essential resource to those in need. It is essential that these proposals to revamp it be stopped. Although I am not worried about the way in which Massachusetts would allocate resources, it is the future of food assistance within other parts of the country that is in jeopardy.

SNAP, a product of Lydon B. Johnson’s Great Society and earlier pilot programs initiated by John F. Kennedy, is a safety net depended upon by our friends, families, and fellow Americans.  Policymakers must keep this in mind when altering this program.

Anonymous is a SNAP supporter and studies public administration at UMass Boston’s John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies.

Please address any comments to Professor Christine Brenner, if you would like the writer to receive them: Christine.brenner@umb.edu

 

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