McCormack Speaks

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
1 Comment

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

 

February 14, 2017
by McCormack Speaks
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Getting to a New Normal: Reflections on Resilience Following Hurricane Matthew

A guest blog by J. Cedric Woods, PhD
Director, Institute for New England Native American Studies, UMass Boston

Aftermath of Hurricane MatthewGrowing up in Robeson County, North Carolina, particularly as a Lumbee Indian, I always knew the Lumber River, our river, was the dominant part of our landscape. It shaped a significant part of our history, serving as a source of food, recreation, and refuge during times of war.

I also knew that as heavily as we relied on it, it had the potential to cause great distress as well. I had seen it flood its banks and some of our roads as a child, and knew that it earned its older name “Drowning Creek.”

However, none of this prepared me for what I experienced in October 2016 with Hurricane Matthew. Continue Reading →

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