Boy Scouts Risk Losing Tax-Exempt Status

John Kropewnicki /

May 30, 2013; The San Luis Obispo Tribune

A couple of weeks ago, the Boy Scouts of America’s national council approved a resolution that lifted the organization’s ban on gay youth while keeping in place its ban on gay adult leaders. Some lauded this development as a step in the right direction, while others, including California lawmakers, thought it was not a big enough step. Last Wednesday, California’s Senate voted to end tax breaks for the Boy Scouts and any other youth group that discriminates based on sexual orientation or gender identity. SB 323, dubbed “The Youth Equality Act,” amends the state’s tax code and revokes exemptions on state sales, use and corporate taxes.

“While the Boy Scouts of America took a step in the right direction to include LGBT youth, the standing ban on LGBT adults is premised on absurd assumptions and stereotypes that perpetuate homophobia and ignorance,” said Sen. Ricardo Lara, a co-sponsor of the bill. “Equality doesn’t come with an expiration date and we shouldn’t allow discrimination to be subsidized; not in our state, not on our dime.” He argues that this is “out of line with the values of California” and SB 323 aligns laws with Californian values.

The Boy Scouts has yet to release a comment on the Senate vote, but during preliminary committee hearings, a former president expressed his concern. “You’re talking about taxing revenue that is important, especially to the local scouts,” said Rick Cronk. Some critics questioned the constitutionality of the bill. Supporters countered, however, that churches which charter scout troops would not be affected, while the statute would send an unequivocal message about equality. Faith-based groups sponsor about 70 percent of scout troops nationwide.

The Boy Scouts took a tentative step towards progress, but the compromise position on gays was not enough for many. Polls reveal that a majority of Americans support the organization’s decision to end the ban on gay youth but oppose the continued exclusion of gay adults. A similar bill has been introduced in the New York Senate, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if other states follow suit. This is clearly an instance when compromise is not politic.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire.

Sequestration’s Toll on Immigrants and Our Shared Future


Two girls at the U.S.-Mexico Border crossing. Photo by Flickr user Bosquet, used under a Creative Commons License (cc-by-sa 2.0)

Here’s what the scaremongers think they know about sequestration and immigration: that hundreds of undocumented criminal aliens will be let loose and hundreds more will swarm through our unsecured borders, steal American jobs, and abuse our welfare system. Setting aside the facts that many being released from detention are guilty of only minor infractions, that net migration from Mexico is practically nonexistent, and that immigrants give more than they take, the vast majority of immigrants in the United States are legal permanent residents or naturalized citizens. These nearly 30 million people will certainly be set back by meat cleaver­–like sequestration cuts. And that should be of concern to all of us.

One federal program for which immigrants are eligible is Head Start, which offers competitive grants for comprehensive early childhood services for low-income children and families. Under sequestration, Head Start funds will be cut by as much as $622 million, which translates to over 96,000 fewer children served.

The automatic cuts to education, however, will have ripple effects throughout the economy. Children of immigrants are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. According to an Urban Institute study, they account for nearly the entire growth in the country’s child population during the past two decades. As of 2010, one in four children in the United States lives in an immigrant family.

This considerable demographic shift will have major social, political, and economic implications for the country. In less than a decade, today’s immigrant children will make up a large proportion of new workers, taxpayers, and voters who will bear the responsibility of supporting aging baby boomers. It is crucial, then, to provide quality education for these children.

A functional and successful public education system can help secure economic and social parity for immigrant children and their families by giving students a solid foundation for higher education and subsequent gainful employment. This in turn can promote intergenerational mobility for immigrant groups. Ultimately, better mobility means a more productive economy and much-needed revenue for the government.

Poorly funded public schools can widen existing economic and social gaps between racial and ethnic groups and between haves and have-nots by denying disadvantaged students the educational foundation they need to progress. Educating immigrant children, however, is and will be daunting for public schools due to the schools’ diminished capacities and increased accountability burdens coupled with the linguistic and cultural challenges unique to immigrant students.

English proficiency is a significant barrier. Two in five immigrant children are English language learners, and three in four live in households where no one older than 13 speaks English proficiently. In addition, many immigrants have limited financial resources. Children in immigrant families make up close to a third of the nation’s poor children and a similar proportion of the nation’s low-income children. Five in ten immigrant children live in low-income families, compared with four in ten native-born children.

This tenuous situation will be exacerbated by cuts in discretionary spending for federal education programs. Title I grants to local education agencies—a cornerstone program designed to help all students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, meet high academic standards—are to be slashed by a whopping $1.1 billion. This will leave 1.8 million fewer students served, among whom are hundreds of thousands of immigrant children. English language acquisition state grants, which help English language learners and recent immigrant students learn English and become proficient in academic content standards, are to be cut by over $57 million, resulting in over 350,000 fewer immigrant students assisted.

Coupled with state budget shortfalls (which can only worsen when the federal cuts kick in), sequestration will set immigrant children and their families further back. If so much of our future workforce falls behind now, all of us will face the consequences in the not-too-distant future.

Originally posted on Urban Institute’s MetroTrends Blogthe Huffington Post, and Feet in 2 Worlds.

Sequestration and Risk to Nonprofits

In a few days, sequestration hits unless Congress and the White House agree on an alternative to $85 billion in automatic spending cuts. Thousands of human service organizations would be affected, along with the communities, families, and individuals that depend heavily on nonprofit programs and services.

An Urban Institute national survey of human service organizations determined that in 2009, over 30,000 nonprofits had about 200,000 contracts and grants from federal, state, and local governments amounting to $100 billion. Government funding accounted for over 65 percent of the total revenue of organizations surveyed. Sixty percent of nonprofits said government contracts and grants were their largest funding source.


Among nonprofits that consider government contracts and grants as their largest source of revenue, 4 in 10 medium to large organizations (those with budgets over $250,000 a year), and 3 in 10 small nonprofits reported the federal government as their largest funder. Four in 10 of all human service organizations also said state governments, which act as conduits for federal monies, were their largest revenue source.


Sequestration would damage human service organizations that contract with the government. A report from the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies warns that automatic cuts on nondefense programs “would have destructive impacts on the whole array of federal activities that promote and protect the middle class in this country—everything from education to job training, medical research, child care, worker safety, food safety, national parks, border security, and safe air travel.”

Head Start, for instance, which provides grants for early childhood services for low-income families, stands to lose close to $622 million, which would result in 96,179 fewer children served. The Community Services Block Grant, which funds 1,100 community action agencies that offer crucial services to low-income families and individuals, is slated to lose over $677 million, which could lead to 1.5 million fewer individuals assisted.

During the Great Recession, human services organizations’ revenue from all sources, including governments, fell. In 2009, nonprofits resorted to various cutbacks including freezing or reducing employee salaries, drawing on reserves, and laying off employees. Some took drastic steps such as cutting back on programs and services and serving fewer people.


Should sequestration be allowed to take effect, human service nonprofits would lose billions of dollars in government funding and might have to make difficult choices, such as laying off much-needed staff, or worse, ending programs and serving far fewer clients. Ultimately, individuals and families who are just starting to recover from the economic downturn would suffer.

Originally posted on Urban Institute’s MetroTrends Blog and the Huffington Post.

The Chicago Teacher’s Strike, Public Education, and Immigrants

Public schools can give immigrant children a leg up, but it can also set them back argues Erwin de Leon. (Photo: Flickr/sierraromeo)

The outcome of the Chicago Public School Teacher’s strike which centers on teachers’ pay, evaluation, and tenure, will have serious implications for the city’s students and teachers. It also speaks to the national debate over how our children should be taught and classrooms run.

The state of our public school system heavily impacts immigrant families and their children. As the U.S. Census reports foreign-born households tend to be larger and have more children than native households. Six in ten immigrant families include children under 18 and a majority is Latino. Moreover, children of immigrants are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, accounting for nearly the entire growth in the country’s child population during the past two decades. As of 2010, one in four children in the U.S. is part of an immigrant family. In Chicago, 44 percent of Chicago public school students – over 178,000 children – is Latino. Nationwide, one-in-four public elementary school students is Latino.

We are all affected as well. The considerable demographic shift we are experiencing will have major social, political, and economic implications for the U.S. Our public school system plays a vital and indispensable role in ensuring our economic success and societal progress.

American public schools have always been integral to the full integration of immigrants. Through public schools, new Americans have been introduced to their native-born neighbors, have learned how to be responsible citizens, and have gained the education necessary to be productive members of society. A functional and successful public education system can help secure economic and social parity for immigrant children and their families by giving students a solid foundation for higher education and subsequent gainful employment. This in turn can promote intergenerational mobility for immigrant groups.

Immigrants understandably tend to place a high premium on education, counting on the investment to eventually pay off for their children. Connie Diego, whose younger brother is a fifth-grader in the Chicago public school system, told a reporter, “We couldn’t ever miss even a day because our parents tell us about all the benefits we have there and how where they came from they didn’t have anything.”

Local Activist Fernando Rayas added that many children learn English at school. Without the public schools, he said “they will fall behind.” Indeed, English proficiency is a significant barrier faced by children of immigrants. Two out of five immigrant children are English language learners and three out of four live in households where no one older than the age of thirteen speaks English proficiently.

Public schools can give immigrant children a leg up, but so can they set them back. Poorly functioning and dysfunctional public schools can widen existing economic and social gaps between racial and ethnic groups and between haves and have-nots by denying disadvantaged students the educational foundation they require to progress. In order to succeed, American students need a solid educational foundation from our schools. In order for our knowledge-based U.S. economy to succeed, we need more highly skilled and educated workers.

As public education advocates, teachers’ unions, governments, and other stakeholders duke out the future of our public school system, they ultimately need to keep the best interests and welfare of our children in mind. They also need to acknowledge however that educators need to be fairly compensated and treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. Our shared future is at stake.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, the Huffington Post, and Urban Institute’s MetroTrends, September 14, 2012.

The Right Funds for Reinvestment

Note: This article originally appeared in Voices in Urban Education 32 (Winter 2012), “Civic Investment in Public Education,” produced collaboratively by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and Public Education Network (PEN) and based on the work of PEN’s National Commission on Civic Investment in Public Education Commission’s work and on its 2011 report An Appeal to All Americans.

Current economic and social realities make it hard for public education to thrive and succeed, but organizations that support public education are helping many communities reinvest in our shared future.



President John Adams, a former teacher, wrote in a letter to John Jebb in 1785: The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves (Adams 1856).

Sadly, we have not collectively taken on the responsibility of educating all our children. There is a lack of political will to compel people to pay enough taxes to support public schools (Kober 2007). Public education has therefore failed to meet its mission of advancing the common good.

Nonetheless, communities can still band together and support public schools and school districts. Kober (2007) reminds us that in the 1830s, “little by little, public schools took hold in communities, often because the local people, rather than politicians, demanded them.” It is contingent upon communities now, as it was then, to ensure and sustain public education for all its members. Public schools will continue to flounder unless we all pitch in. In this article, I describe the growing number of local nonprofit organizations that are mobilizing their communities to do just that.

Chronic Funding Shortages

These are trying times for public schools. As many Americans remain unemployed or underemployed and most of us live in constant anxiety about our financial future, state and local coffers remain bare. Programs and services have been cut across the board in most municipalities, and public education has not been spared.

Article PDF [13 pages]


Alabama’s Immigration Law Fails Our Future

A classroom in Birmingham, AL
A classroom in Birmingham, AL. (Photo: Terry McCombs/flickr)

Last Friday, close to 2,000 Latino students in Alabama didn’t show up at school. That is roughly five percent of the Latino children in the school system. Their parents kept their children away out of fear – twenty-four hours earlier, Alabama had begun asking students for papers.

The state passed what is arguably the harshest immigration law in the nation in June but its implementation was delayed until a federal judge ruled on lawsuits filed by the Justice Department, national civil rights groups, and church leaders. Last Wednesday, the judge, Sharon Lovelace Blackburn, upheld several parts of the statute, including the one that prompted parents to keep their children at home and some to even leave the state.

This law mandates that public schools check birth certificates when a child enrolls for the first time. If a birth certificate is not presented, parents or guardians have up to 30 days to submit other documentation or sign an affidavit about the citizenship or immigration status of the student. Otherwise, the children are counted as undocumented.

The law does not require school officials to submit names of undocumented students to immigration authorities, but the fear among immigrant families in the state—many are a mix of individuals with and without papers—is understandable. The law’s passage indicates that the loud anti-immigrant rhetoric in Alabama has been codified.

Such laws, and the reaction to them, will keep many children of immigrants – native and foreign-born alike – from their constitutional right to an education. This will have serious implications not only for their future but for our nation’s future.

Children of immigrants are the fastest growing segment of our population. They account for nearly the entire growth in the country’s child population during the past two decades. As of 2010, one in four children in the U.S. is part of an immigrant family–the majority Latino.

The number of Latino children in our public schools has been steadily increasing. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that at the turn of the century, 16 percent of all children in the school system were Latino. A decade later, 22 percent of all students are Latino. The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics projects that by mid-century, four out of ten children will be Latino, up from two out of ten today.

This considerable demographic shift will have major social, political, and economic implications. In less than a decade, when baby boomers reach retirement age, the current cohort of immigrant youth will comprise a large proportion of the workers, taxpayers, and voters who will bear the responsibility of supporting our aging population and maintaining America’s place in a fast-changing global order.

For this reason–among other, moral responsibilities–it is imperative that we provide quality education for Latino children and other children of immigrants to prepare them for our shared future.

Current education statistics indicate that we are not doing a good job.

The Children’s Defense Fund reports dismal information. American schools are resegregating. Seventy eight percent of Latino students are in predominantly minority schools. Eight in ten Latino public school students in grades four, eight and 12 are reading or doing math below grade level. Latino students are underrepresented in gifted and talented programs. Thirty percent of Latino high school students attend the more than 1,600 “dropout factories” across the country. Only six in ten Latinos finish high school.

Now state anti-immigration laws are making it worse for these immigrant children. And ultimately, the rest of us.

Since the nineteenth century, public schools have been integral to the social, political and economic integration of immigrants. Through public education, new Americans have been introduced to their native-born neighbors, have learned how to be responsible citizens, and have gained the education necessary to be productive members of society.

A good education can give immigrant children the foundation necessary for higher education and subsequent gainful employment. This in turn will uplift the lives of these children and their families, economically and socially.

Unfortunately, the current trends in public education, exacerbated by reactionary immigration policies like the new Alabama law, will result in an underclass of poorly educated Americans who are expected to bear the rest of us on their shoulders.

We should be encouraging immigrants and their children to attend school, not scaring them away from getting an education.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, October 6, 2011.

Johns Hopkins Affiliate Accused of Tuskegee-Like Study

September 15, 2011; Source: New York Times | A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the Kennedy Krieger Institute, a Johns Hopkins University affiliate, accusing the lab of conducting experiments on African American children which the Maryland Court of Appeals has compared to the Tuskegee syphilis study.  The research, which has been the subject of litigation for more than a decade, involved periodically testing children’s blood to determine lead levels in order to study the hazards of lead paint.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that researchers knowingly exposed more than 100 children who ranged in age from 12 months to 5 years old to high levels of lead dust in apartments selected by Kennedy Krieger for the children and their families to live in. Parents were supposedly misled by assurances from the institute that their homes were “lead safe.”

David Armstrong, father of the lead plaintiff, said he was not told that his son was being introduced to elevated levels of lead paint dust. “I thought they had cleaned everything and it would be a safe place,” he said. “They said it was ‘lead safe.’ ”

The lawsuit also claims that no medical treatment was made available to the children. “Children were enticed into living in lead-tainted housing and subjected to a research program which intentionally exposed them to lead poisoning in order for the extent of the contamination of these children’s blood to be used by scientific researchers to assess the success of lead paint or lead dust abatement measures,” reads the suit.

Dr. Gary W. Goldstein, president and chief executive of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, said in a statement that the “research was conducted in the best interest of all of the children enrolled.” He points out that “Baltimore city had the highest lead poisoning rates in the country, and more children were admitted to our hospital for lead poisoning than for any other condition.”  He further argues that “with no state or federal laws to regulate housing and protect the children of Baltimore, a practical way to clean up lead needed to be found so that homes, communities, and children could be safeguarded.”

Goldstein appears to argue that it is not the responsibility of researchers and scientists to change public policy. Fair enough. But what about their responsibility to people who serve as research subjects? In this case, the court will determine whether Kennedy Krieger researchers fully disclosed all the facts to parents before having their children live in lead-laced apartments.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, September 19, 2011.

A Charter School for Immigrant Children

August 14, 2011; Source: The Boston Globe | A proposal to establish the Somerville Progressive Charter School, geared specifically to immigrant children in Somerville, Massachusetts, has been submitted to the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The agency will decide by the end of February 2012 whether to grant the school its charter.

Selena Fitanides, the coordinator of the group behind the initiative, told the Boston Globe that the proposed K-8 school would serve “the needs of children in Somerville whose first language is not English—the children of fairly recent immigrants.” It would open in September 2012 with an initial enrollment of 180 and grow to about 425 students over five to seven years.

The U.S. Census estimates the City of Somerville to have over 21,000 immigrants, 28 percent of the municipality’s total population. About 9 percent of its residents identify as Latino and roughly another 9 percent as Asian. One in ten families live below the poverty line.

Somerville Progressive would offer bilingual students the chance to attend daily after-school enrichment programs in Spanish, Portuguese and French, all of which would also be available to native English-speaking enrollees. The school would have a strong focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills and would feature innovations such as extended learning time and collaborative learning in mixed-age groups. Fitanides said that the school would be “very student-centric, really focused on the individual and tailoring the curricular and instructional needs to that individual.”

Fitanides argues children of immigrants, particularly those from Spanish-speaking backgrounds, need a charter school. “We need to find a better way to educate those kids,” she told the Globe. “Our current system is not well suited to addressing their needs. We are losing a lot of these kids because they are dropping out of school.”

The founders of Somerville Progressive Charter School share the sentiments of many public-education reformers who have given our public schools a failing grade. President Obama has also touted charter schools as one solution to our ailing education system, although the verdict on their overall effectiveness is still out.

The concept behind this charter school is commendable. But like Somerville School Superintendent Tony Pierantozzi, I have a few questions and some “serious concerns.”

For starters, will the school enroll children of immigrants who need the help most or will it be a self-selecting pool of kids with parents who know how to work the system? What about immigrant children whose first language is neither English nor Spanish? Is a charter school the best way to improve the education of most immigrant children? Why not spend energy and resources in bolstering the public school system, which already educates most immigrant children?Erwin de Leon

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, August 24, 2011.

In Shadow of Debt Ceiling Debate, A Positive Immigration Bill Passes the House

 U.S. Navy Sailors with ties to the Filipino community welcome the Philippine navy frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar Most of us were so riveted to or repelled by the debt ceiling circus that we missed the passage of a truly bipartisan bill. The House of Representatives on Monday debated and approved H.R. 398 by a 426-0 vote.

H.R. 398 seeks “to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to toll, during active-duty service abroad in the Armed Forces, the periods of time to file a petition and appear for an interview to remove the conditional basis for permanent resident status, and for other purposes.”

In other words, the statute would make it easier for married binational straight couples by giving foreign-born spouses with conditional green cards and their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouses more time to petition for the removal of the conditional status. The amendment introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) would apply to couples in which either spouse is an active member of the U.S. Armed Forces serving abroad.

This statute would be a welcome relief for immigrant families in the military.

The Migration Policy Institute reports that about 65,000 immigrants serve in the U.S. military and foreign-born troops represent approximately five percent of active duty personnel. Over 11,000 foreign-born women serve in the Armed Forces. The National Center for Children in Poverty in turn counts 1.76 million children and youth in military families, a fraction of which hail from immigrant families.

Military families have a lot to deal with: the strain of constant separation due to frequent deployments; the stress caused by low wages and rising costs; the burden of one parent raising children and running a household alone; and most of all, the very real threat of losing a loved one fighting our wars abroad. Some immigrant military families have the additional anxiety brought on by an uncertain immigration status.

H.R. 398 would give those immigrant families a little reprieve to contend with our arcane and burdensome immigration system. It has been received in the Senate and is now with the Committee on the Judiciary. I wouldn’t be surprised if this also gains true and full bipartisan support among Senators and passes without many of us noticing. Now back to our sputtering economy, missing jobs and impotent lawmakers.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, August 4, 2011.

Summer Respite for Kids from Migrant Families

July 29, 2011; Source: Tampa Bay Online | A handful of children from migrant families have been able to enjoy a great American tradition: attending summer camp. Four churches banded together to give more than 100 youngsters the opportunity to enroll in a church-sponsored day camp in Dover, Florida. The children are treated to meals, games, and, of course, some bible study.

Hal Stinespring, pastor of a Georgia congregation, said, “It’s about the gospel. It’s bringing communities together and giving kids the chance to interact with one another regardless of where they are from, what their financial circumstances [are], or what race they may be.”

The National Center for Farmworker Health reports that there are more than three million migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the United States. Close to 10 percent of the laborers and their families are based in the Sunshine State. Florida, along with Texas and California, is one of the top three sending states for migrants – that is, states these itinerant workers call home. Farmworkers fan out to where crops need to be harvested, and return once the season is over. Workers usually travel alone, leaving their families behind – particularly those with school-age children.

Children from migrant families have lives that are vastly different from those of their peers. Poverty regularly denies them the activities and luxuries most American kids take for granted. This camp not only brings communities together, it provides these youngsters with a chance to be just like everyone else – if only for the summer.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly, Nonprofit Newswire, July 31, 2011.