December 07, 2011
In spite of a challenging political environment in which states and the federal government face budget shortfalls, CLASP continued its advocacy to make sure the nation's public policies address the needs of low-income people and provide a foundation for a more just and equitable society.
CLASP continues to champion subsidized jobs. We were instrumental two years ago in securing $5 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the TANF Emergency Fund, which also included subsidized jobs, and in November 2011 we presented a major paper at the Big Ideas for Job Creation Policy Forum, where a dozen leading experts offered practical proposals for job creation.
As a direct result of our ongoing efforts, President Obama included a subsidized jobs program in his proposed American Jobs Act.
But that wasn't our only impact. The jobs act also included a federal work-sharing program, which would give employers an alternative to laying off workers. Under work-sharing, employers can reduce employee hours and in turn those workers receive partial unemployment benefits to help offset lost wages.
Besides working with the White House, CLASP has provided extensive help to state policymakers, congressional staff, and others as they've developed and advanced work-sharing legislation.This year, two states adopted work sharing with our help; a bill is also pending in Congress.
At a time when regulations are being demonized as job killers, you wouldn't expect new labor laws to get much traction. Yet Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and the state of Connecticut recently joined San Francisco and the District of Columbia in putting laws on the books requiring employers to give their workers paid sick days. The idea is gaining momentum in nearly two dozen other cities and states, as well.
CLASP is making a key contribution to this movement by identifying and recruiting business owners willing to speak out in favor of paid sick days. Their voices are providing a powerful counter-argument to opponents who say such laws will hurt small businesses and cost jobs.
In another area of workforce development, we convinced the Department of Education to give states guidance on how to use funding under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act to combine basic skills education with occupational training to help students more quickly complete educational programs.
Millions of low-income college students will have a chance to graduate, thanks to our effort to save the federal Pell Grant program. This past spring, policymakers and advocates expected a $17 billion cut to Pell Grant funding. CLASP was part of a coalition that led a successful campaign to preserve almost all of the program's funding. The coalition was so successful, in fact, that President Obama cited it in a conversation to encourage advocates to fight for other economic justice priorities.
CLASP spent considerable time helping to develop and clarify the Early Learning Challenge, the Administration's new competitive grant program to encourage states to create integrated, high-quality early learning systems. Our efforts included advocating for program funding, improving legislative and regulatory language, and developing materials to help states understand the challenge's intent. We worked to ensure that infants and toddlers weren't left out and that system reforms would include comprehensive services.
We also provided input to congressional staff as they developed the bi-partisan Continuum of Learning Act of 2011, which would strengthen the connections between early childhood programs, local education agencies, and elementary schools.
As co-chair of the National Home Visiting Coalition, CLASP was influential in the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program's inclusion in the Affordable Care Act and in shaping the implementing regulations. In 2011, we spent considerable time ensuring the program will be well-executed.
CLASP worked closely with congressional staff as they considered whether to reinstate waiver authority in the child welfare arena. Our goal was to make sure that any such authority would adequately preserve the protections for children and provide for appropriate tracking of outcomes and dollars spent. The waiver authority was coupled with the reauthorization of a small but critical funding stream states use to provide a range of child welfare services, including prevention.
Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity remains one of the nation's leading sources for the latest on poverty policy. In recent interviews by independent evaluators with 30 policymakers, media, funders, and others, Spotlight was named more frequently than any other resource as the place interviewees go to for up-to-date information, bi-partisan opinion, and new ideas about how to address poverty. CLASP manages this funder led-initiative.
CLASP also was instrumental in the successful effort to eliminate the legislative and regulatory restrictions on seeking attorneys' fees that the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) imposed on civil legal aid program recipients in 1996. Working with the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), CLASP blocked congressional efforts to slash funding for the LSC and its grantees.
Other 2011 CLASP successes include:
40th Anniversary Policy Series: Launched a year-long policy series, Policy and Promise for Low-Income People in America, on issues from racial equity to workforce development and child demographics. The series boosted awareness of issues affecting low-income people and brought together myriad stakeholders from the policy, advocacy and foundation arenas.
TANF: Provided technical assistance to congressional staff as they moved to reauthorize Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). CLASP also provided extensive assistance to state advocates fighting cuts to TANF and opposing legislation to mandate suspicion-less drug testing of all TANF applicants.
Integrated Service Delivery: Published and widely disseminated an extensive toolkit on the range of federal funding streams that can be used to support integrated delivery of work-supporting services and benefits.
Benefits Access: Launched a multi-site Benefits Access for College Completion initiative to improve community college completion rates by helping students gain access to public benefits and closing the gap in unmet financial need beyond financial aid.
Workforce Investment Act: Our continued advocacy for youth provisions in the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) resulted in the Senate's WIA reauthorization draft significantly increasing required services to out-of-school, at-risk youth.
White House Council on Community Solutions: Provided input to the White House Council on Community Solutions, which has since identified disconnected youth as a key focus area.
Keeping Youth Connected: Helped promote greater understanding of youth distress by developing 20 dynamic community profiles highlighting data on education, crime victimization, employment, and family stability.
Community Solutions: Helped expand services to at-risk youth through technical assistance and advocacy in communities making policy or programmatic changes.
Early Childhood Programs: Successfully advocated for increased funding for early childhood programs in Fiscal Year 2011, including increases for Head Start, Early Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant.
Helping Advocates Make the Case: Created an online budget advocacy resource page for state advocates, including custom state fact sheets with information on child care and Head Start funding, children served in these programs, child poverty rates, and the impact of state cuts. CLASP staff also provided analysis of the child care subsidy program for state advocates to use in efforts to sustain or increase state child care funding.
Child Care: Provided intensive technical assistance to states on simplifying state child care policies and linking child care assistance to other public benefit programs.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due: Raised awareness of the need to help low-income students gain postsecondary credentials through wide dissemination of our Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due, a paper that makes the case for awarding educational credit for skills and learning mastered in formal and informal education and training settings.
Investment in Innovations & Race to the Top: Successfully advocated for Department of Education guidance for Investment in Innovations and Race to the Top funds that allows funds to be used to create multiple pathways and programs of dual enrollment for high-risk students. Our efforts also resulted in a definition of high-risk students being expanded to include those over-aged youth who left school without achieving a high school diploma.
Raise Up Act: Continued our work to build political will around a comprehensive youth development strategy, which resulted in the House and Senate introducing the RAISE UP Act, which would fund partnerships in distressed communities that provide youth with education, workforce preparation, and other supports leading to two- or four-year college or postsecondary credentials.
Promoting Employment: Co-sponsored two conferences to promote jobs creation, the Good Jobs for a Stronger America conference and Creating Sustainable Subsidized Employment Programs: Building on Lessons Learned from the TANF Emergency Fund.
Elementary and Secondary Education Act: Successfully advocated for improvements to the Secondary School Reentry Act, introduced in the Senate, which amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to create a plan for identifying and re-engaging disconnected youth in an education program leading to the attainment of a secondary school diploma.