|April 2, 2015||Posted by M. P. under Education, Management, News, Research||
With budget season looming, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children is keeping an eye on the happenings in Harrisburg. They recently commented on the education funding in Governor Wolf’s proposed 2015-16 budget and in February released a brief detailing the state of school readiness among the Commonwealth’s youngest residents. According to their analysis, less than 19 percent of 3- and 4-years-olds have access to quality, public pre-K programs, and 7.5 percent of youth up to age four have high-quality child care. The data briefs on school readiness factors for Allegheny County (and all counties) are also available on the PPC website.
The Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University formed the 74% Project to explore the lives of women leaders in the nonprofit sector. Wage inequality in nonprofits throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania is their current research focus – one that resulted in some interesting data on the salary disparities of male and female executive directors. Their debut fundraiser, “The Great Debate” will be held on Equal Pay Day April 14, 2015 from 5:30 – 8:00 p.m. at the Twentieth Century Club in Oakland.
On the other side of the state, nonprofit leaders are, by their own reports, stressed out. A survey conducted by the Nonprofit Center at La Salle University’s School of Business found that half a decade after the official end of the Great Recession, 51 percent of Philadelphia nonprofits are still struggling to bounce back, with little or no economic recovery reported. Of those leaders who reported some recovery, the majority (75 percent) attribute it to individual giving. Long term financial stability and finding the budget to hire additional staff (to meet in the increase for services since the late 2000’s) were the top concerns among nonprofit executives. Exhausted and stressed were the top responses (tied at 22 percent) describing how the respondents felt as leaders, but 19 percent reported feeling optimistic. The complete report is available at the Center’s website.
Pennsylvania Senate Bill 4 continues to be debated in both the press and the Legislature. The bill would grant power to legislators to determine what charities are eligible for tax exemptions through an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution. Rich Lord and Chris Potter of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette look at the impact of this change and why many nonprofits back the amendment in their article Pennsylvania bill debates definition of taxable charities.
|March 23, 2015||Posted by M. P. under Education, Interview Series||
Zack Block, a life-long Pittsburgher, is the Director of Repair the World: Pittsburgh, a nonprofit that offers volunteer opportunities tailored to meet local needs. Zack is also Board Chair of the Hillel Jewish University Center, and sits on the advisory committee of the Neighborhood Learning Alliance and the board of The Documentary Works.
First job out of college?
My first job out of college was working for what was Mellon Financial which is now the Bank of New York Mellon. I was a Portfolio Administrator, which means that I assisted people who managed high net worth individuals’ money.
How were you drawn to nonprofit work?
I was a tax attorney for more than 8 years and in reality it was a combination of opportunity and inertia that led me to that role and kept me there. For a long time though I wasn’t happy and I looked at a few things that made me happy while trying to determine what to do next. The first was my family, which I love and they are so supportive of me. The second was my volunteering. I spent a lot of time volunteering in the community and it was incredibly fulfilling work. Those two things are what really drove me to look for work in the nonprofit world.
First thing you do each day?
I am lucky enough to help get my kids ready for school and have breakfast with them. In my old work that wasn’t the norm. After I usually take one of them to school and my wife takes the other one then I head to our workshop. I open up the space and make coffee and heat up water for tea for the fellows when we all get together to meet in the mornings at 9a.m. and really get started on the cohort’s day.
What keeps you motivated?
What really keeps me going is that I believe in the work that we’re doing. We work in both education and food justice and in bringing the Jewish community to this work. We believe that change can occur from either a top down or a bottom up perspective and the work that we do is much more geared to the bottom up perspective. So, for example, our fellows mentor in after school programs and then recruit others to mentor in these after school programs as well. This idea of building a partner’s capacity so that it can carry out its missions more efficiently and effectively also really keeps me going.
Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Collaboration is the key to success. I don’t remember who shared that with me but I truly believe in collaboration. If you partner and collaborate with good people who are doing good things then only more good can come from it.
What are you reading?
I’m currently reading Robert Putnam’s latest book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. I’m reading it with my Repair the World counterparts in Philadelphia and Detroit. The book examines the growing inequality gap in the U.S.
What is one goal that you hope to accomplish in 2015?
I really want to work to start the process aimed at making Repair the World a sustainable program in Pittsburgh.
Best thing about the nonprofit sector in Pittsburgh?
It’s such a collaborative atmosphere. I love collaboration and working with and meeting so many people and individuals who are interested in what we’re doing and how we can and do work together. It’s amazing!
What does Repair the World have coming up this spring?
We have a litter program called Pitch In to Pitch In that we’re kicking off on Friday, March 27 with a dinner. We still have spots open for volunteers on Sunday, March 28.
|December 11, 2014||Posted by M. P. under Education, Federal Government, Juvenile Delinquency, News||
Earlier this week, the heads of the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education appeared at the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center School for the joint release of a guidance package aimed at improving the quality of education for youths in juvenile justice facilities. The package lays out best practices for the provision of educational programming to confined juveniles, and includes
- guiding principles for education in secure juvenile facilities,
- a clarification letter on agency obligations around providing an appropriate education to youths with disabilities who are confined in juvenile justice facilities,
- a clarification letter on how federal civil right laws apply to educational services in juvenile justice facilities, and
- an explanation of federal student aid that may be available for eligible youth in the juvenile justice system.
Research supports the link between higher education and a reduced risk of recidivism, so ensuring that the right of an education extends to youths in the juvenile justice system (and with it the possibility of a post-secondary education) may result in lower criminal justice system costs in the future. The 2014 report Just Learning: The Imperative to Transform Juvenile Justice Systems into Effective Educational Systems from the Southern Education Foundation suggests that juvenile justice initiatives that work to prevent youth from re-offending could save society at least $2 million – and as much as $3.8 million – per youth over a decade.
You can read more about the costs and outcomes of the juvenile justice system in a 2011 post on juvenile incarceration.
|August 31, 2014||Posted by M. P. under Education, Federal Government, Health, Policy, Youth Development||
Over the summer I came across a couple of briefs from Bridging the Gap that I thought might be appropriate to post once the yellow buses started rolling again. One report summarizes research on the changes in the federal lunch program, the other discusses policies on recess.
Although an initial government study found the much debated new nutritional regulations resulted in a decrease in participation in the school lunch program, waste of food, price increases and menu planning challenges between 2010-11 and 2012-13, student opinion of lunches may not be as negative as previously thought. According to the brief, Student Reactions During the First Year of Updated School Lunch Nutrition Standards, data on administrator perception of student opinion of the new meals concluded that while middle and high school students did voice their displeasure about the new lunches (44 and 53 percent, respectively), by the end of the year they were liked “to at least some extent” by students (70 and 63 percent). Other findings,
- Among elementary schools, more students complained about the meals in the spring of 2014 than at the beginning of the school year (56 percent versus 64 percent), but 70 percent of those surveyed reported that students generally liked the new lunches.
- Rural schools reported more student complaints about school lunches than urban schools.
- Rural schools reported increases in waste (students throwing away food) more than urban schools.
While school lunches are one way to attempt to impact student health and wellness, there has not been as much policy activity around the inclusion of recess time for elementary-school-age students. Less than half of the school districts in the country have a recommended or required policy regarding daily recess, and just 13 states recommend or mandate recess as part of the daily schedule in elementary schools. The CDC/Bridging the Gap brief, Strategies for Supporting Recess in Elementary Schools, discusses evidence-based approaches for encouraging physical activity such as recess, including
- training and technical assistance from states to districts on student health and wellness,
- upgrades to or maintenance of existing playground and sports equipment, and
- daily recess as well as scheduled physical education class in elementary schools.
More information on the importance of recess in child development (including academic achievement) is available at the website for the US Play Coalition: A Partnership to promote the Value of Play throughout Life at the Clemson University School of Health, Education and Human Development, including the white paper A Research-based Case for Recess.
Terry-McElrath YM, Turner L, Colabianchi N, O’Malley PM, Chaloupka FJ, Johnston LD. Student Reactions during the First Year of Updated School Lunch Nutrition Standards— A BTG Research Brief. Ann Arbor, MI: Bridging the Gap Program, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan; 2014.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Bridging the Gap Research Program. Strategies For Supporting Quality Physical Education and Physical Activity in Schools.Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2014.