Poverty & Race POVERTY & RACE RESEARCH ACTION COUNCIL March/April 2001 Volume 10: Number 2

Save this PDF as:
 WORD  PNG  TXT  JPG

Size: px
Start display at page:

Download "Poverty & Race POVERTY & RACE RESEARCH ACTION COUNCIL March/April 2001 Volume 10: Number 2"

Transcription

1 PRRAC Poverty & Race POVERTY & RACE RESEARCH ACTION COUNCIL March/April 2001 Volume 10: Number 2 Fighting Welfare Racism by Noel A. Cazenave and Kenneth J. Neubeck The protests led by the Kensington Welfare Rights Union at the Republican National Convention last summer dramatized the urgent need for progressives to force the issue of economic justice onto the national agenda. To be successful, movements for economic justice must, like the KWRU, confront the problem of welfare racism. Welfare racism is the organization of racialized public assistance attitudes, policy making and administrative practices. Welfare racism hurts poor people in general, not just those of color. This fact is obvious from an examination of its role in the abolition of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program. Playing the Welfare Race Card Five years ago, President Bill Clinton kept his 1992 campaign promise to end welfare as we know it by signing legislation that abolished AFDC. In doing so, the new Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 ended the federally-guaranteed entitlement to means-tested public assistance for impoverished families. President Clinton and his advisors apparently thought that significant political gain would follow his welfare reform campaign promise. They had ample reason to think that. Prior to passage of the PRWORA, politicians routinely linked welfare with race. They often employed code terms like welfare chiselers and welfare queens that thinly camouflaged overt racism. Clinton and other politicians were able to successfully play the welfare race card by exploiting popular welfare racist attitudes that were well documented by polling and other data. Those data revealed a strong tendency for many European Americans to hold racist stereotypes about welfare recipients. At the time of enactment of the federal welfare reform legislation there was a great deal of welfare racist sentiment for politicians to exploit. Many European Americans erroneously believed that most people on welfare were black, when in fact African Americans and whites had been about equally represented on the welfare rolls for many years. When asked to directly compare themselves with African Americans, fully three-fourths of white respondents to a National Opinion Research Center survey rated African Americans as less likely than whites to prefer to be self-supporting. Another survey found that most of those polled, the vast majority of whom were white, thought that lack of effort was to blame for people being on welfare and that most welfare recipients did not really want to work. These beliefs were most likely to be found among the nearly half of the poll respondents who believed that most people on welfare were black. Consistent with such racist stereotypes and sentiments, a driving force behind enactment of the federal welfare reform bill was the desire to control the reproductive behavior of black women and the geographic movement of brown people. An examination of the evolution of the text of various versions of that bill reveals that its highly racialized procreation- and immigration-focused population control measures were justified through the deployment of overlapping racist, sexist and class-elitist images of mothers reliant on public assistance. Not surprisingly, there is increasing evidence that the consequences of that legislation have been especially devastating for people of color. American University political science professor Joe Soss found welfare re- (Please turn to page 2) CONTENTS: Welfare Racism... 1 The Self-Sufficiency Standard... 3 PRRAC Update... 7 The Education Trust... 8 Separate, Unequal Schools in Milwaukee... 9 Resources...11 Poverty and Race Research Action Council 3000 Connecticut Avenue NW Suite 200 Washington, DC / FAX: 202/ Recycled Paper

2 (WELFARE: Continued from page 1) form sanctions to be particularly harsh in states with large numbers of African-American or Latino/a residents. An article in The Chicago Reporter revealed that in Illinois, while whites are likely to leave the welfare rolls because job earnings render them ineligible, African Americans are more likely to be sanctioned off the rolls. In New York, Wisconsin and California, Latino/a and Asian immigrants have filed federal civil rights complaints, citing language discrimination by local welfare agencies and denial of services and cash assistance. Finally, a survey of employment service providers in 45 states by the National Partnership for Women and Families discovered widespread employer discrimination against welfare recipients on the basis of race and ethnicity. With the erosion of federal oversight over state and local welfare programs, there has been a return to the state s rights era welfare racism of the 1950s and early 1960s. Beyond Denial Unfortunately, the typical European-American response to racism is denial. Even among white progressives, the dominant Left political ideology is predicated on what Poverty and Race (ISSN ) is published six times a year by the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, 3000 Conn. Ave. NW, #200, Washington, DC 20008, 202/ , fax: 202/ , org. Chester Hartman, Editor. Subscriptions are $25/year, $45/ two years. Foreign postage extra. Articles, article suggestions, letters and general comments are welcome, as are notices of publications, conferences, job openings, etc. for our Resources Section. Articles generally may be reprinted, providing PRRAC gives advance permission. Copyright 2001 by the Poverty & Race Research Action Council. All rights reserved. Movements for economic justice must confront welfare racism. could be described as a Close your eyes and wait for the revolution type of wishful thinking. The logic behind this ideology is that if the working class can just, somehow, move beyond the divisiveness of race, it could be united in a broad-based movement for economic justice. Effective economic justice movements require much more than simply closing one s eyes or covering them with ideological blinders and pretending that systemic racism doesn t exist. Racism-neutrality cannot bridge the racial divide in the United States. It is most improbable that the race-neutral programs sociologist William J. Wilson and others advocate would, indeed, be race-neutral in a society where virtually every significant social structure is highly racialized. Even if raceneutral programs were possible, the irony is that white racism would likely be the major obstacle to their implementation. It is time for progressives to open their eyes wide and more closely examine public policy responses to racism. Public Policy Responses to Racism Public assistance and other povertyfocused policies and programs may be placed along a conceptual continuum based on their response to systemic white racism. Racism-driven policies and programs, like recent punitive welfare reform initiatives, are significantly influenced by racist sentiments, attitudes and/or goals. Racism-blind policies and programs do nothing to challenge welfare racism. Indeed, by further institutionalizing the denial of racism, they reinforce it. Racism-cognizant policies and programs acknowledge racism as a cause of poverty and punitive welfare policies, but offer little if anything to specifically challenge that racism. Racism-sensitive safeguards, like the inclusion of strong preventive anti-discrimination provisions as part of public assistance legislation, can challenge welfare racism. Finally, Racism-targeted interventions are needed to address the racism-specific causes of poverty and to challenge existing racialized poverty policy when there are no internal racism-sensitive safeguards in place or functioning effectively. Two examples of racism-targeted interventions are citizen groups monitoring of the media s racial portrayal of the poor and the enactment of laws to better monitor and prosecute racial discrimination in the implementation of existing welfare policies. Challenges to welfare racism cannot be racism-blind. Racism-cognizance is merely a start. Effective challenges to welfare racism must be either racism-sensitive or racism-targeted. Strategies and Tactics for Fighting Welfare Racism There are four major overlapping anti-welfare racism strategies: education, research and monitoring; legal remedies; legislative policy action; and social protest and grassroots organization. Initiatives against welfare racism should strive to inform both the gen- (Please turn to page 6) / / / / / > > > > Racism- Racism- Racism- Racism- Racism- Driven Blind Cognizant Sensitive Targeted Continuum of Public Policy Responses to Racism 2 Poverty & Race Vol. 10, No. 2 March/April 2001

3 The Self-Sufficiency Standard: A New Tool for Evaluating Anti-Poverty Policy by Diana M. Pearce Is welfare reform a success? Everyone, from Presidents on down, thinks it is. There is no question that it has had a remarkable impact, overturning predictions of its supporters and critics alike. Welfare rolls have declined dramatically they are now less than half what they were just four years ago; moreover, many of these welfare leavers have entered paid employment. But is this success? In evaluating welfare reform, the criteria of success chosen by most politicians are the easy ones: Are the rolls down? Are the numbers of employed up? Are welfare leavers better off than they were on welfare? These criteria are characterized as easy because the answers virtually everywhere and for every group (although not for every single individual) are yes, yes and yes. That is, whether because of the booming economy or the change in rules (including the threat of lifetime limits and sanctions), states have experienced declines that range from one-third to 90% of their rolls. (Analysts are fiercely debating the relative importance of the economy versus welfare reform, but the size of the decline is real.) And, given the economy, larger numbers of those leaving welfare are employed than has been true in the past. Finally, given the extremely low level of benefits, even a part-time minimum wage job in most states apparently leaves the family better off, especially if one only compares cash welfare with cash income from wages, and one does not factor in increased expenses associated with work (such as child care, transportation, taxes) or decreased benefits (such as loss of Medicaid or Food Stamps). The one criterion used that does not virtually guarantee a yes answer to the success question is whether earned income exceeds poverty. Because this takes into account family size and composition, those with smaller families may well have cash incomes that exceed the poverty line, if only barely, especially if one adds the cash value of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Thus a $7.00 per hour job, if it is full-time (40 hours per week or more) and year-round (52 weeks per year) yields wages just over the Year 2000 poverty line for a family of three ($14,150). The poverty line no longer accurately measures what we really mean by poverty. The problem with the poverty line, as has been discussed in Poverty & Race and elsewhere, is that it no longer accurately measures what we really mean by poverty. That is, if we mean that when family incomes rise above the poverty level, they then have sufficient resources to meet their basic needs, there are few who would argue that that is what the official poverty thresholds now measure. In short, the poverty thresholds are too low. (Indeed, many states recognize this by using multiples of the poverty line to qualify persons for various benefit programs, such as the Child Health Insurance Program CHIP, in which incomes 185%, 200% or even 300% of poverty qualify for aid.) But even more problematically, these poverty thresholds are the same, no matter where one lives, whether it is Mississippi or Manhattan or Manhattan, Kansas. If employed welfare leavers average wages of $6.00 an hour in South Dakota, but $8.00 per hour in Washington State, in which state are they more successful? How much above those levels would their incomes need to be to be truly self-sufficient (able to meet their basic needs adequately)? How much help are available subsidies? To answer these questions, one would need to know how the cost of living compares in each state, as well as information about subsidies and their usage. The Self-Sufficiency Standard We now have a measure that can be used to answer these questions, and many more and that is the Self-Sufficiency Standard. The Standard is a measure of income adequacy that calculates the amount of money working adults need to meet their family s basic needs without public or private subsidies. Unlike the federal poverty line, this approach is tailored to each family, with the Standard varying according to the family s size and composition (including the age of children); as well as being graphically specific and including work expenses. Since its inception nearly 40 years ago, the federal poverty line has not kept up with our society s changing family structure and family roles: there are more single-parent families and more families with two adults working than in the 1960 s. These changes have created new needs associated with employment: transportation, taxes and child care for young children. The poverty measure is also based on a food budget that used nutrition standards of the 1950s, and assumes that food accounts for one-third of all expenses. In contrast, the Standard (as is true of expert recommendations for revising the poverty standard) is based on the costs for housing, childcare, food, transportation, health care and miscellaneous expenses, and takes into account taxes as well as tax credits. In addition, the Standard adjusts for the age of the children (because child care, and to a lesser extent, food and health (Please turn to page 4) March/April 2001 Poverty & Race Vol.10, No. 2 3

4 (STANDARD: Continued from page 3) care, vary by age), and where families live (because all costs, especially child care and housing, vary substantially by location). As a result, depending upon where one lives, food costs only about 12-15% of family s basic expenses, while housing and child care for young children often total more than half of family expenses. The Standard captures costs associated with working and living for each of 70 family types (ranging from a single adult with no children to two adults with three teenagers) for every county (in New England, region) in each state. Since 1996, the Self-Sufficiency Standard has been calculated for 13 states (CA, CT, IA, IL, IN, MA, NJ, NY, NC, PA, SD, TX, WI) as well as New York City and the Washington, DC metro area, with WA, CO, MT and a few others to be done in 2001 And it is expected that by the time consideration of TANF reauthorization happens in 2002, about half the states will have been completed. The Self-Sufficiency Standard versus the Poverty Standard How does the Self-Sufficiency Standard compare to the poverty measure? Clearly, with the methodology outlined above, the Standard will exceed the poverty line in most places for almost all families. In addition, it differentiates more finely between families. A comparison across states reveals that, typically, the Standard for a given family falls between 50% and 80% of area median income. These two amounts happen to be what HUD has determined to be their Very Low Income and Low Income standards, respectively, which are used to determine eligibility for housing subsidies. Thus, although it ranges well above the poverty line (from 50% more to as much as three times the poverty line), the Self-Sufficiency Standard plainly gives a very conservative estimate of the minimum income needed in a given place. Researchers Laura Russell and Jean Bacon have compared the number of people in Massachusetts deemed to have inadequate income by both the poverty standard and the Self-Sufficiency Standard. Using 1990 Census data for towns, they estimate that while about 14% of the state s families have incomes below the poverty line, 28% have incomes below the Self-Sufficiency Standard. More Than a Poverty Measure The Self-Sufficiency Standard will exceed the poverty line in most places for almost all families. While an accurate measure of the cost of living by place and family type is very useful, the Self-Sufficiency Standard is more than just an improved measure of poverty, for it is a tool that can demonstrate the impact of public policies and programs on low-income families. In each state in which it has been calculated, the Standard has been used to model how certain subsidies, such as child care, can reduce the wages needed for families to meet their needs. For example, a single mother in Milwaukee with one infant and one preschool child must earn $3847 per month to be self-sufficient, but with Food Stamps, Medicaid and child care, this parent needs only earnings of $1346. Thus, with the help of these supplements, she will achieve what we have termed wage adequacy, defined as resources from wages and benefits sufficient to meet basic needs. (Note that this is only a model; in reality, many families do not receive the subsidies for which they are eligible, including child care, Food Stamps and/or Medicaid.) In addition to showing how current policies affect families, the Standard can be used as a tool to evaluate proposed changes in policy, such as the effect of changing child care co-payments or adding/enlarging a state EITC. Thus, the Standard has been used in Pennsylvania to assess the impact of policy proposals that would have increased child care co-payments. The model based on the Standard revealed how the increase in the child care copays would interact with other subsidy programs and taxes/tax credits to produce a substantial negative impact on families wage adequacy, and contributed to a positive revision of the proposed policy change. The Standard can also be used to target scarce resources on programs that help families achieve self-sufficiency. By using the Standard, policymakers can determine which jobs and industries pay Self-Sufficiency-level wages and above, and engage in Targeted Jobs Strategy. This strategy uses the Standard to assess the ability of various jobs, occupations and sectors to provide selfsufficiency wages for workers. The Standard is used together with analysis of the current local labor market supply and demand (to determine jobs that have expanding but unfilled openings), an assessment of the available job training and education infrastructure, and an evaluation of the skills and location of current/potential workers. Through this analysis, it is possible to assess the jobs and sectors on which to target training and counseling. In Washington, DC, legislation has institutionalized this process by requiring the collection of labor market data that document jobseeker income requirements as well as employer needs/skill requirements. Without this law, data would focus only on jobs that are in demand by employers, leading to training in occupations that pay poverty-level wages. The Self-Sufficiency Standard is also a tool for use at the individual level by caseworkers. A Budget Worksheet has been developed, based on the Standard, which helps counselors and individuals determine the minimum wage necessary to cover costs, taking into account available subsidies. In Pennsylvania, program participants fill in the Worksheet, using their actual costs for basic necessities, and actual subsidies available to 4 Poverty & Race Vol. 10, No. 2 March/April 2001

5 them, to determine the wage adequacy of each wage tested. This process, in turn, points both participants and counselors to finding the kinds of jobs, training and education, including jobs that are nontraditional for women, that will lead to the wages that will result in wage adequacy in the short term and self-sufficiency in the long-term. A computerized version of the Worksheet has also been used to evaluate policy changes, and, in particular, in Connecticut to reveal the cliffs faced by parents moving from welfare to work. That is, many programs (such as Food Stamps and child care) cut off eligibility at a certain point, so that a slight increase in income may result in the loss of a substantial and needed subsidy, resulting in wage adequacy suddenly dropping 20% or 30%. When this analysis is done for a range of family types over a range of possible incomes, it is possible for advocates and policymakers to develop more rational policies that smooth and support the transition of families from welfare to work. Implications for Race The Standard does not vary by race, except to the extent that costs vary by where different racial groups reside. But the uses to which the Standard is being put have the potential to reveal important differences by race and gender. This is particularly true when the Standard is used to evaluate outcomes of job training programs or welfare reform. If white graduates/welfare leavers in a given jurisdiction average higher wage adequacy (are closer to reaching their individual Self-Sufficiency Standards) than minority graduates/leavers, then clearly the program being evaluated is not addressing the racial discrimination that lies behind the gap. And if the role of subsidies is included in the evaluation, that can reveal the kinds of differential help provided by caseworkers on the basis by race (such as car repair), as documented by Susan Gooden in Virginia. It should be noted that, historically, the old federal job training program, JTPA, allowed local agencies to lower their performance standards by which their level of success was determined if they served more women and/or minorities. Although the goal was to encourage local agencies to serve the more disadvantaged, the irony was that the price for doing so was to accept the lower wages imposed by labor market discrimination on women and/or people of color, sending a message to local entities that such discrimination need not be addressed. Thus, the more women/minorities who The standard helps individuals make a realistic assessment of their resource needs (wages and subsidies/ supports). were served, the lower the standards fell. In the current welfare reform competition, and given the decentralized nature decision-making under devolution, there is a similar tendency for local or state governments to lower standards in order to be able to declare success (as was done in the most recent report on outcomes for welfare leavers in Washington State). As the emerging trend becomes more pronounced of whites leaving the caseload at a higher rate, and with more employment success than the central city, disproportionately minority, portion of the caseload, the temptation to lower the bar for some groups will increase, leading to false declarations of victory/ success. Using an objective standard across the board will make clear that differential outcomes by race reflect programs (such as job training, placement and retention) that do not address labor market discrimination, and may even contribute to it through local variation in services provided/withheld. Reframing the Debate on Success At the most detailed level, as we have seen above, the Standard helps individuals to make a realistic assessment of their resource needs (wages and subsidies/supports). And it helps policymakers and advocates understand how various programs can help enhance families efforts to move towards self-sufficiency. But at the most abstract level, it changes the question that is asked, and the answers given. As a September 25, 1998 Boston Globe editorial put it, the Standard does not ask where poverty ends, but where economic independence begins. Because it is a standardized measure using the same methods across time and place it results in different numbers measuring the same concept no matter where one lives, unaffected by local or particularistic biases. Most simply put, the Standard says that if your income is below your Standard for your family type and place, your income is not enough to meet your basic needs at an adequate level. Since we know that many parents leaving (Please turn to page 7) As the recently appointed Latino Outreach Coordinator for PRRAC, I am in need of some assistance from our readers. I want to start reaching out to other organizations with similar missions and other Latinos who may be interested in the various issues PRRAC works on. I am currently putting together a list of contacts. As a future goal, I also plan to put together an issue of Poverty & Race dedicated to areas of special interest to the Latino community. I would appreciate getting names and addresses of organizational contacts, scholars, etc. able to contribute to this effort. Please contact me at 3000 Conn. Ave. NW, #200, Wash., DC 20008, 202/ , Denise Rivera Portis March/April 2001 Poverty & Race Vol. 10, No. 2 5

6 (WELFARE: Continued from page 2) eral public and potential activists of the overall impact of welfare racism on the nation s poor. Central to that educational process are information disseminating tactics that challenge the highly racialized ideologies about poverty and racist images of poor women of color. Of course, before information or knowledge can be disseminated, it must be gathered. Research activities of various types are needed to collect information on welfare racist attitudes, policies and practices that can serve as the basis for educational, legal, legislative policy and social protest challenges. Racism-sensitive monitoring safeguards should be included in all future public assistance legislation. Appropriate government agencies should also take racism-targeted actions to insure that current public assistance policies do not violate existing laws against racial discrimination. To this end, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ( taintro.htm) has released anti-discrimination guidelines (Technical Assistance for Caseworkers on Civil Rights Laws and Welfare Reform) which include specific examples of forbidden welfare racist policies and practices that can be made available to organizations concerned about welfare rights. The Grass Roots Innovative Policy Program has placed on its website ( a document called Putting Welfare Reform to the Test: A Guide to Uncovering Bias and Unfair Treatment in Local Welfare Programs. That guide provides the information needed to document welfare racist practices. Anti-discrimination testers should be used in welfare offices to insure that these guidelines are followed. Legal challenges to welfare racism are often inextricably intertwined with educational, legislative policy and social protest remedies. For example, social-science research and militant welfare rights protests supported lawsuits and legal briefs prepared for administrative hearings that successfully challenged many of the most punitive public assistance provisions of the 1960s. Existing civil rights laws should be utilized to challenge welfare racist practices through administrative hearings and in the courts. For the poor in particular, influencing electoral politics and ultimately public policy legislation often requires using social protest, which may be the only resource available to them. Social protest should be targeted at news organizations that regularly promote racist stereotypes of welfare recipients. These tactics could include: demonstrations at and boycotts of local newspapers, televison and radio stations; community forums, teach-ins and Terms like welfare chislers and welfare queens thinly camouflage overt racism. speak-outs that focus on media bias; and well-publicized complaints to the Federal Communications Commission. Protests can also be directed at politicians who play the welfare race card for political gain. Through national organizations like the National Welfare Rights Union (www. nationalwru.wego.com) and through the grassroots-level actions of organizations like the Philadelphia-based Kensington Welfare Rights Union ( the political value of welfare racism can be diminished in direct proportion to its increased political costs. Now is the Time to Fight! The time to fight welfare racism is long overdue. The public policy discourse has already begun in anticipation of the 2002 expiration of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. With PRWORA s expiration, the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, which receives its authorization from that bill, will also end. Consequently, politicians must decide whether to abolish, renew or replace TANF. We agree with the Please get your library to subscribe to P&R. We can provide a complete set of back issues. Women s Committee of 100, a distinguished group which describes its members as feminist academics, professionals, and activists, that for poor people who require government aid the best option is replacing TANF. Replacement of TANF is also the best option as part of a serious challenge to welfare racism. An adequate guaranteed annual family income combined with racism-sensitive monitoring safeguards and appropriate racism-targeted legal and legislative policy interventions could offer the single best remedy to most forms of welfare policy and welfare practices racism. Welfare racism has often manifested itself as discrimination in the determination of who is eligible to receive benefits and the level of benefits received. With the establishment of a guaranteed annual income, much of the discretion conducive to both types of discrimination could be removed by streamlining the eligibility determination procedure (e.g., to a simple affidavit of income and need) and by instituting simple and well-known criteria for levels of aid for recipients throughout the nation. Such a measure, however, will not eliminate the racist attitudes that often drive poverty policy-making and program implementation. As the National Welfare Rights Organization was well aware when it demanded a guaranteed minimum income during the Poor People s Campaign of the late 1960s, the income maintenance component of such a remedy is unlikely to happen without effective challenges to the widespread racist attitudes toward the poor and to anti-poverty programs generated by the state, the media and other highly racialized institutions of this society. 6 Poverty & Race Vol. 10, No. 2 March/April 2001

7 In the meantime, while the poor must depend on public assistance, welfare racist attitudes, policies and practices should be confronted through appropriate racism-sensitive safeguards and racism-targeted interventions. By combating welfare racism, we can remove a major roadblock from the path to economic justice for all. Kenneth J. Neubeck (kenneth. and Noel A. Cazenave s Welfare Racism: Playing the Race Card Against America s Poor will be published by Routledge in August of this year. Both are Associate Professors of Sociology at the University of Connecticut. Be sure to send us items for our Resources section. (STANDARDS: Continued from page 5) welfare have incomes that fall below, often far below, their Self-Sufficiency Standards, even when subsidies/supports are taken into account, this means that the material hardships suffered by these families are not their fault. Without enough money to meet the basic needs of housing, food, child care and so forth, is it any wonder that families report that they experience utility cut-offs and days when they skip meals? With income and resources that are less than what they need (as measured by the Self-Sufficiency Standard), is it really a surprise that they end up using less than adequate child care or doubling up in housing not meant for two families? What the Standard tells us is that such material hardships are not about bad choices or bad budgeting, but a simple and stark lack of the needed resources. With this perspective, the question is not whether or not a given program is a success, but how do we as a society, through our social programs, support and enable families to achieve self-sufficiency? Instead of success being a no-win coin toss heads I win (politicians declare welfare reform a success), tails you lose (individuals blamed for not working enough/earning enough/budgeting enough) success becomes a challenge. With the Standard, moreover, this challenge becomes one that must be met using all available resources, public and private, individualized to meet each family s needs and situation. To paraphrase a bit, it takes all the [the village s] stakeholders parents working and caring for their children, noncustodial parents paying child support, employers paying decent wages and benefits, government providing subsidies and tax/tax credit structures that level the playing field, and communities providing schools and services for families to be able to achieve self-sufficiency. With the help of the Self-Sufficiency Standard, we will know when and where we have reached this goal, and most important, have a tool to help blaze the trails for getting there. Diana Pearce, known for having coined the phrase, the feminization of poverty, is a sociologist on the faculty of the School of Social Work at the University of Washington. She created the Self-Sufficiency Standard when she was Director of the Women and PRRAC Update We say goodbye and thanks to Akila Hampton, our temporary Adm. Asst., who is moving to Salt Lake City. And we welcome our 2001 Mickey Leland Hunger Fellow, Alejandra Lopez-Fernandini, fresh from her 6-month service at the Missoula Food Bank. She will be with us until late August. Another goodbye (and congratulations): Cynthia (Mil) Duncan, formerly of the Univ. of New Hampshire Sociology Dept., has gone to Poverty Project at Wider Opportunities for Women in Washington, DC. The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Nina Dunning, MSW, in the preparation of this article. For information on obtaining reports, future states, etc., contact Jennifer Brooks, Wider Opportunities for Women, th St. NW, # 916, Wash., DC 20005, 202/ , For information on how the standard is calculated and future applications and research using the Standard, contact Prof. Pearce, SSW/UW, th Ave. NE, Seattle, WA 98105, 206/ , edu. the Ford Foundation as Director of Community & Resource Development (and hence will be dropping off PRRAC s Social Science Advisory Board). And we thank the following for their recent financial contributions to PRRAC: Barbara & Yale Rabin, Victor & Lorraine Honig, Dennis Houlihan & Mimi Conway, Michael Hirschhorn & Jimena Martinez, Theodore Pearson, Laura Siena, John Capps, Allan Krueger, Alice O Connor, Alison Cien Fuegos. March/April 2001 Poverty & Race Vol. 10, No. 2 7

8 PRRAC Director s Report The Education Trust by Kati Haycock The Education Trust works to advance the academic achievement of students at all levels, kindergarten through college. Our primary focus is on improving the achievement and educational attainment of low-income and minority students, who are most often underserved by our schools, and closing the devastating achievement gap between those students and their more affluent peers. Our basic tenet is this: All children will learn at high levels when they are taught to high levels. At the center of our efforts is the conviction that the clear-eyed examination of hard data is essential for measuring the achievement gap, determining the factors that cause it and illuminating the policies and practices that can cure it. Data are also important for convincing the public and policymakers that there is a problem and that it can be solved. Over its short history, Ed Trust staff members have made data-driven presentations to hundreds of thousands of people, from students to teachers to policymakers. Over the past year, we have been working to harness the World Wide Web as tool to reach even more people with hard numbers and research on closing the achievement gap. Last October, The Education Trust unveiled its new World Wide Web site, which can be accessed at The site includes detailed descriptions of Ed Trust projects, forms for ordering products and publications online, and the option of directly downloading several important Ed Trust data products and reports. The following can be downloaded directly: Achievement in America This slide show, available in Microsoft PowerPoint format, is the core presentation given to over 1,000 audiences over the past few years. Our recently updated version weaves the best available data and research into a story line about the intersection of poverty, race and academic achievement in the United States. It provides a primer on the nation s achievement gap, makes a persuasive argument that the gap can be closed and tells the audience exactly how. This national data show can also serve as a template for advocates to make the same case in their own communities using state and local data. The story is told in four related sections: Part I: How Many Students Make It Through? While seven out of ten high school graduates pursue some form of higher education, low-income, African-American and Latino students graduate from high school at lower rates and are less likely to enroll in college. Those who do too often find they are inadequately prepared; by age 24, individuals from more affluent families are seven times more likely to have earned a Bachelor s degree than their peers from low-income families. Part II: What Do We Know About Student Achievement? Between 1970 and 1988, the achievement gap between racial and ethnic groups narrowed substantially. Since then, it has remained the same in some subjects and widened in others. Seventeenyear-old African-American and Latino students have math and reading skills that nearly perfectly mirror the skills of thirteen-year-old white students. Part III: Why Do These Gaps Exist? Educators and policymakers are often all too ready to blame the students, their families or their demographics for these gaps. The data suggest otherwise. Low-income and minority students are less likely to be enrolled in a rigorous curriculum, more likely receive lower-level instruction from less-prepared teachers and less likely to have high academic achievement expected of them. Part IV: Low-Income and Minority Students Can Meet High Academic Standards. Scores of individual schools and districts prove that the historic relationship between race, poverty and achievement can be overturned. The keys are a rigorous, college-prep curriculum, competent and qualified teachers, and high academic standards for all students. Achievement in America 2000 will soon be joined by two more datarich PowerPoint presentations that focus in on important facets of the achievement gap Good Teaching Matters and High School in America. Thinking K-16. Published periodically by The Education Trust, this series of reports examines critical educational issues in depth and presents them in language that is clear and accessible for general readers as well as for educators. Each issue of Thinking K-16 cuts through rhetoric to get at the impact on students and concludes with practical recommendations for action. The following issues are available online: Good Teaching Matters: How Well- Qualified Teachers Can Close the Gap (Summer 1998). This report synthesizes recent research demonstrating that teachers are the single most significant factor in student achievement. It includes exclusive state-by-state data showing that poor and minority students are often more likely be taught by out-of-field teachers who lack degrees in their subjects. Not Good Enough: A Content (Please turn to page 10) 8 Poverty & Race Vol. 10, No. 2 March/April 2001

9 PRRAC Researcher s Report Rethinking Schools 1001 E. Keefe Ave. Milwaukee, WI / Contact: Leon Lynn Half a century after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed separate and unequal schools based on race, the Milwaukee area has undeniably returned to both separate and unequal education. Through a project supported by PRRAC, Rethinking Schools, a nonprofit publisher of educational materials, has thoroughly documented the race-based inequities in Milwaukeearea schools, and how state policies allow those inequities to grow every year. The report, and efforts by Rethinking Schools to disseminate its findings, have focused new community attention on race-based inequity in school funding, and have begun sowing the seeds of future efforts to address this inequity. Focus and Methodology There is an ongoing legal, legislative and political battle for equitable school funding in Wisconsin. Last year the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the state s current school funding system, but the decision failed to settle many significant issues. Notable among these issues is the question of whether Wisconsin s school funding system violates the civil rights of students of color by denying them equal educational opportunity. This same issue was at the center of a recent New York court ruling, which held that New York State s systematic underfunding of New York City schools, which serve a majority of students of color, violated students civil rights. Rethinking Schools began its project with the intent of seeing whether there is a correlation between inequitable education funding in the Milwaukee metropolitan area and the racial composition of the districts in the area. The working hypothesis was that there is such a correlation, and that inequitable school funding thus potentially involves issues of civil rights. We conducted an in-depth statistical analysis of school districts in the Milwaukee metropolitan area examining questions of ethnicity and school funding and how they have played out over time. Rethinking Schools enlisted the aid of Dr. Michael Barndt, coordinator of the Data Center at the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee, to gather and interpret data on school funding, population growth and related issues affecting Milwaukee-area school districts. Further, we commissioned the reporting and writing of journalistic human-interest articles, in order to detail the effects of inequitable funding on particular schools and students. To this end we secured the services of Joel McNally, an experienced journalist and a well-known media commentator in the Milwaukee area. In addition, Rethinking Schools assembled an advisory committee of experts familiar with key aspects of the project, in order to ensure the validity of the project and its findings. They included: William Lynch A Milwaukeebased civil rights attorney, Mr. Lynch has represented the local NAACP chapter in litigation involving school desegregation, publicly funded vouchers for private schools, and homeowner insurance redlining. He is also the secretarytreasurer of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Diane Pollard Dr. Pollard is a professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and director of the university s doctoral program in urban education. Doug Haselow A former director of government relations for the Milwaukee Public Schools, Mr. Haselow is executive director of the Association for Equity in Funding, which advocates fair school funding in Wisconsin. The project was coordinated by Barbara Miner, managing editor of our quarterly journal, Rethinking Schools. Project Findings The project clearly documents a sad set of facts: Twenty years ago, when whites and African Americans were present in roughly equal numbers in the Milwaukee Public Schools, MPS spending per student was about equal to spending in nearby suburbs, and both the city and its nearby suburbs spent significantly more than the state average. But as the percentage of MPS students of color has gone up, the district s spending per student has fallen further and further behind that of nearby suburbs, and is now significantly less than the state average. If MPS had received the average funding for shared costs received by school districts in nearby suburbs in the school year, the district would have received $125 million in additional funding, our report notes. Instead, MPS has been forced to make significant budget cuts in order to address funding deficits: In the district cut $32 million from its budget to address the shortfalls, and budget projections for indicate that additional cuts of up to $20 million may be needed. These cuts have severely curtailed educational programs at schools throughout the district, resulting in staff and program reductions that leave Milwaukee s schools less able to serve students. The Rethinking Schools report makes it clear that state school-fund- (Please turn to page 10) March/April 2001 Poverty & Race Vol. 10, No. 2 9

10 (SCHOOLS: Continued from page 9) ing policies not only permit inequitable school funding to exist, but allow the gap between MPS and suburban districts to widen every year. Included in the report are detailed analyses of school funding policy: For example, the report examines the state s funding cap system for schools, a mechanism designed to keep property taxes low. While eliminating this cap would certainly be an important step toward equalizing funding, the report concludes, this alone would not be enough to address the funding inequities. The only solution, the report concludes, is to modernize the state s school funding policies with the specific intent of addressing the inadequate funding of MPS: It is a matter not only of educational necessity, but of civil rights and racial justice. Dissemination/Advocacy Rethinking Schools assembled the project s research and findings in a 60- page report: The Return to Separate and Unequal: Metropolitan Milwaukee School Funding Through a Racial Lens. To date, we have printed 750 copies of the report and circulated copies to key policymakers, including: The mayor and all Milwaukee city council members. All Milwaukee-area state legislators. All members of the state s joint finance and education reform committees. All Milwaukee school board members and the MPS superintendent. Community groups, including the Institute for Wisconsin s Future, Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope, and local NAACP and ACLU chapters. In addition, The Association for Equity in Funding, a statewide group, bought and sent out more than 200 copies. Copies of the report also were provided to select media outlets, including: Local newspapers, including ethnic community newspapers. Local TV and radio stations, Mainstream national media, such as The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, and The Washington Post. Progressive media such as In These Times and The Nation. Publications specializing in education, such as Education Week. Articles and columns about the report have appeared in Wisconsin newspapers including The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, The Capital Times (Madison), The Waukesha Freeman, Kenosha News, Racine Journal-Times and The Janesville Gazette. Barbara Miner has been interviewed on regional TV and radio programs. In addition, we have made the entire report available in PDF format on our Web site, org. To date, more than 700 copies have been downloaded. In March, Rethinking Schools will publish and distribute 40,000 copies of the Spring issue of Rethinking Schools, which will feature the report, offer significant excerpts and direct people to our Web site if they wish to acquire the entire report. Rethinking Schools is also playing an active role is community discussions of how to address the report s findings. Recently, a meeting was held to discuss how to pursue new funding to research the possibility of legal action based on the report s findings, especially in light of the recent court ruling on the inequities in New York City schools and their civil rights implications. Attendees included representatives from Rethinking Schools, the Association for Equity in Funding, and the local chapters of the ACLU and NAACP. The Return to Separate and Unequal: Metropolitan Milwaukee School Funding Through a Racial Lens is available from Rethinking Schools for $5. (TRUST: Continued from page 8) Analysis of Teacher Licensing Examinations (Spring 1999). In this issue, co-authors Ruth Mitchell and Patte Barth present the findings of an Ed Trust-sponsored analysis of subjectarea examinations used for licensing teachers. The study revealed that licensing tests fall far short of guaranteeing that teachers have the content knowledge of a college graduate. Ticket to Nowhere: The Gap Between Leaving High School and Entering College and High-Performance Jobs (Fall 1999). What high school requires and colleges expect are often two different things. This report examines the expectations gap and argues that all students, regardless of background, should have access to a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum. Honor in the Boxcar: Equalizing Teacher Quality (Spring 2000). Regardless of how qualified teachers are measured whether by certification, major in field or academic performance poor and minority students get far less than their fair share. In this publication, the leaders of 14 national organizations share their ideas and recommendations for providing our best teachers to the children who need them most. Dispelling the Myth National Database. In an effort to update its popular 1998 Dispelling the Myth report, The Education Trust is working with state officials to collect information on each state s high-performing or rapidly-improving high-poverty and high-minority schools. Information on those schools will be available online through a Web interface that allows users to search for such schools according to their own parameters: nationwide or in a single state, student poverty level, minority enrollment, performance on tests in various academic subjects, and grade level. For example, a researcher in Boston will be able to search for all high schools in Massachusetts that score in the top 10% of high schools on statewide math exams and where 10 Poverty & Race Vol. 10, No. 2 March/April 2001