Will a new medical center reduce health disparities in Prince George’s County?

HEALTH/EQUITY | Prince George’s County officials are reaching out to community members to determine how best to position the proposed regional medical center at Largo Town Center in a way that will address the significant health disparities in the county (WaPo, 3/2)

At a community meeting Saturday, residents said they want a medical center that will provide specialty care to people with disabilities, greater access for medical research and will fill the existing gap in health care in the county.

“There are not enough facilities in the county. There are not enough doctors for the general population and even fewer for those with special needs,” said Grace Williams, 56, a Bowie resident with autistic twin daughters. “I have to drive to Baltimore or the District to get the care I need.”

WRAG | This week is Foundations on the Hill, an annual event that brings foundation leaders from across the country to meet with their representatives in Congress to educate them about the critical role that tax incentives play in facilitating philanthropy back home in their districts. Today, Tamara sent an open letter to our region’s elected officials echoing that sentiment. (Daily, 3/4)

HOUSING | Despite the 70,000 person-long (now suspended) waiting list for public housing subsidies, despite the fact that for every 100 extremely low-income households in D.C. there are only 45 affordable rental units available, despite the fact that affordable housing is generally seen to be a crisis issue in this region… we’re actually doing pretty well compared to other metropolitan areas. (CP, 3/3)

MENTAL HEALTH | Advocates say that Virginia’s failure to expand Medicaid is limiting access to mental health services for many residents. (WAMU, 3/3)

EDUCATION
- There are two different exams that states will begin implementing next year to measure students’ progress against the Common Core State Standards. DCPS is committed to one of those exams, but a number of advocates and school officials are urging the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education to switch to the other exam, saying that it will give a more “precise reading” of students’ abilities. (WaPo, 3/2)

- D.C. Sees Another Bump In Public School Enrollment (WAMU, 2/27)

- Prince George’s County is undertaking an effort to recruit male teachers, who currently only make up about 21 percent of the teaching staff for the entire county. The organizers of the effort believe increasing the number of male teachers will help improve student achievement. (WaPo, 3/1)

- Alternative education gets a remake in Montgomery schools (WaPo, 2/26)

POVERTY | President Obama’s proposed FY 2015 budget, released today, includes an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit to increase the benefit to childless workers. (WaPo, 3/3)

NONPROFITS | As the nonprofit sector continues to embrace private sector practices, a few large organizations, such as GuideStar, have started holding “earnings calls,” focused on highlighting the organizations’ impact for donors. (WaPo, 3/2)

DISTRICT | D.C. set to loosen marijuana laws (WaPo, 3/3)

ARTS | The Post profiles the women leaders of 13 high profile cultural organizations in the region. (WaPo, 2/28)


I’ve always felt bad for the unlucky folks whose birthdays fall on February 29. In honor of those who sadly did not get to have a real birthday on Saturday, here is something (sort of) related – the leap second. Unfortunately, there seems to be no immediate explanation for the unusual item sitting in front of the scientist in this video.

- Rebekah

President Obama to announce initiative for young men of color

EQUITY | Today President Obama will officially announce the launch of “My Brother’s Keeper,” the cross-sector initiative he first hinted at in his State of the Union address. The effort will address the societal barriers faced by African American and Hispanic boys and young men. A number of major foundations have collectively pledged $200 million to support the goal of the initiative (WaPo, 2/27):

Those organizations, which include prominent groups like the Ford Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will seek to coordinate their investments to create and bolster programs that keep youths in school and out of the criminal justice system, while improving their access to higher education. The White House said it expects money for those programs to grow “exponentially” as major businesses start to pitch in.

Obama will also sign a presidential memorandum creating a government-wide task force to evaluate the effectiveness of various approaches, so that federal and local governments, community groups and businesses will have best practices to follow in the future.

FOOD 
- The FDA is proposing changes to nutrition labels that would make the relative healthiness of food items more obvious to consumers (WaPo, 2/27):

Among the most prominent changes for consumers may be the updates to serving sizes.

Consumers have long been confused about why a can of sweetened tea contains 2.5 servings, a single muffin is two servings or a serving of breakfast cereal is three-fourths of a cup.

Advocates of this change say that people will no longer have to do a lot of math to understand how many calories they are consuming. Of the 157 food types that are currently covered, the Food and Drug Administration is proposing to change the serving size for 17 percent of them. For instance, the serving size for ice cream, now half a cup, would become one cup.

Unfortunately, no label redesign can make ice cream less delicious.

- City Paper profiles DC Central Kitchen’s Healthy Corners program, which provides fresh fruit and vegetables to 34 corner stores in D.C., mainly in low-income neighborhoods with little access to healthy groceries. (CP, 2/26)

NONPROFITS | The Council on Foundations has released the formal comments they submitted to the IRS regarding the proposed rules for 501(c)(4) organizations. According to the Council, the rules would have a “chilling effect on civic engagement efforts of 501(c)(3)s.” (COF, 2/27)

EDUCATION
- Maryland audit of Prince George’s school system identifies weak financial controls (WaPo, 2/27)

- There’s a test that may give us a clearer picture of student growth, but DCPS is reluctant to consider it (GGE, 2/26)

HEALTHCARE | D.C. Mayor to Address Health Care for Transgender Residents (NBC4, 2/27)

ECONOMY | According to GMU’s Stephen Fuller, if Maryland were to raise the minimum wage, which it is considering, it would end up increasing the cost of living in the state, and ultimately hurt its economy. (WTOP, 2/27)

TRANSIT | Area Leaders Pledge $75 Million For Metro Upgrades, Including Eight-Car Trains (WAMU, 2/27)

LOCAL | A number of local nonprofit organizations are hosting a series of 3 “unforums” with the major candidates for mayor to discuss inequality and its impact on the city. More information is available here.


I’m not usually one for cute kid and/or animal videos, but here’s one that’s worth sharing.

The (Almost) Daily WRAG will be back on Monday. Have a great weekend!

- Rebekah

Family homelessness in D.C. doubles, marking it the biggest increase in the nation

Homelessness in the District has become the hot button campaign topic for the mayoral race. It’s annoying to see it politicized. But it is good that such a critical issue is being brought into the spotlight.

The Post has crunched the numbers to quantify the recent surge in homelessness. Over the last year, family homelessness has increased an incredible 100 percent. An accompanying article looks at Mayor Gray’s policies (WaPo, 2/10):

New York, Los Angeles and many cities in between have struggled with double-digit growth in homelessness in the wake of a deep recession, stagnating wages and escalating housing costs. But no other major U.S. city is on pace this year for its overall numbers of homeless families in emergency shelters to double.

Some applaud Gray’s efforts to streamline a variety of social services for the poor and to prod families from generational poverty toward self-sufficiency. But many of the same people say that he has failed to put together a realistic plan to do so and that the District’s rise in homelessness is the tip of the iceberg of a broader decline in economic security.

Related: On Friday, Gray held an interview with the Post to discuss the spike in homelessness and his policies. (WaPo, 2/10)

PHILANTHROPY
- The Chronicle of Philanthropy has released its annual Philanthropy 50 list, ranking America’s largest donors. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife top the list, and the combined giving of the top 50 donors is $7.7 billion – up 4 percent from last year. (Chronicle, 2/10)

Related
The Chronicle has a lot of articles about this list. One of them focuses on the Zuckerburg’s gift to the Silicon Valley Community foundation, which is headed by WRAG’s 2013 annual meeting keynote speaker, Emmett Carson. (Chronicle, 2/10)

- Also, check out the rationale behind the list. One name obviously missing from the list is Gates. Bill and Melinda Gates did give a lot of money last year – about $181 million – but it went toward paying off a pledge they had made in 2004. (Chronicle, 2/10)

- The New Yorker has a thought-provoking reaction to the Philanthropy 50 list. Their general question is whether large scale giving from the world’s wealthiest works to justify the equity gap. More specifically, does this giving do enough to relieve poverty? (NY, 2/10)

WORKFORCE | As the debate grows about the merits of raising the minimum wage, quite a bit of new research is emerging from places like the Employment Policies Institute. According to the New York Times, that organization is effectively a front for an interest group – and these sorts of fake organizations are influencing policies (NYT, 2/10):

The campaign illustrates how groups — conservative and liberal — are again working in opaque ways to shape hot-button political debates, like the one surrounding minimum wage, through organizations with benign-sounding names that can mask the intentions of their deep-pocketed patrons.

Ugh, soon somebody will discover the fact that my Institute for Galactic Education (IGE) is just a front to get Star Wars education added to the Common Core standards.

TRANSIT
- Metro might finally be able to take over the Silver Line from contractors. Maybe. (WaPo, 2/10) I wonder whether the Silver Line or H St. streetcar will be running first. We should know by 2030.

- And Metro chief Richard Sarles directly responded to some riders’ questions about the system. For example, why do train operators close the doors on passengers trying to enter? Because riders should have gotten out of the way when they heard the chimes, he says. No mention of how that’s fair to deaf people though. (WaPo, 2/10)


I have two hilarious things for you on this tenth day of February. First – and you might have already seen it – the Russian Police Choir singing Daft Punk’s Get Lucky at the Olympics. It’s truly absurd and I half-expected Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd to shuffle in. Watch the whole thing, because it gets better and better.

And here’s a classic example of eating your words on live television. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Why are huge numbers of MoCo students failing math tests?

EDUCATION | In Montgomery County, students are failing math finals at an alarming rate of more than 50 percent. While the reason for this huge problem is obviously the cancellation of Mathnet in 1992, school officials are looking for other factors and have compiled a report that features insights from teachers (WaPo, 2/6):

Asked to cite three causes of exam failure, 27 percent of the teachers who responded said students choose not to put in an adequate amount of preparation; 18 percent said students don’t know how to prepare for a cumulative test; and 11 percent said class grades do not reflect mastery of content, which causes students to overestimate their level of preparation.

I think there are three other key factors to consider: math stinks and nobody uses it in real life.

HOMELESSNESS | At a debate last night, D.C. mayoral candidates took on the city’s massive spike in homelessness. The event featured plenty of “blasting,” “blaming,” and finger shaking, but the Post’s recap doesn’t indicate that the anyone discussed actual solutions. (WaPo, 2/6)

GIVING
- Blackbaud reports that charitable donations grew by nearly 5% in 2013, with more significant increases in online giving. (Chronicle, 2/5)

- Charities should pay attention to the increase in online giving, because another survey finds that most of them aren’t doing a very good job with online fundraising. (Chronicle, 2/5)

TRANSIT
- Public transportation in the United States is seeing a huge increase in off-peak usage. There could be a number of reasons, including shifting habits among Millennials, car-free living, continued economic strain. Whatever the case, transit systems are going to need to respond to the demand. (Atlantic, 2/6)

In our region, you only have to wait 24 minutes between trains during off-peak hours.

- More info on how Metro’s proposed fare hikes will affect disabled riders. (WaPo, 2/6)

EVENT | Next Tuesday, the Washington AIDS Partnership’s AmeriCorps team will be hosting a fundraiser at Nellie’s on U Street. What kind of fundraiser, you ask? Drag Bingo and Beer!

LOCAL | Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, its bobsled time! As the Olympics get underway, it’s the perfect time to remember the story of the Jamaican bobsled team, captured hilariously in Disney’s excellent Cool Runnings. As it turns out, the Mayor of Warrenton, Va., played a big part in that success story. (WTOP, 2/6)


Any Jeopardy! fans out there? Have you been watching Arthur Chu? He’s a current contestant, having won four times, and his strategies are creating a lot of controversy. You can read all about him here.

Rebekah has the Daily tomorrow, but before then, get into the Olympic spirit with John William’s iconic theme! See you on Monday.

Farm bill sent to Obama with cuts to SNAP included

After clearing the House last week, the farm bill easily passed through the Senate yesterday and is now in the hands of President Obama. The president is expected to sign the bill, which includes $8.6 billion in food stamp cuts over the next decade. That’s a lot, but it will only affect about 4 percent of current recipients.

The cuts are related to a connection between food stamp eligibility and utility assistance (WaPo, 2/5):

Food-stamp eligibility is based on a household’s disposable income. If it’s low enough, you qualify. But to calculate disposable income, the state takes your total income and subtracts some allowable deductions for essentials. Since things like rent and utilities are considered household necessities, they’re subtracted.

Here’s the problem the farm bill seeks to fix: recently, some states began providing nominal amounts of LIHEAP assistance — as little as $1 a year — meaning some households got credit “for utility costs they don’t actually pay,” according to CBPP President Robert Greenstein. As a result, they got more SNAP benefits than they would have otherwise.

Related
- 5 things the farm bill will mean for you (CNN, 2/5)

- Neil Young, a major farm advocate, has a catchy song called Homegrown. I might have actually put it in the Daily before, but it’s still a good song!

HEALTHCARE/WORKFORCE | The Affordable Care Act can’t catch a break. A new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts that the law will have a significant, negative effect on the nation’s labor force (WaPo, 2/5):

More than 2 million Americans who would otherwise rely on a job for health insurance will quit working, reduce their hours or stop looking for employment because of new health benefits available under the Affordable Care Act, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday.

HOMELESSNESS | At Deal Middle School in D.C., face to face with homelessness (WaPo, 2/5)

EDUCATION | DCPS is creating a ‘Parent Cabinet,’ where children can store their mothers and fathers when they aren’t needed. Actually, the cabinet will be an advisory group to help DCPS understand parents’ perspectives. (WAMU, 2/5)

LOCAL | Harriet Tregoning of the District’s Office of Planning has been a good partner of the philanthropic community for many years. (Proof!) At the end of the month, she’ll begin working for the Obama administration with a position at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The District’s loss is the nation’s gain! (WBJ, 2/5)

WEATHER | I’m a climate change denier. As a snow lover, I refuse to believe the “scientific evidence” that we’re less and less likely to get snow every year. The numbers must be wrong. Science schmience! (WaPo, 2/5)


Are you ready for the Olympics? Russia isn’t. The media have arrived in Sochi and they are documenting their experiences. At the moment, things seem to be a bit like a nightmarish Terry Gilliam movie. When the water is literally dangerous to touch – not just ingest – you know things are in bad shape.

On the home front, here’s a really funny parody of the excessive and meaningless patriotism frequently found in car commercials.

District’s homelessness problem is ‘worse than it sounds’

HOMELESSNESS | The Post has a follow up to yesterday’s City Paper article about the roundtable hearing on homelessness in the District. At the hearing, David Berns, director of the D.C. Department of Human Services, said of the current level of homelessness (WaPo, 2/4):

“It sounds bad, and it’s worse than it sounds,” Berns said.

Berns intimated that, without additional funding, he may in the spring need to close shelters for homeless singles that typically stay open all year, and he told city leaders that he wouldn’t want to have to resort to “equally horrid” measures such as no longer paying for hotel rooms. But, he said, the homeless family crisis has quickly become a long-term fiscal crisis.

EDUCATION/COMMUNITY | Donald Graham, former owner of The Washington Post and a trustee of the Philip L. Graham Fund, announced the launch of a new fund called TheDream.Us. The $25 million fund will pay the full college tuition for 1,000 students who came to the United States illegally as children. As Graham explains, his motivations are rooted in a strong sense of social justice and fairness (WaPo, 2/4):

It seemed terribly unfair that literally everyone else in the [high school] class could get access to federal loans and, if low-income, could get Pell grants, and the dreamers couldn’t get a cent.

EVENT | The Consumer Health Foundation has opened registration for their annual meeting, titled Health and Racial Equity in Turbulent Times: Implicit Bias Examined. The event will be held an March 20th and will feature john a. powell (Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society), Carlee Beth Hawkins (Project Implicit), and Brian Smedley (Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies). [More info.]

WORKFORCE/GENDER | As The Atlantic points out, the male/female wage gap tends to be over-exaggerated. But the gap between working mothers and women without children is quite significant. This disparity is chalked up to a perception that working mothers can’t be as productive because they are distracted by their children. So, is that true? (Atlantic, 2/4)

PHILANTHROPY
- Nonprofits and Those Who Fund Them Should Talk Openly About Finances (Chronicle, 1/3)

- Opinion - Impact Investing: It’s Time by Harvard University’s David Wood (IFRI, 1/9)

Related: On Feb. 12, WRAG is co-hosting an event with The Aspen Institute on how impact investing can support affordable housing efforts. [More info.]

- New Website Offers Inside Look at Grant Makers, Including Anonymous Reviews (Chronicle, 2/4)

HEALTH
- In a completely pointless but fun exercise, The Atlantic uses life expectancy in each state to comparable countries. The District is omitted, but Maryland and Virginia are most similar to Brunei. (Atlantic, 2/4) I guess Martin O’Malley and Terry McAuliffe should swap their governor titles for sultan.

- And if we want our country to be more like Cyprus than Syria (easy choice), we better cut back on sugar. A major new study finds that consuming too much sugar  can triple the likelihood of premature death from heart problems. (WTOP, 2/4)

LOCAL | The Smithsonian? The Lincoln Memorial? The National Zoo? Forget ‘em! Well, actually don’t, but do check out the District’s newest awesome attraction, St. Elizabeths ice slide! It’s perhaps the greatest idea that the District has seen in a long time, except for my idea of having a zipline from the Washington Monument to the Capitol. (GGW, 2/4)


It is a true shame to have lost Philip Seymour Hoffman, especially to an avoidable death. He was a rare actor who could take any material, no matter its quality, and elevate an entire movie. Two of my favorite characters were Sandy Lyle from the otherwise mediocre comedy Along Came Polly and CIA agent Gust Avrakotos from Charlie Wilson’s War.

Here are two great clips. Fair warning: The first contains a mildly colorful phrase and the second contains a ton of profanity. Maybe save the latter for home, or even watch the whole movie. His performance is excellent.

- Christian

Using educational technologies to reshape workforce development

WORKFORCE | Workforce development was one of the big themes in the State of the Union address. President Obama tasked Vice President Biden with reforming training programs to fit the needs of the current American workforce.

Sarah Oldmixon, director of workforce initiatives, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, reflects on this priority and says that educational technologies are essential tools for the task (1776, 1/30):

Educational technologies have been powerful engines of creative disruption in the K-12 and higher-education arenas, but their influence on the field of workforce development has been less pronounced—particularly among those programs that target lower-income, lower-skilled workers. To successfully meet the needs of the long-term unemployed and address America’s income inequality challenges, adult education and training programs must also innovate.

Related: As Unemployment Rate Falls In Ward 8, A Call For More Job Training (DCist, 1/30)

COMMUNITY/ENVIRONMENT | Last fall the Summit Fund of Washington supported the Federal City Council in developing a new project to address critical restoration needs, including remediation of the toxic sediments, in the Anacostia River.

The resulting, recently-launched initiative, United for a Healthy Anacostia River, brings together advocacy groups, community stakeholders, businesses, and concerned citizens to help raise awareness around the many issues facing the Anacostia. You can learn more about United for a Healthy Anacostia, and find out how to get involved, on their website.

PHILANTHROPY | 17 Foundations Join Forces to Divest Fossil-Fuel Stocks (Chronicle, 1/30)

HEALTH/YOUTH
- Robert McCartney’s latest column in the Post focuses on teen pregnancy, a problem that still has a “stubbornly high” rate in the District’s lower-income wards. (WaPo, 1/30)

- A new report finds that kids who are obese at age five are four times as likely to be obese a decade later than their healthy weight peers. (Time, 1/30)

EDUCATION
- A bill in Virginia’s General Assembly would allow teachers to encourage “differences of opinion about scientific controversies in science classes.” As one education advocate points out, the terms “science” and “opinion” don’t gel very well. (WaPo, 1/30) The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan might have had something to say here.

- As the District’s Petworth neighborhood rapidly gentrifies, can its troubled Roosevelt High School recover at the same time? (CP, 1/30)

HOUSING | How to Tell If We’re Really Entering Another Housing Bubble (Atlantic, 1/30)

TRANSIT | As Metro considers more fare hikes, opponents charge that the new plan would be unfair to the region’s low-income and disabled residents. (WTOP, 1/30)

Also, the hikes are unfair to everyone else since they help pay for silly mistakes like this one. (WaPo, 1/30)


When New Englanders call us snow wimps (and we call Southerners the same), they might have a point – even though their sports teams stink. Here’s a map that shows how much snow it takes to close schools across the country.

Via the same awesome website (io9), here’s a fascinating look at 10 failed uptopian cities in the real world that ended up influencing science fiction. Neat stuff.

Rebekah has the Daily tomorrow and Monday, and I’ll see you on Tuesday!

State of the Union opens the door for increased collaboration

President Obama’s fifth State of the Union address covered many familiar priorities and re-emphasized messages that have been central to his administration. But this year’s address also contained something new. WRAG President Tamara Copeland explains:

I heard something last night in the State of the Union address that I hadn’t heard in President Obama’s previous addresses – a direct reference to philanthropy. In fact, the President mentioned it not once, but twice. He called for “a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high quality pre-K that they need.” Then, a few minutes later, my ears perked up again when he said, “And I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential.”

As President Obama envisions a country in which opportunity flourishes, he sees philanthropy as playing a major role. WRAG is eager to work with foundations and corporations to strengthen their work on the president’s priorities. Let’s get started.

Related
- You can read the full transcript of the address via the Washington Post. (WaPo, 1/29)

- The Post fact-checked the SOTU address and rebuttal. Of note for our community, they pushed back a bit on points about inequality, healthcare, and the workforce. (WaPo, 1/29)

- Check out Vice President Biden’s reaction to…well, who knows, but the reaction is hilarious. I think it’s safe to assume that the veep finally found Waldo hiding in the House gallery.

HOMELESSNESS | D.C. Councilmember and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells held a press conference at a Maryland motel that is being used to shelter some of the District’s homeless population. Wells called out the Gray administration for not having enough capacity in the city. Gray’s camp responded by claiming that the press conference was a stunt.

And I responded by saying that both leaders should have the integrity to actually address the severe problem that is directly and immediately affecting real people. As far as facts go (WaPo, 1/29):

Wells provided figures compiled by the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, the city contractor that manages homeless family placements, showing 436 families with a combined 849 children staying in hotels Monday. Two of the hotels, he said, are located outside the District.

FOOD | For the first time ever, working-age Americans represent the majority of SNAP recipients. In the past, children and older-adults fit that category. This significant shift is attributed to the bad economy, low wages, and the increasing opportunity gap. (WTOP, 1/29)

Related: Food Stamp Cuts, Cold Weather Put Extra Strain On Food Pantries (NPR, 1/28)

GIVING | And the award for worst charity goes to… (Chronicle, 1/29)

WORKFORCE | Perhaps not surprisingly, “hot dog vendor” does not top the list of fastest-growing jobs this decade. That distinction belongs to a number of positions in the healthcare industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Atlantic, 1/29)

EVENT | Funders and community stakeholders are invited to join The Community Foundation for Prince George’s County for its Connecting Youth to Opportunity tours. The next tour, on February 5th, focuses on early childhood. [More info.]


We can expect some great commercials during the Super Bowl. In the meantime – and I know this will sound weird – check out Delta’s new flight safety video. The theme is the 1980s and it’s hilariously nostalgic. I cheered when Teddy Ruxpin made an appearance, and the cameo at the very end is just amazing.

A peek into The Institute for Corporate Responsibility

Late last week, WRAG welcomed the first class of the Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR leaders from our region and far beyond gathered for the first two-day session of the year-long program – and we’re excited to say that things couldn’t have gone better.

In today’s Daily, The Advisory Board Company’s Graham McLaughlin reflects on the first session and how he already feels better equipped as a CSR practitioner (Daily, 1/28):

Rarely do we as CSR leaders get to engage in nuanced, thoughtful discussions on how to build a vision and execution strategy that will yield the greatest social and business impact. Due to lead faculty member Tim McClimon’s brilliant facilitation, high quality speakers who were told to be provocative in order to push our thinking in different areas, and the expertise of fellow participants, we were able to have these types of discussions from basically 9-5 each day, leading me to have some immediate ideas for improving our “Community Impact” program as well as ways I need to alter my thinking to position us to drive greater impact in the medium-long term as well.

Related: Coinciding with the Institute’s kickoff, the Washington Business Journal interviewed WRAG’s Katy Moore about the history and vision for the project. It’s behind a paywall, but worth a read if you have access. (WBJ, 1/24)

Photos: Check out WRAG’s Facebook album of the Institute’s first session.

EDUCATION | The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released a new Kids Count snapshot, and the data is discouraging – particularly for our region. The report looks at reading proficiency by income level and finds that D.C., Maryland, and Virginia have some of the largest gaps in the entire nation between income levels (WaPo, 1/28):

In Virginia, only 21 percent of fourth graders from low-income families were considered proficient in reading, compared to 56 percent of fourth graders from higher-income families. And in Maryland, 24 percent of fourth graders from low-income families were proficient, compared to 58 percent from higher income families.

The District, an entirely urban jurisdiction, had the nation’s largest gap with only a 13 percent proficiency rate for children from low-income families compared to 61 percent for those from wealthier families.

Related: Read the Casey Foundation’s full briefing here. (AECF, 1/28)

COMMUNITY | Cartoonist Herbert Block, the namesake and founder of The Herb Block Foundation, is the subject of a new documentary airing on HBO. Time reviews the documentary and discusses Block’s life and influence on American politics. (Time, 1/27)

HOMELESSNESS | The Urban Institute is drawing attention to an especially unfortunate trend in homelessness. As organizations like Urban try to collect data on the homeless population, homeless LGBTQ youth are frequently missed in counts because they actively try to avoid detection. (Atlantic, 1/28)

WORKFORCE | The Workers Who Will Benefit from Raising DC’s Minimum Wage (DCFPI, 1/27)

TRANSIT | When Mayor Gray said that the H Street streetcars would start public operation “in January, not later than early February,” he forgot to mention a year. Smart man, because the opening date is still a ways off. (WJLA, 1/28)


It would be hard to overstate the impact that Pete Seeger had on both American music and the culture of democratic participation. It’s sad to lose him, but he lived a long and full life. Here’s a track he recorded two years ago, at the ripe young age of 92, for an Amnesty International benefit album – a cover of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young.

Huge progress in Virginia’s plan to end homelessness

Three years ago, Virginia began a statewide push to end homelessness. In the past 100 days, advocates have helped more than 500 families move from homelessness to permanent housing. These efforts are being recognized as game-changers. Can we replicate them in D.C. and Maryland? (WaPo, 1/28):

Under the leadership of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 33 social service organizations in Virginia spent three years studying the best ways to end homelessness. Their research left them focused on rapid rehousing, a strategy of providing short-term rent subsidies in the belief that once a family has a roof over its heads, it can tackle the problems that led it to lose housing in the first place.

Related: The New York Times ran a big feature on the housing market, and it uses one home in Prince George’s County to tell the story. (NYT, 1/26)

WORKFORCE | The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released workforce demographic projections for the next ten years. And when I say ten, I actually mean eight because 2022 is only eight years away. Oh my goodness. Anyway, the general trend is for the workforce share to rise in the 55+ age group and fall for younger groups. (BLS, 1/24)

WRAG | We’re hiring! Are you a creative thinker, problem solver, and dynamic networker? If so, WRAG’s new Community Connections Manager position might be the perfect fit! Read more about this exciting new opportunity here!

POLITICS/POVERTY | Opinion: Tomorrow night’s State of the Union Address is expected to touch on wealth inequality in the United States. In order for his address to be effective, one advocate says that the president must focus on education opportunity. But he’s worried that “the president will slip from an accurate diagnosis to unproven and ineffectual treatments.” (WaPo, 1/27)

PHILANTHROPY | Opinion: Earlier this month, a handful of foundations pledged $330 million to help save Detroit from financial ruin. In an op-ed, William Schambra says that this pledge could be Pandora’s box (Chronicle, 1/27):

The extraordinary “give” is the commitment of private funds to sustain public pensions, the sort of grant making that foundations have resolutely refused to do in the past. This may come back to haunt them, with so many other American cities facing financial difficulties every bit as daunting as Detroit’s.

COMMUNITY | It always stinks when you want to buy eighteen boxes of Thin Mints, but you only have four bucks in cash. This year, Capital One is supporting Girl Scout troops in Virginia and D.C. by giving them the Spark Pay app so that they can accept credit cards. Hallelujah! (WaPo, 1/27)

Last year, I nearly chopped off my finger doing a manly construction project (or building a headboard). Walking to the emergency room, I found a Girl Scout troop and stopped to buy a ton of cookies. Bad move. Literally every person I encountered at the hospital asked if I was planning to share. I just pretended that I was in shock and couldn’t understand them.


Did you all watch the Grammys last night? Me neither! But I did watch this video of a 2 year-old skateboarding. His parents are nincompoops for not putting a helmet on him, but he doesn’t really look like he needs one.

And in the realm of more serious things…just kidding, it’s Monday. Let’s keep it light. Here’s Bad Lip Reading’s latest offering – More NFL. Make sure you wait for the dance at the end!

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