Fairfax County schools face major budget cuts

EDUCATION/VIRGINIA
As enrollment surges in one of the country’s biggest school systems, a task force has been looking into ways to cut $100 million from the Fairfax County schools budget. (WaPo, 8/4)

The 36-member citizen task force was charged with finding $100 million in savings. On Monday night, the district released an early draft of potential cuts, but they are far from official, and it is early in the budget process. Some of the task force’s ideas are sure to be controversial, such as saving nearly $11 million by eliminating high school sports and more than $12 million by axing activities such as yearbook and student newspapers, curtailing music and drama programs, and reducing middle school after-school activities.

[…]

Fairfax County schools are facing some of the same tough choices as districts across Northern Virginia. This year, Prince William County schools, dealing with a potential cut in revenue, weighed cuts to all school services not required by law – including full-day kindergarten, bus service and athletics. Ultimately, most of the budget was funded.

WORKFORCE/EQUITY | A remarkable look at the gap between black and white unemployment (WaPo, 8/4)

PHILANTHROPY/INEQUALITY | Opinion: Professor of  history and director of the urban studies program at Simon Fraser University, Karen Ferguson, raises questions about philanthropy’s relationship with African Americans throughout the nation’s history, and ponders the implications of the ways philanthropy has worked to respond to racial inequality. (HistPhil, 8/3)

–  To Reduce Inequality Among Neighborhoods, Make Inclusion the Central Goal (Rockefeller Foundation, 8/5)

ENVIRONMENT | City Lab takes a look at the details from President Obama’s finalized Clean Power Plan and how it may affect low-income communities. (City Lab, 8/4)


The region has gained a new national historic landmark.

– Ciara

Business and Philanthropy: A partnership whose time has come

by Tamara Copeland
President
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Last week, Bob Buchanan, principal of Buchanan Partners, a real estate development company, and president of the 2030 Group, an association of business leaders focused on regional issues and solutions, came to speak to WRAG member CEOs as part of our CEO Coffee and Conversation series. He was invited after he and Dr. Stephen Fuller (of the Center for Regional Analysis, George Mason University) called for a regional economic summit.  They suggested that, because the backbone of our region’s economy has been the federal government and that given the changes in our region’s relationship to this hometown employer, we must create a new regional economic reality.  They also underscored the fact that this isn’t a situation to be addressed solely by the District of Columbia or Fairfax, VA, or any other jurisdiction in our region, but a regional problem that should be examined as a whole and addressed by regional leaders using a broad lens and a long-range view.

I invited Bob to speak because, surprisingly, they hadn’t viewed philanthropy as one of the sectors to call to the planning table until I reached out. When asked why philanthropy wasn’t included, Bob responded, “business leaders go to those who can move the needle.”

What a wake up call!  Clearly, philanthropy wasn’t viewed as a change agent.

For years, I have thought that philanthropy doesn’t do enough to highlight the role that it plays in social change. That’s why we produced Beyond Dollars in 2009, featured Philanthropy Factoids in the Daily WRAG throughout 2011, and updated Beyond Dollars with a progress report in 2013. We wanted to showcase all that philanthropy does to improve people’s lives.  Unfortunately, that message hasn’t reached the business community, and part of that responsibility lies with us.  When I look back over the speakers that WRAG has presented over the last decade, I can’t find one business leader who isn’t also a philanthropist.  Until the conversation with Bob Buchanan, WRAG had not invited a business leader to present his or her ideas to philanthropy. We had not explored with business shared views and values toward possible shared action. In retrospect, wow.

So, WRAG is working to change that.  Bob Buchanan underscored the altruistic role that funders can play. He noted that when he speaks up for a particular need, he is often lumped in the category of “greedy developer” just trying to make his project work. Often, yes, he is trying to make a project happen, but it is a project that can improve the lives of many who live in a specific community.  His business identity often obscures the fact that he wants to turn a profit and improve the community.  He challenged the funding community to:

  • Consider how they are perceived as only helping the “un-” and “under-” members of the community. He acknowledged that funders are trying to improve the lives of all who live in a community and that when the “un”served or “under”served are helped, all community members are helped. He feels that the business community doesn’t see the role of philanthropy as helping everybody;
  • Look at how they might support start-up businesses that can improve the viability of communities just as they support start up/innovative, new social profit organizations; and
  • Make financial investments with their assets, not just grants.

He believes that elected officials charged with serving their discrete constituencies and limited by a relatively brief time in office can’t be the sole partners of business, particularly in pursuit of a new regional economic dynamic. He wants philanthropy to play a role.  Now we must determine what that role should be.

Virginia faces mental health demands

HEALTH
In Virginia, lawmakers are grappling over potential budget constraints that will determine if they are able to safeguard funding for public mental health programs and services. (WaPo, 2/3)

In the end, the budget for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services may not escape cuts, but so far, money for the community service boards — the front line of public mental health care delivery in the state — has not been touched.

More than 160,000 Virginians rely on CSBs for mental health care each year. Advocates for the mentally ill are still hoping to secure funding increases for worthy programs, such as mobile crisis teams and crisis stabilization centers for children. They don’t know yet whether they will succeed, but they’ve faced worse odds.

– A newly released study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the sharp declines in secondhand-smoke exposure have occurred disproportionately, with exposure to black children and those in poverty remaining high. (WSJ, 2/3)

COMMUNITY | Congratulations to Northrop Grumman for receiving a 2015 Seal of Distinction award for their work-life balance initiatives! (WBJ, 2/4)

PHILANTHROPY | Opinion: One funder shares his thoughts on why other funders should learn to adapt a more external view and begin to give unrestricted dollars to their grantees. (SSIR, 2/3)

ENVIRONMENT
– Newly appointed head of the District Department of the Environment Tommy Wells speaks on what he envisions for the future of the Anacostia River, urban agriculture, and more over the next few years. (Elevation DC, 2/3)

– The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Arlington County Public Schools as second in the nation for green energy use. Despite a 22 percent increase in enrollment over the past 11 years, the school system was able to decrease energy use per square foot by 14 percent during that time. (WaPo, 2/3)

EDUCATION
– In Prince William County, officials will decide whether or not to keep full-day kindergarten instruction for the county’s more than 57 elementary schools due to budget constraints. (WTOP, 2/4)

– Study: College completion gap between rich, poor widens (AP, 2/3)

DISTRICT | How D.C.’s Racial Composition Breaks Down By Block (DCInno, 2/3)


How much sleep should you really be getting?

– Ciara

 

A difficult recovery of wealth for once thriving black families in Prince George’s County

ECONOMY/EQUITY
The Washington Post presents a multi-part series (part 1 and part 2) on the rise and fall of Prince George’s County’s black middle class. The community’s residents, once a majority of affluent black families, experienced a great deal of loss as a result of the housing crisis fueled by subprime loans – losses that have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to recover from. (WaPo, 1/24 and 1/25)

African Americans for decades flocked to Prince George’s County to be part of a phenomenon that has been rare in American history: a community that grew more upscale as it became more black.

[…]

But today, the nation’s highest-income majority-black county stands out for a different reason — its residents have lost far more wealth than families in neighboring, majority-white suburbs. And while every one of these surrounding counties is enjoying a strong rebound in housing prices and their economies, Prince George’s is lagging far behind, and local economists say a full recovery appears unlikely anytime soon.

REGION | Lately, our region has been challenged with urgent calls to action from leaders concerned about the area economy. In this letter to the editor printed in The Washington Business Journal, WRAG president, Tamara Copeland, writes about why she applauds this call, and pledged philanthropy’s support of their effort. (WRAG, 1/26)

WRAG | Community service is often handed out by judges in a court of law as punishment, but shouldn’t it be viewed as a high calling? WRAG board member Wilton Corkern, trustee of the Corina Higginson Trust, recently wrote a letter to the editor printed in The Washington Post, where he shares his thoughts on the heels of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell’s sentencing. (WaPo, 1/8)

FOOD
– Today, the Washington Regional Food Funders (WRFF) publish their policy brief, An Equitable Regional Food System For Greater Washington: The Imperative and Opportunity for Change. In this high-level overview of the range of work underway to transform our region’s food system, WRFF urges our region’s political leaders to become more deeply engaged in ensuring that everyone in our region has equitable access to good food.

– On Wednesday, January 28th, WRAG members Celeste A. James (Kaiser Permanente) and Yanique Redwood (Consumer Health Foundation) will be leading panels at the New Partners for Smart Growth preconference workshop entitled, Healthy Food Systems: Opportunities to Grow Resilient, Equitable Communities 2.0. Information on registration for this workshop at the Baltimore Hilton Hotel can be found here.

ARTS
– Amid news of the upcoming Dupont underground arts space, The Kojo Nnamdi Show explores what it takes to create more development for the arts in the region. (WAMU, 1/22)

– Though there are hubs for art in a number of areas across the District, one area lacking space for artists is Ward 7. There, some artists are looking to change that. (East City Art, 1/22)

DISTRICT | 3 Ways DC Could Be a Very Different Place by 2030 (DCInno, 1/23)

EDUCATION/VIRGINIA 
– Facing a steadily rising population boom, Arlington officials grapple with how to accommodate an unprecedented rise in the student population – and quickly. (WaPo, 1/23)

Full day kindergarten, specialty busing, all on chopping block at Prince William schools (Potomac Local, 1/23)

POVERTY | Study: Poor Boys Are More Likely to Fight, Lie, and Steal if They Live in Mixed-Income Housing (New Republic, 1/22)


Forget player stats and averages…let’s breakdown Super Bowl Sunday by the numbers that really matter – like how many chicken wings will people eat?

– Ciara