New report closely examines racial and ethnic incarceration disparities in each state

A new report examines the rates of incarceration for whites, African Americans, and Hispanics state-by-state, finds three contributing factors to the racial and ethnic disparities in those rates, and makes some recommendations for reform. (Sentencing Project, 6/14)

Truly meaningful reforms to the criminal justice system cannot be accomplished without acknowledgement of racial and ethnic disparities in the prison system, and focused attention on reduction of disparities. Since the majority of people in prison are sentenced at the state level rather than the federal level, it is critical to understand the variation in racial and ethnic composition across states, and the policies and the day-to-day practices that contribute to this variance. Incarceration creates a host of collateral consequences that include restricted employment prospects, housing instability, family disruption, stigma, and disenfranchisement.

Related: In the most recently released video of WRAG’s Putting Racism on the Table series, James Bell, J.D., founder and executive director of the W. Haywood Burns Institute, discussed mass incarceration and how structural racism, white privilege, and implicit bias collide within the criminal justice system.

OUR REGION, YOUR INVESTMENT | Our Region, Your Investment is gaining traction with local investors, with a recent $500,000 investment from the Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation. Says Joshua Bernstein, president of the foundation (Daily, 6/16):

The Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation is working to address the deficit in housing affordability in the D.C. area. An investment in the Enterprise Community Impact Note aligns our investment strategy with our mission and leverages our impact.  We are grateful for the opportunity that Our Region, Your Investment has created to invest funds in ways that promote additional investment in housing solutions.

COMMUNITY/LGBT/PHILANTHROPY | Following the recent tragedy in Orlando, a number of WRAG members have organized efforts to provide support to victims and their families or share valuable resources with those serving LGBT communities. Wells Fargo has announced a donation of $300,000 toward victims and community recovery through the OneOrlando fund, set up by the City of Orlando and administered by the Central Florida Foundation. The Council on Foundations has shared a resource guide created by Funders for LGBTQ Issues featuring Orlando’s local LGBTQ social profit organizations and fundraising efforts for the victims, and the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region has also shared resources for those who want to help.

EDUCATION/DISCRIMINATION/VIRGINIA | Students at Alexandria’s public schools are bringing to light what they describe as “excessive, discriminatory and reckless approach[es] to discipline” from the school system. Today, The Kojo Nnamdi Show explores those claims and the research that supports their argument. (WaPo, 6/3 and WAMU, 6/16)

Related: On Thursday, July 7, the third installment of WRAG’s Public Education Speaker Series (supported by The Omega Foundation and the Tiger Woods Foundation) tackles the topic of racial and gender disparities in school discipline, with Professor Anne Gregory of Rutgers University. WRAG members can click here to register.

ARTS/CULTURE African American Museum prepares for ‘a mini-inauguration’ (WaPo, 6/15)

PUBLIC HEALTHGun Violence ‘A Public Health Crisis,’ American Medical Association Says (NPR, 6/14)

Going back to school is tough at any age, but imagine going back to the 10th grade at age 68! This grandfather shows us it’s never too late.

– Ciara

New report examines Northern Virginia’s disparities in life expectancies

A new report from the Northern Virginia Health Foundation and the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health looks at the disparities in life expectancy among Northern Virginia’s richest and poorest residents. While the area often tops rankings for happiness, health, etc, many residents are falling behind based on factors like education, income, and race. (WaPo, 6/7)

In Fairfax County alone, life expectancy ranges by as much as 10 years between western Lorton and eastern Lorton census tracts separated by four miles. In western Lorton, where the median household income is $133,413 and 12 percent of the population is black, the life expectancy is 89. In eastern Lorton, where the median income is $77,901 and 37 percent of residents are black, life expectancy drops to 79, according to the report.


“It’s about city planning, zoning and transportation issues,” said Patricia Mathews, the president of the health foundation.

Read the full report, A Study in Contrasts: Why Life Expectancy Varies in Northern Virginia.

HOUSING | In their Matters@Hand thought leadership series sponsored by Enterprise Community Partners, HAND shines a spotlight on the Roadmap for the Region’s Future Economy and efforts toward regional collaboration on affordable housing. (Helping Hands Blog, 6/6)

– The U.S. Education Department has released the latest data from the Civil Rights Data Collection survey covering the 2013-2014 school year for more than 95,000 public schools. Check here for a quick glance at the numbers. (NPR, 6/7)

Related:  This data reveals deep racial inequities in the education system, including in how discipline is administered (for instance, that black preschoolers are 3.6 times more likely to be suspended than white preschoolers). Education funders are invited to join us for the next session in our Public Education Speaker Series on July 7, which will focus specifically on racial and gender disparities in school discipline and strategies for addressing them. More information can be found here.

Opinion: Two experts discuss how constant stress placed on children in poverty can take a toll on their mental and physical health, creating a need for better collaboration between schools and health providers. (WaPo, 6/6)

–  Homework Inequality: The Value of Having a Parent Around After School (Atlantic, 6/6)

WORKFORCE/LGBT | With more than 90 percent of transgender people experiencing some form of harassment in the workplace, the D.C. Office of Human Rights and the National LGBTQ Task Force have created a first-of-its-kind guide for employers for making work environments more accommodating. (WCP, 6/6)

SOCIAL PROFITS | The Center for Nonprofit Advancement is accepting nominations for the Gelman, Rosenberg & Freedman 2016 EXCEL Award until Friday, July 15, at 5:00 pm. The award recognizes outstanding leadership among Washington-area social profit organization chief executives.

Quiz time! How much do  you know about Africa?

– Ciara

Few transit options for the region’s lower-income riders

With a year’s worth of maintenance slated to take place throughout the Metrorail system, the impact is expected to be felt by most in the region. Those earning less than $30,000 annually, however, may be hit the hardest with fewer options for teleworking or affordable commutes to work. (City Lab, 5/19)

Among the 11 percent of Metrorail customers who earn less than $30,000 per year, many work low-wage, hourly shifts that don’t offer the option to telework. These riders can’t necessarily afford the convenience of a cab, an Uber, or even a smartphone to hail one. These riders still need to be able to get to their jobs, and for 29 hours in March, it was a lot harder for some.

– Natalie Wexler – education blogger/editor of Greater Greater Education and DC Eduphile, and trustee of the Omega Foundation  discusses the challenges in achieving reading success for low-income students. On June 2, Dr. Willingham, psychology professor at the University of Virginia, will dive further into the role of background knowledge in reading comprehension and the persistent achievement gap among affluent and low-income students. (Daily, 5/23)

– Does Mindfulness Actually Work in Schools? (Atlantic, 5/20)

 The Citi Foundation announced the 40 social profit organizations selected as inaugural recipients of their Community Progress Makers Fund – a $20 million grant initiative supporting community organizations leading urban transformation efforts that create economic opportunities for low-income households and communities. D.C. is one of six U.S. cities with organizations that were selected, such as: Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing; Capital Area Asset Builders; Enterprise Community Partners Mid-Atlantic; Latino Economic Development Center; and LIFT

– The Center for Nonprofit Advancement has announced Higher Achievement as the winner of their 2016 AIM (Advancement in Management) Award, along with A-SPAN and National Children’s Alliance receiving honorable mentions. Pepco, Capital One Bank, and the Rotary Club of Washington, DC were sponsors of the award. Award recipients will also host an informative best practices session on May 24 at 10:00 am.

IMMIGRATION/POVERTY | Many of the young, recent Central American immigrants to the Washington region find that post-traumatic stress and poverty, along with attending high school, can result in a difficult cycle. (WAMU, 5/19)

– With a growing number of students showing signs of mental health problems at school, educators are struggling to meet their needs. WAMU and nprED have presented a series on the challenges and possible solutions to approaching mental health issues in children. (WAMU, 5/23)

Due to a several challenges, the federal Summer Food Service Program – aimed at providing meals to children from low-income families during school break – only ends up reaching around 15 percent of those eligible. In places like Silver Spring, MD, for example, some children may have a hard time qualifying for such benefits when low-income housing is often in close proximity to affluent neighborhoods. (City Lab, 5/20)

–  Should Pediatricians Ask Parents If They’re Poor? (NPR, 5/18)

DISTRICT | The Washington Post explores the surge in homicides in D.C.’s ward 7. (WaPo, 5/21)

We all need to get adequate sleep, and trees are (possibly) no different.

– Ciara

Improving reading scores is about a whole lot more than teaching kids to read

by Natalie Wexler
Trustee, The Omega Foundation

Why is it harder to raise reading scores than math scores for students from low-income families? And why do kids who seem to read well in elementary school then struggle with grade-level text in middle and high school?

For decades, most elementary schools have taught reading as a skill: children have practiced reading comprehension strategies like “finding the main idea” or “making inferences” on simple stories. The theory has been that it doesn’t matter what students are reading, as long as they’re reading something. And in many elementary schools, especially those serving low-income students, the curriculum has been narrowed to “the basics:” reading and math.

But reading comprehension is highly dependent on background knowledge – as Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, will explain at the second event in WRAG’s Public Education Speaker Series on June 2. If students don’t learn about history, science, and the arts in elementary school, they’ll be at a tremendous disadvantage in high school, when they encounter texts that assume a lot of knowledge and vocabulary they don’t have. That’s particularly true for low-income students, who are far less likely to acquire academic knowledge at home.

Willingham – an accessible and engaging speaker as well as the author of several popular books – was recently cited in a speech by Secretary of Education John B. King. “We know from decades of research from folks like Daniel Willingham at the University of Virginia that knowledge matters for reading success,” King said. “It is not about reading vs. science and social studies.”

Willingham’s talk will shed light on why the achievement gap between wealthy and low-income students hasn’t narrowed in decades (in fact, some say it’s wider than ever), why it widens during school years, and what it will take to begin to close it.

WRAG’s 2016 Public Education Speaker Series is generously supported by The Omega Foundation, with additional support from the Tiger Woods Foundation. The series touches on a variety of critical topics facing students today. Education funders should click here to learn more about the series and to registerPlease, note that these programs are open to grantmakers only.

View the first video

The first video in the “Putting Racism on the Table” series is now live! The video features Professor john a. powell, Professor of Law and Professor of African-American Studies and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, speaking on structural racism. After you’ve had a chance to view the video, we encourage you to share your thoughts on the series in general or on the specific topic via Twitter, using the hashtag #PuttingRacismOnTheTable, and on WRAG’s Facebook page. (Daily, 3/9)

– The American Academy of Pediatrics is encouraging a new policy that would have pediatricians begin screening children for poverty by asking their parents if they are able to meet their family’s financial needs. The move comes as part of an effort to improve mental health and public health outcomes in children, by addressing the impact of toxic stress caused by poverty. (USN, 3/9)

Related: Recently, Dr. Matthew Biel, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Georgetown University Medical Center, joined us as the opening speaker for WRAG’s 2016 Public Education Speaker Series, to discuss the impact of toxic stress on child development.

– A study out of the University of Michigan examined more than 100,000 American households’ purchasing habits of toilet paper over a period of seven years. Researchers found that when it comes to buying necessities (like toilet paper and other household items) it takes money to save money – further supporting the notion that it is expensive to be poor. (WaPo, 3/8)

Related: On Wednesday, May 18, we will hear from Eldar Shafir, co-author of Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, on the psychological influence of scarcity. This event is open to the public with registration.

– Your chances at becoming poor may be higher than you think (WaPo, 3/8)

COMMUNITY | Congratulations to Consumer Health Foundation (CHF) on being awarded the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy’s (NCRP) Impact Award for Small/Midsized Private Foundation! CHF president and CEO Yanique Redwood also serves as vice president of the WRAG board. The awards ceremony will take place on Tuesday, May 3.

HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS | For some low-income families and individuals in need, strict zero-tolerance housing policies can create a vicious cycle in which they suddenly find themselves out of a place to call home. (Washingtonian, 3/7)

HEALTH | Medical Bills Still Take A Big Toll, Even With Insurance (NPR, 3/8)

DISTRICT | Mayor Muriel Bowser Announces Tech Hub Promoting Minority Companies (DCist, 3/8)

CSR | The Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce invites you to apply for the Outstanding Corporate Citizenship Awards. The application period is open through Friday, April 1, 2016, and is available online.

So…those cherry blossoms will be arriving a little sooner than expected.

– Ciara

Third-grade reading proficiency remains stagnant in D.C., declining for some

A new analysis of third-grade reading proficiency from 2007-2014 by D.C. Action for Children finds that standardized test scores remained stagnant for District students citywide, and declined for economically disadvantaged students during that period. (WCP, 3/1)

The report highlights other academic gaps. Nine in 10 white third-graders attained proficient scores on the 2014 test, versus 35 and 36 percent of black and Hispanic third-graders, respectively, according to D.C Action for Children.

Based on its findings, the group recommends that D.C. invest even more in early care and education programs such as home visits as well as strengthen early literacy programs such as the D.C. Public Library’s “Books from Birth” program.

Related Event: Literacy is the topic at the next event in WRAG’s 2016 Public Education Speaker Series. Funders, click here to learn more about the event.

How One D.C. Elementary’s 5th Grade Enrollment Highlights Concerns About Middle School (WAMU 3/2)

–  Well-known native Washingtonian James V. Kimsey, philanthropist and cofounder of America Online, has passed away. (WaPo, 3/1)

– A new website, Successes of Philanthropy, aims to serve as a digital archive of philanthropic wins made by a variety of grant making institutions. The project is supported by a number of organizations, including the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, with strategic input from others, including the Council on Foundations. (Chronicle, 3/1)

HOUSING/POVERTY | Why losing a home means losing everything (WaPo, 2/29)

– Find out how Denmark and other places are working to solidify their position as leaders in the fight against food waste. (NPR, 3/1)

The Instagrams of Food Deserts (Atlantic, 3/1)

ARTS | In recognition of Women’s History Month and the public’s general lack of awareness about women in the field, the National Museum of Women in the Arts has launched a campaign challenging everyone to name five women artists . (WCP, 3/1)

When will the cherry blossoms(!) hit peak bloom? Find out here.

– Ciara

Creating more inclusive communities

A new study released by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program recommends ways in which metro regions can alter their economic development thinking toward building more inclusive environments that do not exclude poorer residents. (City Lab, 2/29)

While 95 percent of the largest metros in the U.S. have seen aggregate job growth since 2009, according to the report, over 40 percent of all metros have lost jobs in their advanced industries. More troubling, the growth of low-wage occupations has surpassed the growth of middle-skill and higher-wage jobs in the U.S. This has coincided with a troubling increase in concentrated poverty in both cities and suburbs.

– DC Fiscal Policy Institute has released a report on the inequity and poverty that have deepened in the District in the years since the Great Recession. (DCFPI, 2/26)

– WRAG launched the 2016 Public Education Speaker Series last week with Dr. Matthew Biel, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Georgetown University Medical Center, where he spoke on the impact of toxic stress on children’s development. You can read more about his compelling comments here. (Daily 2/29)

– The Washington Area Women’s Foundation (WAWF) recently announced their leadership in a new regional effort to strengthen the early care and education professional workforce, known as the Washington Region Early Care & Education Workforce Network. Read WAWF president and CEO Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat’s statement on the new effort.

The Consequences of Poor Science Education in Kindergarten (Atlantic, 2/27)

– In their newly published annual trend report, the Center for the Future of Museums finds that one major barrier for people in engaging in the cultural sector comes down to a simple lack of leisure time. (WaPo, 2/26)

When People of Color Are Discouraged From Going Into the Arts (Atlantic, 2/28)

HEALTH | A series of recent polls administered in key states take a look at Americans’ views and concerns two years into the Affordable Care Act. (NPR, 2/29)

Neil DeGrasse Tyson breaks down Leap Day once and for all. 

– Ciara