On May 5, President Obama called for comprehensive immigration reform, saying he wants “to begin work this year” and to gather bipartisan support for reform. Obama noted last week that “there may not be an appetite” for reform this year, but a new Arizona immigration law has drawn increased attention to the issue and highlighted the importance of federal action regarding comprehensive reform. While it is unclear whether such reform will be passed this year, several Democratic Senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), released draft legislation last week (see This Week, May 1. The president called the Senate language a “strong proposal for comprehensive reform.” The president’ s comments are available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/05/05/cinco-de-mayo-a-call-comprehensive-immigration-reform.
On April 29, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing on special populations in education. The HELP Committee is focusing its efforts on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as well as the McKinney-Vento homeless assistance provisions within the ESEA. Senators heard from individuals representing perspectives of immigrants, migrants, disabilities, the homeless and youth in foster care. Kayla VanDyke, who is graduating from high school shortly, testified about her experience as a homeless child and young person in foster care. She lived in several homes and shelters and attended several different schools. Later, with support from her foster mother, social worker, therapist, and counselors, she was eventually able to overcome many of these challenges and will be attending Hamline University in the fall. VanDyke used her experience to highlight gaps in the McKinney-Vento provisions that need to be addressed, particularly when it comes to funding. She asked senators to consider the importance of school stability by allowing foster youth to stay in the same school when it is in the young person’ s best interest and provide dedicated liaisons and coordinators for all foster and homeless youth. Her testimony and that of the other witnesses are available at http://help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=f3ee8bae-5056-9502-5da1-d8029371ddaf.
On April 28, President Obama issued a statement proclaiming May as National Foster Care Month. He wrote that during the month, the nation should recognize the promise of children and youth in foster care, as well as former foster youth. He also cited the professionals and foster parents who provide so much support. The proclamation is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/presidential-proclamation-national-foster-care-month.
On May 5, House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) announced his retirement; he has been a member of the House since 1969. The committee’ s Defense Subcommittee chairman, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), would be a likely replacement if the Democrats maintain their majority after the fall elections. However, a junior member of the committee, Rep. Chaka Fattah (Pa.), has also made a bid for the position. If Republicans take control of the House, it is unclear whether Rep. Jerry Lewis (Calif.) would be allowed to serve as chairman; he served as chairman from 2005 to 2007 and could be term-limited under Republican rules. Other Republican names under consideration include Reps. C.W. Bill Young (Fla.) and Harold Rogers (Ky.), the second- and third-ranking Republicans, respectively, on the committee. Obey’ s statement is available at http://obey.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=924%3A-statement-by-congressman-david-r-obey&catid=47&Itemid=203.
In the Obama Administration’ s fiscal year 2011 budget, the president proposed a $1.6 billion increase to Child Care and Development Block Grant. Recently, the White House and the Office of Management and Budget proposed to divert $400 million from this $1.6 billion order to create the Early Learning Challenge Fund. This would reduce the president’ s CCDBG increase proposal to $1.2 billion. This week, APHSA’ s affiliate the National Association of State Child Care Administrators sent a letter to the White House and OMB expressing its concerns and explaining why diverting CCDBG funds is counterproductive. The letter is posted on the APHSA web site at http://www.aphsa.org/Home/Doc/APHSA_WHLetteronCCDBG_ELCF.pdf.
This week, the Government Accountability Office released a report, Child Care: Multiple Factors Could Have Contributed to the Recent Decline in the Number of Children Whose Families Receive Subsidies. The report examined three areas of congressional interest: the trends in federal estimates of the number and proportion of eligible children and families who receive child care subsidies; factors that may affect trends in estimates of the number of children served; and what is known about the extent to which access to subsidies supports low-income parents’ employment. The full report is posted at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10344.pdf.
This week, the Department of Education announced the availability of the planning grant application for Promise Neighborhoods, a new program designed to significantly improve the educational and developmental outcomes of children in the most distressed communities. Because the challenges faced by communities with high concentrations of poverty are interrelated, Promise Neighborhoods is taking a comprehensive approach designed to ensure that children have access to a continuum of cradle-through-college-to-career solutions, with strong schools at the center. The continuum would support academic achievement, healthy development, and college and career success. The full application is available at www2.ed.gov/programs/promiseneighborhoods/index.html. The department will also be setting up webinars in the near future.
On May 6, The Brookings Institution’ s Center on Children and Families hosted an event titled “Evaluating the New Supplemental Poverty Rate Proposal,” which discussed the Obama administration’ s recent addition of a supplemental poverty measure that would include in-kind benefits in its calculation. David Johnson, chief of the Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division at the U.S. Census Bureau, delivered an overview of the new measure, which sets a poverty threshold at the 33rd percentile of spending on food, shelter, clothing and utilities. Collection methods are still being developed for the measure, and it is slated to be released in September 2011 alongside the original poverty measure. Johnson noted that there would be an announcement in the Federal Register seeking input regarding the new measure. Rebecca Blank, undersecretary of commerce for economic affairs at the U.S. Department of Commerce, gave introductory remarks, and Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution moderated the session. Additional panelists included Shawn Fremstad, senior fellow, The Workforce Alliance; Mark Levitan, director of poverty research, New York City Center for Economic Opportunity; Robert Michael, professor and dean emeritus, University of Chicago; Robert Rector, senior research fellow, The Heritage Foundation; and Timothy Smeeding, director, Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin.
This Week in Washington is published by the American Public Human Services Association each week Congress is in session and on other dates. Editors: Larry Goolsby and Frank Solomon. Writers: Rashida Brown (child welfare), Ilana Cohen (health), Linda Edouard (legislative affairs intern), Robert Ek (TANF, child support), Sue Hall (SNAP), Courteney Holden (child and family services), Bertha Levin (child and family services), Tyler Middleton (legislative affairs intern), Poornima Nayak (health), Ngozi Onunaku (child care), Nanette Relave (health), Damon Terzaghi (health), Emily Wengrovius (legislative affairs), and Angela You (child and family services).