Notes from the Field...

PUBLIC POLICY & ADVOCACY NEWSLETTER – DECEMBER 2012


Gov. Quinn Declares December 2012 'United Way Month'

This month is officially United Way Month.

On Dec. 11, Gov. Quinn signed an executive proclamation recognizing United Way's 125 years of work toward advancing the common good. Quinn, in his proclamation, declared December 2012 as "United Way Worldwide Month."

The proclamation highlights the positive social change that United Ways throughout Illinois have affected by bringing together volunteers, agencies and members. It called United Way's 125th anniversary a significant milestone and a testament to the quality of services provided to those in need.

Likewise, on Dec. 5 the Illinois Senate adopted a resolution recognizing United Way volunteers and employees on our 125th anniversary. Senators voted December 2012 as “United Way Month.”

The Senate resolution, SR 1032, notes that United Way “builds on community strengths and assets, helps individuals and groups with specific community interests, finds ways for them to contribute their time and talents, supports direct-service programs and community-change efforts and advocates public policy changes.”

The Illinois House is expected to pass a similar resolution in early January.

Please join us in reaching out to the Governor’s office and to your local state senator to thank them for recognizing our role and work in the community.


Advocacy Must Continue against Limiting Deductions on Charitable Contributions

Discussions of how to avert the "fiscal cliff" before the year’s end have put charitable contributions on the line.

United Way adamantly opposes proposed changes to the federal tax code that would limit deductions for donations made to nonprofits and other charities.

Advocacy efforts against these proposals are occurring throughout the United Way system. In late November, 33 United Ways in Illinois signed onto a letter urging U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin to preserve charitable giving incentives in the federal tax code.


“Even a small decrease in our donations caused by limitations on deductions would directly impact the people who receive the services provided by United Way and our partners,” said the letter to Sen. Durbin. “The bottom-line is that, as a result of changing current incentives for the charitable deduction, tens of thousands of Illinoisans who need our help the most may no longer receive the services we provide and fund.”

Tax increases currently scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1 would bring the government more than $500 billion for 2013. Combined with across-the-board spending cuts, these massive policy changes could weaken the still-fragile economy.

While United Way recognizes the urgent need for measures to reduce the federal deficit, the White House’s proposed cap on itemized deductions at 28% will do more harm than good. Any limit on charitable deductions would reduce donations, particularly among wealthier Americans.

A combined 67% of wealthy households would either somewhat or dramatically decrease their donations if the tax incentive were eliminated, according to a 2010 study by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

What’s more, the charitable deduction has broad support among the public: 70% of respondents to a 2011 Gallup poll said they supported it. Among those who don’t even claim the deduction, 62% supported it.

Urge Congress to preserve the charitable deduction by calling or emailing right now. To learn more about the fiscal cliff, see the Urban Institute’s comprehensive toolkit.


United Way Testifies at Early Education Budget Hearing

United Way’s Jack Kaplan impressed upon state officials the importance of high-quality preschool and home visiting programs during a Joint Early Childhood Budget Hearing on Dec. 3.

Kaplan, who is Public Policy and Advocacy Director for United Way of Metropolitan Chicago and United Way of Illinois, testified before state officials from the Department of Human Services, Department of Children and Family Services and the Board of Education.

The purpose of the meeting was to advocate for adequate state funding for programs that have proven effective and that save costs in the long run. About 30 people, many representing advocacy organizations, testified.

In his testimony, Kaplan said: “Education is a cornerstone upon which strong families and vibrant communities are built. By focusing on early childhood (birth to 5 years), children will have the building blocks, through family support and skill attainment, to begin kindergarten poised for lifelong learning.”

Early childhood education is paramount, Kaplan testified, considering:

Research points to two models for their relative impacts on child outcomes: high quality preschool education for lower income children and parent education through home visiting. Both focus on low-income populations. United Way has identified these two evidence-based approaches as the best opportunities to make public and private investments in high-quality early childhood education.

While recognizing the fiscal pressures facing the state, Kaplan told state officials that the “research and evidence to date make a strong case for increased investment in (preschool and home visiting) programs in order to improve the educational outcomes of some of our highest risk children and reduce the greater costs associated with later, more intensive interventions.”


Core Coalition Illinois Launches Website about New Learning Standards

With new learning standards introduced in classrooms this fall, the Core Coalition has launched a website dedicated to informing and engaging families and educators.

Described as a higher, clearer and deeper set of learning standards, Common Core State Standards in Illinois are being incorporated in English Language Arts and math classrooms this school year. The new standards replace those last updated in 1997 and are intended to better prepare students for college and the workforce. In Illinois, 80% of jobs require some sort of post-secondary degree yet only 30% of the state’s adults ever earn one.

Illinois is raising the bar with Common Core standards to better prepare students to succeed in today’s world. Across the U.S., 45 other states are doing the same.

Developed by a diverse group of education experts, Common Core standards:

Common Core standards will be implemented in all Illinois classrooms by fall of 2013. With more complex content, the new standards also focus on real-world skills such as problem solving, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

The Core Coalition is focused on spreading the word about the new learning standards, especially considering 60% of voters polled knew “nothing” about the Common Core standards and another 21% knew “not much.”

The Core Coalition website includes video testimonials from parents, teachers, a student and an employer. It also has resources for families and educators and the option to sign up for email with news and resources.

United Way is a member of the Core Coalition, along with Advance Illinois, Illinois Business RoundTable, Latino Policy Forum and others.


Recent Research

INCOME

EARN Research Institute, Saving for Higher Education in the US: Parents’ Beliefs, Behaviors, and Preferences
Urban Institute, U.S. Asset Poverty and the Great Recession
Urban Institute, Child Poverty and Its Lasting Consequences

EDUCATION

Advance Illinois, The State We’re In 2012: A Report Card on Public Education in Illinois
Consortium on Chicago School Reform, Designing and Implementing the Next Generation of Teacher Evaluation Systems
Center for Evaluation Innovation, Evaluating PreK-3rd Grade Reforms

HEALTH

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Medicaid/CHIP Participation Among Children and Parents
Kaiser Family Foundation, Faces of the Medicaid Expansion: Experiences and Profiles of Uninsured Adults Who Gain Coverage
National Academy for State Health Policy, State CHIP Fact Sheets


In the News

Rhonda Edmonson, executive director of United Way of South Central Illinois, was quoted extensively in a Nov. 23 article about child abuse in the Mount Vernon Register-News. Edmonson identified poverty, state budget cuts and reduced funding for human services programs, and increased reporting of cases as reasons for the 5.4% increase in reports of abuse in Southern Illinois.