August 15, 2018
The Minnesota Literacy Council and the communities we serve benefit deeply from the work of our AmeriCorps VISTA members.
For that reason, we are closely monitoring proposed changes to the federal agency that funds and oversees the AmeriCorps VISTA program, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The changes have been put forward by CNCS leadership at the request of the White House.
We agree that some of what's proposed could result in a more effective program. But we are very concerned about a potential structural change: the consolidation and regionalization of CNCS offices, which are currently state-based.
Why would regionalization be a mistake?
- State CNCS offices have been longtime partners and advocates for our programs. A regional office model will not provide the same level of support.
- State-based staff live and work in Minnesota. They have developed deep relationships with the local community and understand our unique history, people and needs. Large, regional offices will have few relationships and a minimal understanding of local communities and people.
- Long-term relationship-building and a local presence are essential to build coalitions that will allow the VISTA program to expand to new organizations, communities and partners.
Unfortunately, every state that loses its local offices would face these same challenges. That's why it's critical that we speak out. You can tell CNCS that you are against restructuring the agency by following these simple steps:
- Visit the public comment page for the CNCS proposal, the Transformation and Sustainability Plan
- Enter your comment in the box
- Sample: "Please do not restructure CNCS offices. Replacing state offices with regional offices that are removed from our local communities would weaken the AmeriCorps VISTA program and hurt those who need services."
- Enter your name
- Uncheck the boxes “I want…” and “I am…”
- Select category “Goal 6” from the drop-down menu
- Click “continue”
- Review, then check “I read and understand the statement above” and click “submit”
The public comment period closes Friday, August 24, so please act today!
When you're done, record your efforts in our Action Log and we'll be able to track and report out on our activity. Thank you for standing up for AmeriCorps VISTA!
June 18, 2018
The recent decision by the White House to forcibly separate children from their parents at the border is reprehensible and must be stopped. Please take two actions today:
1) Call your U.S. Senators and Representative and ask these separations cease immediately. Bills that need support include:
- Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2018 – requires the government to appoint legal counsel to unaccompanied children, as well as other vulnerable individuals.
- Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) Separated Children Act – identifies children whose parents have been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and prioritizes the release of their parents.
- Keep Families Together Act – prohibits separating children from their families, except if the child is judged to be in imminent danger.
Senator Klobuchar’s D.C. Office: 202-224-3244
Senator Smith’s D.C. Office: 202-224-5641
Find your Representative's contact information
White House's Comment Line: 202-456-1111 (Open 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. EST)
2) Donate to organizations helping separated families along the border.Consider making a donation to Neta, which is helping families at U.S. ports of entry, and/or RAICES, which is raising money to release parents detained by ICE and reunite families. Check out this list on Slate to find additional organizations to support.
These families have endured enough – please take action today! And, as always, please record your efforts in our Action Log.
April 4, 2018
With federal funding for FY18 finally secured, it's time to look ahead to FY19.
Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have written a "Dear Colleague" letter asking the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee to increase funding for adult education in FY19 to $664.5 million, the full funding level authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
Please call your senators and ask them to sign the "Reed-Blumenthal Dear Colleague Letter on Adult Education." The deadline to sign the letter is April 11, so please call today!
Senator Klobuchar's D.C. Office: (202) 224-3244
Senator Smith's D.C. Office: (202) 224-5641
As always, please use our Action Log to record your advocacy efforts.
March 22, 2018
On March 22, Congress approved a budget for FY18 that increases funding for adult education by $35 million and increases funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal service responsible for AmeriCorps, by $34 million.
This is a huge win, and it was made possible by your calls, letters and persistence.
Just over a year ago, the Trump Administration released its infamous FY18 budget proposal, which would have devastated our ability to serve our students and communities. You've logged over 300 calls and letters to politicians since then, and every single one of them made a difference.
Your voice is important - thank you for using it.
February 21, 2018
- On Feb. 9, President Trump signed a Continuing Resolution (CR) that increased non-defense discretionary spending, giving Congress more money to allocate to federal programs like transportation, energy, health care and, most important to us, adult basic education (ABE).
- On Feb. 12, the White House released its FY19 budget proposal that – once again – cuts funding for a variety of programs, including ABE.
- The upshot: when President Trump signed the CR he gave Congress the money it needs to increase funding for ABE – so let's use it!
Senator Jack Reed (Rhode Island) is proposing to increase funding for ABE by $100 million. Contact your members of Congress today and tell them to support Senator Reed's proposal to increase funding for ABE by $100 million.
Educate and Elevate, the national campaign for ABE, makes it easy to take action by contacting Congress: go to its website for talking points, an email template and a petition to sign. Congress needs to know this is not the time to cut funding for ABE – this is our opportunity to increase it.
Please log any action you take on our website – together, we've made over 200 calls and letters to politicians!
December 19, 2017
The Senate is debating the tax bill and will likely vote late today, Dec. 19, or early tomorrow, Dec. 20. The House already voted to approve it.
There is still time to say NO to this $1.5 trillion mistake.
Please call your U.S. Senators today and tell them you oppose the tax bill because it cuts funding for vital programs like adult basic education and Medicaid, reduces health insurance options and eliminates vital tax deductions.
Senator Franken’s D.C. Office: 202-224-5641
Senator Klobuchar’s D.C. Office: 202-224-3244
We owe it to ourselves, our children, our neighbors and our communities to make our voices heard. As always, please use our Action Log to record your advocacy efforts. Every call/email/letter counts!
November 21, 2017
Both the House and Senate Tax Reform bills could trigger major cuts across the board for FY18, including cuts to Adult Basic Education (ABE). To make matters worse, both bills include a number of elements that would drastically reduce essential services to our students. This includes:
- cutting Medicaid,
- decreasing the availability of general health insurance, and
- eliminating a tax break for student loans.
Congress and the White House want to pass a tax bill by Christmas, which means we're running out of time to act. Please call your member of the House and both U.S. Senators today and tell them you oppose both the House and Senate Tax Reform bills because they cut funding for vital programs like ABE and Medicaid, reduce health insurance options, and eliminate vital tax deductions.
September 15, 2017
A few updates to share:
- At the state level, funding for Adult Basic Education (ABE) will remain flat in the next fiscal year.
- At the federal level, Congress rejected much of the White House's "skinny budget". Among other things, the White House's plan called for cutting ABE funding by nearly 16.5 percent and eliminating the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which finances AmeriCorps VISTA programs, in its entirety. Although the federal budget has not yet been decided, funding for both ABE and CNCS are expected to remain level. Of course, we're tracking the budget closely and will notify you if something changes and additional help is needed.
Meanwhile, "Educate and Elevate", the national ABE campaign launched by the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) and the National Council of the State Directors of Adult Education, is picking up steam. Please visit the Educate and Elevate website to learn more about ways you can get involved or sign up to receive the campaign's e-newsletter by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, the President's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is appalling. Given the fluidity and uncertainty of the current situation, it's hard to know the best way forward, but calling your representatives and staying informed are always good places to start. We're keeping a close eye on the situation and will send an Advocacy Alert when we know more specific action steps.
As always, please use our Action Log to record your advocacy efforts. Every call/email/letter counts!
May 23, 2017
Senators Reed and Blumenthal are leading an effort to increase funding for Adult Basic Education (ABE) by circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter. Although the letter was originally written last year, it's being recirculated with an updated date in response to the White House's proposed budget cuts. The letter's message is the same one we've been championing all along: fully fund ABE.
The White House's proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 reduces funding for the Department of Education by 13.5 percent. Although the exact size of the cut to adult basic education (ABE) funding is not yet known, the current estimate is that it will be reduced by nearly 16.5 percent.
Please call Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and ask them to sign the Reed/Blumenthal "Dear Colleague" letter about ABE. The deadline for senators to sign the letter is Wednesday, May 24, 2017.
Please use the activity log on our website to record the action you have taken.
May 10, 2017
Updates on current activity:
- On May 8, the Minnesota Legislature sent Gov. Mark Dayton a budget bill that did not cut growth in adult basic education (ABE) funding, nor did it give ABE the additional funding that we requested – and need. Even more troubling is that some community-based organizations (CBOs) are lobbying to receive special targeted funding. We told Gov. Dayton we are disappointed that no new funding was provided for the ABE funding formula, and we STRONGLY OPPOSE any efforts to provide special targeted funding for any specific CBO. We believe any funding provided must equitably benefit the entire ABE field.
- On May 1, U.S. Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund the federal government for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year that did not markedly cut funding for ABE programming or AmeriCorps. However, funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal service responsible for AmeriCorps, was reduced by about $65 million. This victory was empowered by your voices – thank you!
- In the meantime, we have less than five months to prepare for our next big national challenge. On September 30, 2017, funding for the federal government will expire and a new budget for fiscal year 2018 will need to take its place. The White House’s proposed budget cuts funding for CNCS entirely and puts funding for ABE on the chopping block, as well.
As always, use the activity log on our website to record the action you have taken so we can keep track of where our efforts are succeeding and where more work needs to be done.
April 25, 2017
The two organizations we look to for leadership, Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) and National Council of the State Directors of Adult Education, launched "Educate and Elevate." This joint public awareness campaign unites our voices and continues to build momentum against the White House budget cuts threatening adult education funding.
Educate and Elevate ensures that – for the first time since this fight began – teachers, students, lawmakers and other supporters of adult basic education (ABE) can easily stand together and work from the same platform. This is our chance to put our new platform to good use and show lawmakers that an investment in ABE is an investment in America’s future.
Please visit the Educate and Elevate website to learn more about ways you can get involved.
March 29, 2017
The literacy council is joining a national coalition and advocacy campaign to ensure that members of Congress do not approve a devastating cut to adult education. The message to share with your representatives is NO CUTS IN ADULT EDUCATION. Read the campaign's key messages and see tips for your letter or phone call!
Adult learners can get involved, too!
Scott Hall, Adult Basic Education Supervisor at the Hubbs Center in St. Paul, just informed me that Hubbs students have already sent nearly 800 thank you cards to local and national legislators. Kudos to them. Find out what student letters should include...
What's motivating this?
As we mentioned previously, the Trump administration’s initial budget proposed a cut of 13.5% in the U.S. Department of Education for fiscal year 2018. While adult education was not specifically mentioned in the proposal, we anticipate that the complete budget, which will be released in mid-May, will include the cut of 13.5% for adult education along with most other education programs.
A cut of this size would cause tremendous harm to adult education programs and students across the country. As adult educators, volunteers and friends of adult education, we each have the responsibility to take swift and decisive action to ensure that the proposed cut is not enacted.
Please let us know the action you've taken
If possible, please inform me how many letters/calls you and your students (if applicable) have logged – and to whom. This will help us monitor how much we have done and where we need to focus our efforts. You can easily share your action with me through this webform.
This may well be the most important action you can take this year to support adult basic education. Thank you for being an advocate for our students!
March 16, 2017
The White House released its “skinny” budget on Thursday. This version doesn’t include much detail, but it is clear that our concerns were legitimate. While there is a lot to be concerned about in this budget, I’ll stick to issues that affect literacy and education.
- As suspected, the White House budget proposes to eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service, or CNCS (VISTA, AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, etc.).
- There are severe cuts to job training programs funded through the Department of Labor.
- The budget contains deep, across-the-board cuts to the Department of Education and though there isn’t specific detail, we are assuming at a minimum a 13.5% cut to adult basic education.
- The cuts also include a number of valuable public school programs, (teacher training, out-of-school-time and work-study, TRIO and GEAR UP programs for low-income/first generation college-bound students), while at the same time increasing funding for private school vouchers and charter schools.
- Scores of programs and agencies that offer aid and support to adult learners and families have been cut or eliminated in the President’s budget.
This Washington Post article breaks it down nicely:
Please call your members of Congress to let them know you support adult basic education and the Corporation for National and Community Service. Be polite, but I believe an "all caps-style" message is warranted here: “DON’T CUT ABE OR CNCS.”
Letters and emails also make a difference, as do visits to local offices of the members. Check out our tips on communicating with legislators plus data for making your case.
February 20, 2017
According to the White House budget office, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which finances AmeriCorps VISTA programs, is one of nine agencies slated for possible elimination in the upcoming budget year as part of an effort to “reorder the government and increase spending on defense and infrastructure.” Read the New York Times article.
In Minnesota, a large portion of that resource goes to literacy efforts, both for adults and children – and yes, the Minnesota Literacy Council receives CNCS funding. Eliminating this agency would constitute a devastating blow to our work and destroy a program that has helped millions of people. It is imperative we act now to express strong support for CNCS.
- Visit the Voices for National Service or Service Year Alliance webpages to use their automated forms to contact your members of Congress
- Email or call your legislators directly (look them up here)
- Follow AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA on Facebook
- Find out who is on the National Service Congressional Caucus (a bipartisan group of legislators who are already champions of national service)
To receive future calls to action in your inbox, opt in to our Literacy Advocacy Alerts.
January 30, 2017
The Minnesota Literacy Council has successfully advocated for the cause throughout our 45-year history. With the uncertainty that a change in a political administration brings, there is new urgency in our advocacy efforts.
I like to say, “Change is good… as long as it’s good.” We want you to be aware when we hear of a change that isn’t congruent with our mission, vision and values.
Our approach to public policy work has been to promote collaboration and build partnerships. But the bottom line is that people – and lots of them – are what really affect change. By reading this, you're taking a first step in becoming part of this movement!
Advocacy does make a difference. Two significant accomplishments resulting from our advocacy efforts include:
- Increasing the Adult Basic Education government funding formula. ...READ MORE
- Changing an antiquated AmeriCorps VISTA policy. ...READ MORE
A call to action
As you no doubt know, President Trump issued an executive order on Friday temporarily banning refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. At this time, I am urging you to educate yourself.
Though not directly related to our legislative agenda, here are some links to information about the executive order and how it may affect our student population.
- From The Advocates for Human Rights: https://theadvocatespost.org/2017/01/30/president-trumps-executive-order-harms-the-u-s-refugees
- From the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (letter signing opportunity): https://www.ilcm.org/latest-news/act-now-to-oppose-harmful-executive-orders
To receive future calls to action in your inbox, opt in to our Literacy Advocacy Alerts.