Since the JET Fund was established in 2009, at the urging of the Texas IAF, the state supported IAF-affiliated labor market intermediaries that navigated more than 800 lower-income, nontraditional students through community college.
The Adult Career Education (ACE) Grant program, the effort’s most recent permutation, now faces an uncertain future. In efforts to slash the state budget, Texas legislators are moving to eliminate all “special item” expenditures, even those that pay for special programs at colleges, over and beyond the normal higher education funding formulas.
“It has nothing to do with our program or the effectiveness of it,” said Elizabeth Valdez, lead organizer for The Metropolitan Organization in Houston.
A recently-released gold-standard study established that the Texas IAF’s flagship program, Project QUEST, was the only program in the nation to demonstrate sustained, sizable and statistically significant gains. In photo, a Project QUEST-supported student works with a patient.
[Photo Credit: William Luther, San Antonio Express News]
Senate Resolution, Senate of the State of Texas
Escalating Gains: Project QUEST’S Sectoral Strategy Pays Off, Economic Mobility Corporation
Study Affirms Project QUEST Achievements, San Antonio Express-News
Texas Job Program Shows Unusually Strong, Lasting Gains, Study Finds, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
"There's a story that sounds almost apocryphal, except it isn't, about how the Network of Texas IAF Organizations, which focuses on community-leadership development, came to anchor itself in the consciousness of elected officials across the state.
Locally, the network affiliate is known as The Metropolitan Organization, or TMO. Primarily church-based, as the IAF organizations are in other cities, TMO is made up of 27 congregations largely located in east and southeast-side neighborhoods.
As the network of organizations marks its 40-year anniversary, we turned to TMO leaders for insights about the group's work here in Houston, its impact and vision for the future. Outlook editor Veronica Flores-Paniagua talked with the Rev. Robert McGee and Ana Cummings, who were among TMO's founders."
Below are excerpts from the conversation.
...."It's about the Texas IAF Network, to which The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) of Houston belongs. Through its interdenominational base of congregations, TMO identifies the needs of the communities, develops leaders and establishes strategies so that the ears of authorities are reached and elected officials compelled to respond to their demands.
'We have seen time and time again that politicians - Democrats, Republicans, from the left, from the right, independents - respond to power (that of organized communities). So we build power. It doesn't matter what party an official comes from, if they see that a community is organized and has the power to pressure them, they will change things quickly,' affirms priest Eric Holloway of Santa Mar√≠a Virgen Episcopal Church, which is situated in southeast Houston and whose parishioners are predominantly Latino."
On the eve of the Texas IAF's 40+ anniversary celebration, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston offered his congratulations for TMO and the Texas IAF's dedication over the previous four decades. He writes, "I know that in offering my gratitude for your presence and leadership in the Houston area, I speak for so many individuals who are grateful for the transformative effects that The Metropolitan Organization (TMO).....[has] brought about for so many."
Recalling the early days of IAF-inspired organizing of faith communities in Houston, Bishop Fiorenza sent his congratulations to the Texas IAF on the eve of its 40+ year anniversary. He writes, " It is a happy moment for me to congratulate all who have...participated in making human life more just and equitable in Houston due to outstanding efforts of TMO / GCLC." After listing local achievements, he adds, "It is evident that the work of TMO / GCLC and the Texas IAF are supporting the Church's mission to be a witness of compassion by putting faith into action."
At a pre-election accountability assembly attended by 600 TMO leaders
at New Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, top mayoral candidates mostly agreed to support TMO's inequality agenda, which included police staffing, road improvements and wages. All except one candidate pledged $1 Million out of the City budget for expansion workforce development program Capital IDEA-Houston.
Costello Highlights City's Budget Woes at TMO Forum, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Exigen Respuestas de Candidatos a Alcadia, Univision
Following up on its $5 million win from the last legislative session in 2013, Texas IAF leaders - including several from TMO - succeeded in ensuring that the Adult Career Education (ACE) Grant program (and its $5 million in funding) stayed on the Texas budget. This means that Texas IAF workforce development programs like Capital IDEA-Houston, Project ARRIBA, VIDA, Project QUEST, SkillsQuest and Capital IDEA of Austin can apply for these funds to expand the job training they currently offer.
Capital IDEA-Houston, founded by TMO, is an integral strategy to train people out of low-wage employment and into living wage careers.
TMO Lyons parents won an 8-1 school board vote against proposed boundary changes to their school. The changes would have sent students from one of the top ranked schools in the state to one ranked in the lowest 18% statewide. Parents signed up 600 petitioners opposed to the change to convinced board members this was a bad idea.
Rosa Rivera told board members, "We want you to listen to us. Don't move our children." Demonstrating that the voices of organized parents get heard, the board rejected the the proposed plan.
TMO leaders and parents of children attending Lyons Elementary held a pre-board meeting press conference to detail their concerns about the latest HISD proposal to rezone elementary schools. Rosa Rivera argued that a plan to shift new students to nearby elementary schools would negatively impact the education of her children as the nearby schools are not as high quality as Lyons. "Before they start to do all these movements, I would like HISD to improve the schools."
Trustees decided to postpone the vote.
According to regular Metro bus rider Julia Ramirez, it is going to take a lot more than minor changes to make bus service in Houston more rider friendly. She notes that her commute takes at least two hours each way, and requires three transfers. She presents a four-step proposal for wholesale improvement in the article below. [Photo Credit: Gary Coronado, Houston Chronicle ]
More Than Tweaks Needed to Achieve Rider-Friendly Bus Service, Houston Chronicle [pdf]