Posts from — August 2010

Teach Our Children Well….

August 31, 2010   Comments Off on Teach Our Children Well….

Today is the birthday of Maria Montessori.  Yes, she was the first woman in Italy to earn an M.D. degree, yet, we know her more for her views on education.

Montessori believed that children had inherent, individual gifts and that a teacher’s job was to help students find their gifts.

As back to school season has officially begun, let us be diligent in our efforts to make certain that teachers focus on a child’s gifts and build from a kid’s interests and passions.  This approach serves everyone well.

From elementary school, let us ask every child what do you want to be?  Let us provide encouragement for every child to pursue one’s goals. 

Children with disabilities need accessible schools and classrooms, it’s true; yet, what is needed most is an open, enthusiastic, individual-interests based, accessible education that gives opportunity.

Advocacy Lesson #10: Be informed and involved in your local education system.  It all starts with a quality education for everyone.

Rocks…Spaces…Questions

August 30, 2010   Comments Off on Rocks…Spaces…Questions

I am one who gathers and saves rocks from locations that I deem significant. When friends of mine travel to exotic and historic locales, they always bring me back a rock.  Currently, in my car I have a rock my friend brought back from her mission trip to Haiti; the rock reminds me of a much bigger picture and deeper concern than the stresses of navigating Pittsburgh traffic. In a way, my collection of rocks is a tangible reminder of a space that, for me, is  sacred.

With the debate over the mosque near Ground Zero and the proper commemoration of 28 August and events at the Lincoln Memorial, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about spaces and what gives them meaning.  The documentarian, Ken Burns, states, “What makes sacred space is the overlay of experience….sacred spaces have only one goal, and that is to remind us to continue to ask questions of ourselves.”

Advocacy Lesson #9 is: Pay attention and Ask Questions.  Be aware of your surroundings and the emotions stirred there.  Where for you is a sacred space and why is that so?  Be informed and participate in the news. Ask if you believe what is being reported.  Ask if this holds true for you….trust your experience and value your informed opinion.   Do this with all things.

Perspective

August 23, 2010   Comments Off on Perspective

Today is when Lunar Orbiter 1 submitted the first photograph of Earth taken from the moon. 

Quite cool.

This reminds me that so much of what we do in advocacy is all about perspective. 

It’s now part of my viewpoint to check elevators for lower-level buttons and braille.  Every building I enter, I’m checking for accessibility and if lacking, I wonder why and what will it take.  I am beyond sensitive to language and how we reference another.

Perspective — It helps to enlarge your own.

Advocacy Lesson #8 is sharpening one’s perspective and sharing it with others in a way that increases understanding.

After all, viewing Earth from the perspective of the moon really puts things in perspective — we, on this spinning globe, are a  part of a vast universe and a huge solar system…kind of humbling…..

sj;

The wheels on the bus go round and round…

August 20, 2010   Comments Off on The wheels on the bus go round and round…

At yesterday’s hearing on the Port Authority’s proposed plan to deal with a financial shortfall by cutting routes, raising fares, and reducing employees, it was a surprise to no one that the majority of speakers were persons with disabilities, seniors, and individuals living in less-affluent areas.  No shock there. We always seem to go after those deemed most vulnerable.  All the more reason, as the old saying goes, to “not agonize, organize!”

I was most impressed by the speakers who more than pleading for the saving of a particular route, shed light on the systemic nature of the issue.  There is no cancelled bus route that does not impact each and every one of us. Nothing happens in a vacuum.  

Advocacy Lesson #7: Present the systemic quality of an issue and show persons how the issue impacts them.

As for our ongoing transportation angst, the facts are: without a first class transportation system, Pittsburgh will remain a minor league city dreaming of reaching big league status.

sj;

Critical FMAP funding bill passes

August 13, 2010   Comments Off on Critical FMAP funding bill passes

As you hopefully heard, the House of Representatives passed important pieces of legislation earlier this week that included $16 million worth of funding for Pennsylvania to help pay for Medicaid (FMAP extension), as well as a $10 billion bill that allows teachers to stay in the classroom.

This legislation was of critical importance because the 2010-2011 state budget passed earlier this summer had made the assumption that Pennsylvania would be getting around $850 million to help fill its shortfall.  If neither bill had passed it would have almost certainly resulted in a nightmare scenario where services would have been slashed and thousands of state employees would have lost their job.

For these reasons, the passage of the legislation obviously comes as welcomed news.  However, as groups like the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and the Greater Pittsburgh Non-profit Partnership have pointed out, our state is till left with a roughly $282 million budget hole to fill.  The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center outlined some of the potential cuts and revenue streams the Governor has already put forth in hopes of offsetting this gap:

  • 1.9% cuts across the board in discretionary appropriations (expected to total $198 million, including a $50 million cut in basic education funding)
  • 1.9% cut to the Legislature (totaling $6 million)
  • 1.9% cut to the courts (totaling $5 million)
  • 1.9% cut to independent elected offices (totaling $3 million)

This also includes about $70 million that should be generated from the proposed severance tax on natural gas extraction, but this has yet to be finalized and confirmed by the state legislature.

This strategy of cutting funds “across the board” could have a tremendous impact on a wide variety of services and programs throughout the Commonwealth.  The Greater Pittsburgh Non-profit Partnership recently described how much the potential cuts could mean for a variety of appropriations:

  • $339,188 for State Food Purchase
  • $1.61 million for PreK Counts
  • $729,296 for Head Start Supplemental Assistance
  • $282,853 for Adult and Family Literacy
  • $46,132 for Maternal and Child Health
  • $1.9 million for county Child Welfare
  • $227,582 for the Nurse Family Partnership
  • $235,315 for Domestic Violence
  • $134,653 for Rape Crisis Services
  • $446,000 for Human Services Development Fund
  • $3.26 million for Child Care Services

Even with the passage of the federal legislation, with these potential cuts looming essential services and programs certainly aren’t yet out of harms way.  As always, we will need to continue the fight to make sure that our budget is not balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable.  Continue to check back here, with the PA Budget and Policy Center,  the Greater Pittsburgh Non-profit Partnership, and with the PA Health Access Network to stay informed about these and other issues.

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