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The Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

April 14, 2010
    [posted here 4-14-10]
This week's messages are-
bullet Support Senate Ratification of the START Treaty
bullet Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform
bulletUrge Congress to Fulfill the President's Child Nutrition Budget Request
bullet Churches for Middle East Peace 2010 Advocacy Conference
bullet Leviticus 19:34 - Welcoming the Resident Alien

Support Senate Ratification of the START Treaty
On April 8, 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev  signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that will reduce the number of deployed nuclear weapons in both of countries.  This treaty is one of the most significant arms control agreements in the last two decades.
The New START Treaty:
bulletreduces deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 - that's 30 percent below the existing ceiling;
bulletlimits the United States and Russia to no more than 700 delivery vehicles;
bulletand includes new verification requirements.
The Treaty needs ratification by the U.S. Senate. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) supports strong, bipartisan action to ratify the New START Treaty.
Originally proposed by President Ronald Reagan, the United States and Soviet Union signed the original START Treaty in 1991. This treaty limited the number of nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles (missiles and bombers) that each country could deploy.
Today the United States and Russia still hold about 95% of all nuclear weapons, large arsenals left over from the Cold War. Many of these weapons are on immediate alert status.
Ratification of the New START Treaty is critical because verification ensures transparency and these reductions in the number of weapons can set the stage for future reductions. The New START Treaty is also important to international efforts to address nonproliferation.
With fewer nuclear weapons in the world the likelihood of one falling into terrorist hands is reduced and countries are more likely to cooperate in enforcing nonproliferation demands and controlling the supply of nuclear materials. Strong support for the New START Treaty will also help build momentum for eventual ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
The possession and maintenance of nuclear weapons are a grave threat to human life and dignity. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has long supported securing nuclear materials from terrorists and reducing the number of nuclear armaments. For decades the General Assembly has promoted the policy goals of preventing proliferation of these horrific weapons and ultimately eliminating them.
Nuclear war is rejected in church teaching because the use of nuclear weapons cannot insure noncombatant immunity and their destructive potential and lingering radiation cannot be meaningfully proportionate.
Take Action Now!
Before this treaty goes into force, both the U.S. Senate and the Russian parliament need to ratify it. That means 67 U.S. senators will need to vote for ratification. This is a considerable challenge. In the increasingly partisan atmosphere of an election year, persuading the Senate to act on this treaty will be difficult.
Click to contact your senators and ask them to publically declare that they support ratification of this new START.
Statement by the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Rev. Gradye Parsons
April 8, 2009
The new nuclear arms reduction treaty signed by the United States and Russia on April 8 in Prague is an event that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has long awaited. This initiative resonates with the vision of the prophet Micah who looked toward the day when nations "shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks" (Micah 4:3). Guided by this Biblical vision, General Assemblies of the church and its predecessors have understood that following Jesus and working for God's intended order and life abundant involves seeking international disarmament and arms control measures. The 215th General Assembly (2003) called for the reductions in the world's nuclear arsenal, beginning with cuts by the United States and Russia as a step toward a sustainable and just peace in the world. The new treaty would result in rather modest cuts in the number of the most destructive weapons that the countries deploy. This success also brings an agreement from the countries to be more open about their respective nuclear arsenals. If the United States and Russia, who hold the overwhelming majority of the world's nuclear weapons, enhance their level of nuclear transparency and verification, it opens the possibility that they will be able to bring new leadership and hope to bear on a range of nuclear arms problems. This could also lead to further reduction in their nuclear arsenals. We give thanks for the courage and will to negotiate this treaty and we look forward to its ratification.
We look forward to the meeting at the United Nations next month to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as an opportunity to build on the success of this new START treaty. General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church have called for a nonproliferation treaty since 1967 as a means of controlling the spread of nuclear weapons and a way to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world. We pray for the success of this meeting.
Each of these represents important steps toward a world free of nuclear weapons- a goal first articulated by the 167th General Assembly (1955) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. In each of its statements, the General Assembly has understood that while eliminating nuclear weapons will not achieve the wholeness, well being, and justice of God's shalom, so doing is a crucial, necessary step toward the day when "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Micah 4:3).

Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform
In March, hundreds of Christians gathered in Washington DC to learn, worship, and talk with Members of Congress about the need for just, humane and comprehensive immigration reform that "welcomes the stranger." In addition to the Christian gathering, tens of thousands more came to Washington to call on the White House to lead, and put forward an immigration reform bill.  The faith community gathered in part to recognize the fact that the U.S. must find a solution to the problem of immigration. They mourned the painful fact that our brothers and sisters, parishioners, and Children of God are being torn apart by a broken immigration system. The faith community has come together to say the time for putting politics over compassion is has ended.
The number of deportations during President Obama's first year is higher than in previous years, resulting in more broken lives and more families torn apart. The President and members of Congress continue to assert their support for immigration reform; but actions speak louder than words. Doubtless, Congress is hesitant to tackle tough issues before mid-term elections, but nonetheless, comprehensive reform legislation must be introduced and passed. The time for verbal commitments is ended; the time for action has come.
While members of Congress may be wary of such a controversial issue in an election year, our communities cannot wait!  It is time to reform a system that tears apart the lives and families of our immigrant sisters and brothers.
For many of us, faith is a catalyst to action that can solve the really big issues-and this is one of the biggest the nation now faces. People of faith need to see the issue of immigration for the moral and family crisis it is. It will take people of faith to tell Congress about the immigrant friends, neighbors, and family members who are being torn apart by this broken system. It will take people of faith to show evidence of the injustices that are experienced on a daily basis by our immigrant brothers and sisters. Finally, we need faith in a God who is larger than we can imagine, the God who weeps as we humans build border walls to separate ourselves from our brothers and sisters on the other side, the God of justice who isn't persuaded by the politics of the time.
The faith community is united on the moral imperative of this issue in a way that has not been seen in years, and we will do all it takes to see this cause move forward. At this crucial turning point, we must take the call of our scriptures seriously and prophetically for justice.
Click to send a letter to your members of Congress and urge them to move forward and take action on humane, just and comprehensive immigration reform. Please include stories of how the broken immigration system is affecting your neighbors, parishioners, friends, and family.
General Assembly Guidance:
The 217th General Assembly (2006) "challenged each Presbyterian congregation and presbytery to embrace a comprehensive approach to 'advocacy and welcome' for immigrants that includes, at the very minimum:
bulletan opportunity for hard-working immigrants who are already contributing to this country to come out of the shadows, regularize their status upon satisfaction of reasonable criteria, and, over time, pursue an option to become lawful permanent residents and eventually United States citizens;
bulletreforms in our family-based immigration system to significantly reduce waiting times for separated families who currently wait many years to be reunited;
bulletthe creation of legal avenues for workers and their families who wish to migrate to the U.S. to enter our country and work in a safe, legal, and orderly manner with their rights fully protected ;
bulletborder protection policies that are consistent with humanitarian values and with the need to treat all individuals with respect, while allowing the authorities to carry out the critical task of identifying and preventing entry of terrorists and dangerous criminals, as well as pursing the legitimate task of implementing American immigration policy;
bulleta call for living wages and safe working conditions for workers of United States-owned companies in other countries;
bulleta call for greater economic development in poor countries to decrease the economic desperation, which forces the division of families and migration (Minutes, 2006, pp. 880-883)

 Urge Congress to Fulfill the President's Child Nutrition Budget Request
Most people have heard of the tremendously successful federal child nutrition programs, even if they do not know how they are administered or authorized.  Indeed, such successful programs include, among others, the School Lunch and Breakfast Programs and the WIC program, which supports pregnant and nursing mothers and children under the age of five. 
The President has set a national goal to end childhood hunger by 2015.  This year provides an exciting opportunity to improve these programs through the reauthorization process: opportunity to increase access to more children and to improve the nutritional quality of the meals provided.  As a down payment toward his goal to end childhood hunger, President Obama has requested $10 billion in additional funds over ten years for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill.  
The process is already underway!  Before adjourning for the Spring recess, the Senate Agriculture Committee voted on a bill to increase funding for these programs by $4.5 billion over ten years.  This is a step in the right direction, but these critical programs need to be funded at the level of the President's request - $10 billion in new money over ten years.   Congress returns to Washington this week and the bill now goes to the Senate floor for consideration, and Senators must be urged to do better for hungry kids.
Contact your members of Congress in support of feeding hungry children!  Click to urge your Senators to do better and your Representative to meet the President's request.
General Assembly Guidance:
The 208th General Assembly's resolution "Childhood Hunger in the U.S." from 1996 states that "childhood hunger in the United States is preventable and unacceptable" and recognizes the "importance of federal nutrition programs [such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), school lunch and breakfast programs and food stamps] as part of the path to ending hunger in our nation." It calls all candidates for President and Congress "to make ending childhood hunger in the U.S. an important priority in their election platforms... and to speak out boldly during the campaign concerning this issue" (Minutes, p. 784).

Churches for Middle East Peace 2010 Advocacy Conference
Pursuing Peace Together:  Working for Reconciliation in the Holy Land
June 13-15
You are invited to Churches for Middle East Peace's 2010 Advocacy Conference to learn, increase your skills, network and advocate for peace with justice in the Holy Land.
Psalm 34:14 and 1 Peter 3:11 "Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." inspired this year's conference theme. This Hebrew Bible and New Testament command to action is at the heart of what CMEP does to be proactive in promoting the right of people in the Holy Land to live in peace and security, free of fears of harassment, oppression, and violence   The conference will provide knowledge, skills and networking opportunities for every participant to pursue peace on Capitol Hill and at home. The conference will be June 13th - 15th, 2010 at the Kellogg Conference Hotel in Washington, DC.
For more information and on-line registration go to 

 Leviticus 19:34 - Welcoming the Resident Alien
The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Published by the Witness in Washington Weekly advocacy program of the Washington Office, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 100 Maryland Avenue, NE Washington D.C. 20002, (202) 543-1126  For more information about the content of this article, please email us at  If you would like to receive this information directly, please go to

Washington Report to Presbyterians-

Produced by the Presbyterian Washington Office
January-February Issue


In this Issue:  2009 Wrap-Up and 2010 Outlook


bulletForeign Assistance reform
bulletDebt relief
bulletCluster bombs
bulletNuclear weapons

bulletEconomic justice
bulletEnergy and environment

bulletPublic education
bulletCriminal justice

by Catherine Gordon 

Foreign Assistance reform will be a big issue in the coming year. The faith community and others are urging Congress and the Administration to elevate global development as a priority of US foreign policy and to chart a new course for foreign assistance. The Initiating Foreign Assistance Act, HR 2139, was introduced last year with 125 cosponsors. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) supports this bill, which directs the President to develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy to further the US foreign policy objective of promoting global development, and for other purposes. 

Water. Almost one billion people in the world lack access to safe drinking water and two of every five people live without basic sanitation services. Global warming, rapid industrialization and population and economic growth continue to put pressure on global water supplies, particularly in developing nations. Such issues can no longer be seen as isolated problems, but must be viewed as contributing to regional tensions, global health, child and maternal mortality, and economic growth. Last year PC(USA) advocated for $500 million to implement the "Water for the Poor Act", with $315 million appropriated, a $15 million increase from the year before. We will be supporting another $500 million in 2010. 

Debt Relief. The Jubilee Act (HR 4405) was introduced in December in the US House with bi-partisan support. The legislation would: authorize expanded debt relief to poor countries that meet strict eligibility requirements but need help to fight global poverty; reform policies of international financial institutions; and urge more responsibility in future lending to the world's poorest countries. Introduction of a Senate bill is anticipated soon.  

Vulture Funds are predatory hedge funds that siphon off resources newly freed by debt cancellation. They profiteer off debt cancellation resources by buying up poor country debt in default at pennies on the dollar and then using US Courts to sue for the full amount of the debt plus exorbitant interest rates and court fees. Instead of US tax dollars going to poverty alleviation projects like building schools and treating HIV/AIDS, they go into the bank accounts of hedge funds.

The Stop VULTURE Funds Act (HR 2932), would prevent vulture funds from making excessive profit from the debt of the world's poorest nations. It was introduced in 2009 by Reps. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Spencer Bachus (R-AL), with 29 co-sponsors. There will be a push for a companion bill in the Senate in 2010. 

Trade: The Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act was introduced on June 24 by Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) with 106 original cosponsors. The TRADE Act is supported by a broad array of labor, consumer, environmental, family farm and faith groups, and requires a review of existing trade pacts, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, the World Trade Organization and other major pacts, as well as setting forth what must and must not be included in future trade pacts. It also provides for the renegotiation of existing trade agreements and describes the key elements of a new trade negotiating and approval mechanism to replace Fast Track that would enhance the congressional role in formulating agreements and promoting future deals that could enjoy broad public support.  

Cluster Bombs: A bill introduced last year would effectively stop the US from using cluster bombs, which kill many more civilians than soldiers. Already one-quarter of the Senate has cosponsored the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act (S 416), which has bipartisan support. This bill states that, "Cluster munitions will not be used where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians."

Nuclear Weapons: The President and key policy analysts from both parties support a new strategic arms treaty with Russia, a new focus on multilateral negotiations and initiatives to reduce the nuclear danger, and Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  

Congo: If it becomes law, the Conflict Minerals Trade Act (S 891) will give consumers the choice to purchase conflict-free electronics products. Introduced by Reps. Wolf (R-VA), McDermott (D-WA), and Frank (D-MA), the Conflict Minerals Trade Act (HR 4128) would create a system of audits and import declarations to distinguish goods imported into the US that contain conflict minerals. The resulting transparency would be an important step toward breaking the links between the mineral trade and human rights abuses in Congo. It has 16 cosponsors and is before the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.  

Sudan: In its Sudan policy review completed in mid-October, the Administration indicated it would regularly assess the progress of peace in Sudan -- or lack thereof. Administration officials say that the parties to Sudan's multiple conflicts will be under the microscope, and held to clear and pre-determined standards of progress. The White House did not disclose the precise benchmarks it is applying to assess progress in Sudan, even as the official review process took place in January, and as tensions increase with the April national elections and January 2011 referendum on independence in southern Sudan approaching. The faith community urges the White House to disclose its bench-marks and work for peace in Sudan. 

Colombia: Advocacy on Colombia was particularly successful last year, with $8 million more allocated in nongovernmental aid to Colombian refugees, along with $45 million for aid to internally displaced persons. A ban was imposed on funding to the Colombian intelligence agency embroiled in an illegal wiretapping scandal, along with new conditions that call for the Colombian government to respect the rights of human rights defenders, journalists, political opposition, religious leaders, and trade unionists, as well as indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. 

Cuba: Early on, the Obama Administration ended all restrictions on Cuban-American family travel and remittances to the island. Soon after that, the US joined the Organization of American States' unanimous vote to reverse a 1962 resolution barring Cuba from the OAS. The President has suggested loosening telecommunications restrictions for cell phone roaming deals and fiber-optics and an opening of agricultural business travel. The Travel for All legislation, HR 874/S 426, would lift the travel ban to Cuba.  

Haiti: Last year PC(USA) called on the Administration to grant Temporary Protective Status to Haitian immigrants. The day after Haiti's horrendous earthquake, the Administration suspended deportation of Haitian illegal immigrants. Three days later, it granted temporary protected status to Haitians, letting them stay and work in the US for 12 to 18 months. PC(USA) calls on the Obama Administration to provide massive assistance for relief and reconstruction through grants, not loans, so that Haiti is not again saddled with large debts through no fault of its own. While $1.2 billion in debt was cancelled in June 2009 thanks to the efforts of the faith community, the country still owes $891 million. 

Israel/Palestine: 2009 started with the horrific war in Gaza and southern Israel. Then, President Obama gave a speech to the Arab world in Cairo that raised hopes of a renewed US effort for peace in the Middle East. The appointment of former Senator George Mitchell as special envoy to the Middle East was another positive move.  

The call for a settlement freeze was not successful and the tensions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank continue to grow as Israeli settlements continue to be built. The President early this year stated that the conflict was more intractable than he had thought.  

This year PC(USA) will press for lifting of the closure on Gaza and urge the White House to give attention to the grave humanitarian and economic crisis affecting 1.4 million Gazans, as well as urging a negotiated settlement and peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will continue to advocate for justice in all of the areas mentioned above and will keep members informed of progress through our website and the pages of the Washington Report to Presbyterians.


by Anna Rhee, Consultant

Hope, change and the promise of a "postpartisan" era infused the political atmosphere in Washington DC when the new Obama Administration and the 111th Congress started their work in 2009. Riding on winds of change, policymakers seemed ready to work together to address their biggest challenge - fixing Wall Street and helping Main Street. Political leaders promised to work together. Sadly, beneath the veneer of a cooperative spirit, rancor and partisan politics continued; and by the end of the year any pretense of bi-partisanship was all but gone.

ECONOMIC JUSTICE: Congress began 2009 by passing a $787 billion stimulus package. Only Democrats supported it in the House, and three Republicans joined the Democrats to pass it in the Senate. A mix of tax cuts and spending, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 is now seen by many analysts as having kept the economy from getting worse while preventing millions of Americans from falling below the poverty line.

ARRA focused on two major areas - providing strong fiscal relief to help states stem the impact of their own budget cuts, tax increases and layoffs, and getting money to hard-pressed low- and moderate-income families for basic expenses. Building on ARRA, the Administration and Congress later supported additional infusions of cash into the economy to preserve and create jobs.

Nonetheless, recovery is slow in coming. In December the jobless rate was 10%, with a staggering 15.3 million people unemployed. Hunger and food insecurity are rising in urban and suburban communities. The labor market remains extraordinarily weak and jobs are hard to find. The recession is battering state budgets which face deep cuts and shortfalls from the steepest-ever decline in state tax receipts.

Now, Congress is under pressure to continue economic stimulus measures, create new jobs, extend temporary aid to unemployed workers, and provide more fiscal assistance to help states avoid spending cuts and/or tax increases. As they proceed, Congress must be mindful of those who are already poor, and those at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship in today's economy. Economic growth and job creation should:

* provide opportunity for all;
* target low-income communities and vulnerable population groups;
* generate employment and a long-term pathway to economic security; and
* improve key supports to help families with children meet their basic needs.

Congress must also recognize the enormous significance of health care reform in moving toward economic recovery. Expenditures in the United States on health care surpassed $2.2 trillion in 2007, more than triple the $714 billion spent in 1990, and over eight times the $253 billion spent in 1980. Stemming this growth is a major policy priority in the current recession, as the government, employers, and consumers struggle to keep up with health care costs.

Renewal and expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was one of the first bills passed by the 111th Congress and signed by President Obama. It provides a step forward in health coverage to low-income uninsured children who are not eligible for Medicaid. When fully implemented, CHIP will cover about 11 million children, with 5 million more still uninsured. 

Millions of people are left behind by our current health care system, and opportunities to address this broken system comprehensively are rare. After the reauthorization of CHIP, policymakers were poised to handle larger health care reform issues, especially affordability and universal access.  

After a year of hearings, town hall meetings, negotiations, and debate, the House and Senate each passed massive health reform bills that did more to divide than to unite, and drew as much criticism as praise. Now Congress is reconsidering its agendas, and facing temptation to turn away from this historic opportunity for health care reform. To do so would deny or delay justice for a generation. Congress should be urged to show political courage and act on meaningful health care reform.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT: White House and congressional support for comprehensive climate and energy legislation was strong in early 2009, but moved to the back burner even as the international community looked to the US for leadership in climate negotiations in preparation for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

The American Clean Energy Security (ACES) Act, sponsored by Reps. Waxman (D-CA) and Markey (D-MA), passed the House (219-212) on June 26. This comprehensive national climate and energy legislation would establish an economy-wide, greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade system designed to reduce GHG emissions by a minimum of 17% by 2020 and establish complementary measures to address climate change and build a clean energy economy. Other provisions include new renewable requirements for utilities, studies and incentives for new carbon capture and sequestration technologies, energy efficiency incentives for homes and buildings, and grants for green jobs.

The American Clean Energy Leadership Act (ACELA), sponsored by Sen. Bingaman (D-NM), passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on June 17, on a bipartisan vote of 15 to 8. Later, Sens. Kerry (D-MA), Graham (R-SC) and Lieberman (I-CT) developed a basic framework with bi-partisan support for climate action that focuses on pollution reduction and energy independence. This effort likely supersedes the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, by Sens. Kerry and Boxer (D-CA), passed by the Senate Energy and Public Works Committee 11 to 1 after Republican members boycotted the bill's mark-up and vote.

To garner broad support, the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman initiative includes provisions to satisfy a range of stakeholders. It supports: emission reduction targets similar to the ACES Act, with a cap-and-trade system; investment in clean energy technologies; construction of new nuclear power plants; off-shore drilling; and clean coal technology and research for new carbon capture and sequestration technologies. It appears that both climate change and energy policy will be on the 2010 legislative agenda, combined in the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill, to be released in February, which may also include many of the provisions from ACELA.

On the global scale, lack of progress on negotiations prior to the December UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen required a scaling back in expectations. Initially the Conference was seen as the forum for a new international agreement on climate to update the Kyoto Protocol, expiring in 2012; but the world's leading and developing economies could not agree on terms. The high level of concern for the impact of global climate change drew 119 heads of state to Denmark and resulted in an accord that is a stepping stone towards a new international climate treaty. President Obama's leadership was crucial in moving negotiations forward. A key success was the commitment of developing nations to raise $100 billion per year by 2020 to address mitigation, adaptation and forestry issues worldwide. This is the first such commitment from the US and the industrialized world to address the needs of those who live in poverty and are most impacted by climate change.

by Mary Anderson Cooper

PUBLIC EDUCATION: In 1965, Congress passed The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as part of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, with the aim of reducing the achievement gaps between students in rich and poor communities and among the races. During the Bush Administration, the legislation was called the No Child Left Behind program. Its primary focus shifted to one of periodic standardized testing, with funding reductions for schools that did not achieve established national standards. The penalties often fell most heavily on the schools facing the greatest educational challenges because they served the most disadvantaged people.

The ESEA is due to be reauthorized in 2010. President Obama supports the emphasis on rewarding excellence in teaching but wants to assure that resources are available to all students in all communities and not limited to only the most successful schools.

There is controversy over how best to amend this legislation while reauthorizing it, but one thing is clear: Increased resources are needed for the schools in disadvantaged communities so that children there will have a better opportunity to learn and to improve their scores on the tests required by the law. Generations of discrimination against children in low-income areas can only be addressed by eliminating inequality of resources and assigning the best teachers to those communities.

In addition to reauthorizing ESEA, Congress and the Administration will have more opportunities to improve public schools and other educational programs. Another vehicle is the US Department of Education's Race to the Top program, funded by the stimulus program, which has four main goals:

    * Raise academic standard;
    * Improve data systems to measure student achievement and guide teachers;
    * Ensure the quality of teachers and principals; and
    * Substantially improve low-performance schools.

States will compete for the funds, with as few as a dozen chosen for grants. The first grants will be awarded in April. A few states declined to compete, citing fears that the grants represent federal intrusion into state prerogatives.

The stimulus legislation also provided funds for other programs to improve education quality, including:

    * $5 billion for early childhood education (Headstart, child care, and programs for children with special needs);
    * $77 billion to strengthen elementary and secondary education, mostly to supplement beleaguered state budgets and preserve jobs for teachers and school employees;
    * $5 billion for innovation and improvement in achievement;
    * $30 billion to help college students pay tuition and fees and to help community colleges prepare students for work in emerging industries.

President Obama's budget for FY2011 (beginning October 1) calls for a 6% increase in education funds, with emphasis on math and science training, while proposing the consolidation or elimination of duplicative programs. In the State of the Union address, he said:

In the 21st Century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education. And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential. When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all 50 states. Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job.

The President then called on Congress to enact proposals to make college attendance more affordable and college debt less burdensome. As in every area of the budget, there are interest groups that will gain or lose if proposals are enacted, and the struggle for funds is likely to be fierce.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) introduced S 714 early in 2009, to create a blue-ribbon commission charged with doing a complete review of the US criminal justice system and making recommendations for its improvement. At hearings on the legislation, Sen. Webb cited the obvious failures of the current system, pointing out that, although it has only 5% of the planet's human population, the US incarcerates 25% of the world's known prisoners. He also noted that, although vast numbers of drug users and sellers are in prison, the drug trade continues unabated in the US, growing every year, thus raising questions about the effectiveness of incarceration as a means of controlling drug trade. Another area of concern is that post-incarceration programs for re-entry into society are haphazard at best, and often non-existent.

S 714 has been endorsed by dozens of social welfare, law-enforcement, and social justice organizations, as well as much of the religious community, including the PC(USA).


Some blogs worth visiting


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


Witherspoon’s Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, Witherspoon’s Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive

A Presbyterian minister, currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


Plan now for our 2010 Ghost Ranch Seminar!


July 26-August 1, 2010



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