Protecting Nevada’s Working Families

Last week, NCLR traveled to Las Vegas for a town hall where local elected officials, as well as business and advocacy groups in the area, joined a discussion on the need to protect refundable tax credits for working families.

With Congress set to renew tax credits for businesses this fall, panelists, which included Nevada State Assemblyman Nelson Araujo; Margarita Rebollal, Executive Director of Community Services of Nevada; and Rafael Collazo, Director of Political Campaigns at NCLR, shared personal stories about how the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) offer vital financial relief for low- and moderate-income families throughout the Las Vegas area.

In 2009, Congress expanded the EITC and CTC, which are only available to working people, in order to reach lower-income earners. The expansion had an important impact for Nevadans. Approximately 500,000 households in Nevada received the credits in 2013, helping lift more than 100,000 households out of poverty. The EITC also added more than $550 million into Nevada’s economy in 2012. If Congress doesn’t act to make the expansions permanent this fall, more than 440,000 Nevadans could lose some or all of their working-family tax credits, pushing more than 100,000 of Nevada’s children deeper into poverty.

“If lawmakers are willing to help Nevada’s businesses, then they should also support Nevada’s hardworking families. After all, our local businesses rely on consumers in order to thrive,” said Collazo.

The event generated a lively discussion among attendees, who also had the chance to register to vote with Mi Familia Vota, and sign on to a letter to Nevada’s Congressional representatives asking that they support working families by protecting these vital tax credits. A number of local officials also came out to support the campaign and hear from constituents on the issue, including Nevada State Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz and Councilman Issac Barron.

Un Verano En Nueva York

By Rafael Collazo, Director of Political Campaigns, NCLR

40x504_commoncore_72aThe seminal Puerto Rican salsa band El Gran Combo sang it best: there is nothing quite like “Un Verano En Nueva York.”Even a hardscrabble Philly guy like me has to admit that a unique energy permeates the Manhattan streets during the summer.

So it was with great pleasure that I visited Spanish Harlem in New York City to document the opinions of leaders who are on the frontlines of preparing our young people for higher education and the future job market.

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) is heavily engaged in the ongoing national debate on the benefits of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). For many that are still unclear about what the Common Core are, skepticism is spreading amongst parents and some educators due to a lack of information, and even misinformation. They wonder if the CCSS are another fad that is steering national public education off course and disrupting the progress of Latino and minority students.

GraduationWhile NCLR understands these concerns and is working to advocate for improved implementation, NCLR firmly believes that Latino students can only achieve education equity when all schools and school districts are held to the same standards of achievement, instruction, and assessment that the CCSS demand. In fact, NCLR has already discovered Latino educators committed to the Common Core State Standards for the benefit of students.

Amber Charter School, an NCLR Affiliate, is a K–5 school located in the heart of “El Barrio” in New York City. Since 2011, Principal Dr. Vashti Acosta has been preparing to align her school with the new rigorous standards of achievement that are now in 43 states and the District of Columbia. With careful planning from administrators, teachers, and parents, Amber Charter School is a model of how Latino and minority children can Step Up and Step In to higher achievement.

When NCLR spoke to Dr. Acosta about our New York Campaign to make Latinos more aware of what the CCSS entail and how they will benefit Latino youth, Dr. Acosta immediately recommended that we connect with students and teachers to hear their stories of how the CCSS have impacted their school year.

So NCLR staff paid a visit to Amber Charter School to tape video interviews (watch below) with Dr. Acosta, her teachers, and her kids to hear about their year with the CCSS. From the moment we started filming, it was clear how integral these standards have been in helping the entire school “Step Up.” Seasoned educators raved about how these standards accelerated learning, thinking, and communication for all students. The students themselves said it best: “My favorite word this year was ‘whimsical,’” said Nina, a fourth grader at Amber. Another student, Anthony, stated how what he is learning will help him “mature into the adult” he wants to be.

The buzz in Spanish Harlem a few days before the National Puerto Rican Day Parade made our visit even more inspiring. NCLR staff also interviewed Latino immigrant parents at the Annual English Language Learner Parent Conference held at the nearby Museo Del Barrio. The parents, primarily Mexican, shared the importance of education for their children and all Latinos, with the backdrop of some amazing artwork by top Latino artists from all over the world.

Commitment, inspiration, creativity, hope, warmth… all words I can use to describe our time in New York. After all these years, Un Verano En Nueva York is still something special.