JVA’s News You Can Use, 3/3

Welcome to News You Can Use! Each week (or thereabouts!), we will share with you the latest news in the nonprofit sector, as well as interesting headlines that affect the world we live and work in.

New York Times, 2/29
For the first time in the nation’s history, more than one in 100 American adults are behind bars, according to a new report. Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million, after three decades of growth that has seen the prison population nearly triple. Another 723,000 people are in local jails. The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars.

JVA: Do you think there is more crime or just stricter penalties?

Foundation Center, 2/25
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in partnership with the D.C.-based Family Violence Prevention Fund, has announced a new four-year, $14.6 million initiative designed to prevent dating and sexual violence and increase positive relationship skills among young people. The Building Healthy Teen Relationships program will fund efforts to develop and test new models designed to prevent such violence among 10- to 14-year-olds in eight geographically and ethnically diverse communities.

JVA: This will be an interesting model to watch.

New York Times, 2/24
A new book, “The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets that Change the World,” says social business entrepreneurs can help “make the market work for social goals as efficiently as it does for personal goals.” With the rising influence of social entrepreneurs in philanthropy, many nonprofits have sought to generate revenue to become more self-sustaining. But it is still rare for a nonprofit to cross the chasm to become mainly a profit-seeking business, as in the ePals experience.

JVA: We believe social enterprise is the future of the nonprofits sector. In fact, we’ll be at the Social Enterprise Alliance conference this weekend in Boston!

New York Times, 2/20
Economic mobility, the chance that children of the poor or middle class will climb up the income ladder, has not changed significantly over the last three decades. A new study by scholars at the Brookings Institution in Washington and sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts, warned that widening gaps in higher education between rich and poor, whites and minorities, could soon lead to a downturn in opportunities for the poorest families. The researchers found that Hispanic and black Americans were falling behind whites and Asians in earning college degrees, making it harder for them to enter the middle class or higher.

JVA: Unfortunately this is an issue our country will continue to address in the 21st century. How can we overcome these gaps that seem to be ever widening?

New York Times, 2/20
A new program, called the Juvenile Justice Initiative, sends medium-risk offenders back to their families and provides intensive therapy. New York City says that in just a year, it has seen significant success for the juveniles enrolled, as well as cost savings from the reduced use of residential treatment centers.

JVA: Another model to keep an eye on!

Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, 2/19
A proposed bill in Colorado to prevent faith-based organizations that receive government money from 
basing hiring decisions on applicants’ beliefs has died after religious leaders threatened to stop delivering 
government-funded human services. Instead, Gov. Bob Ritter plans to summon both supporters 
and opponents of the bill to a summer meeting to find common language.

JVA: This bill was apparently too controversial and it remains unclear what will happen. Stay tuned.

Education Week, 2/20
Most of the nation’s elementary schools added at least 75 minutes of instruction time in reading and mathematics each week—and often twice that amount—in the five years after the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act, but many did so by skimming that time from the teaching of science, social studies and the arts and from recess and physical education. An analysis released this week by the Center on Education Policy, a Washington-based research group, expands on the findings of the organization’s nationally representative survey released last summer. That study found that more than six in 10 school districts had increased reading and math instruction between the 2001-02 and 2006-07 school years, and that more than four in 10 did so while significantly reducing time spent on other subjects.

JVA: How can we help our kids achieve in math and reading without diminishing these other important subjects? We know there are solutions.

Commonwealth Fund, 2/20
Higher wages alone won’t reverse the declining number of Americans with health insurance if employers aren’t offering their workers coverage, according to a study by researchers at the Urban Institute published as a Web Exclusive by the journal Health Affairs.

JVA: It will be interesting to see how this hot button issue over health coverage plays out in the 2008 election.

Philanthropy Journal, 2/18
Charitable contributions by major corporations and their foundations increased to $10.2 billion in 2006, with pharmaceutical companies the top givers and health services the top beneficiary, a new study says.

JVA: Good to see that pharmaceutical giants are giving back, but we wonder what percentage they are giving of their profits.

Education Week, 2/14
A federal study suggests that giving struggling 9th grade readers an extra literacy class can boost their reading-comprehension skills, but not dramatically enough to get them up to grade level by the end of a single school year. The findings came this month in the first of three reports to be issued under the Enhanced Reading Opportunities Study, a federal program that is testing promising strategies for low-performing adolescent readers in 34 high schools across the country.

JVA: Helpful information for those working with low-performing high school students and schools.

Rocky Mountain News, 2/14
Denver, said to be the first city in the U.S. to add a faith-based component to its end-homelessness movement, has enlisted 184 congregations in the fight. In two-and-a-half years, chronic homelessness has been reduced by 36 percent, Mayor John Hickenlooper said. The faith-based portion of the 10-year initiative is coordinated by the Denver Rescue Mission. It hooks up clients with temporary housing and with personal mentors from congregations. Mentors help with everything from family matters to budgets, filling in the voids that often spiral people into homelessness.

JVA: Here’s hoping Denver’s homeless campaign will be a model in a few years.

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