Friday, March 07, 2008


Let me get this right.

Brentsville High is overcrowded.

MOST of our county's schools are overcrowded.


Mr. Trenum, what WERE you thinking?

Please use your business background and good brain when representing US.
P. O. Box 389
Manassas, Virginia 20108

DATE: March 5, 2008
REFERENCE: Adequate School Funding

SECOND: Richardson

That the Prince William County School Board communicate to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors that the Prince William County School Board agrees with the substance of the letter presented by the Occoquan District Representative, as amended.

cc: Board of County Supervisors, Superintendent of Schools, County Executive, School Board Members
YES: Covington, Johns, Lattin, Lucas, Otaigbe, Ramirez, Richardson
NO: Trenum
CERTIFIED COPY: __________________________________________________________
Eva Thorpe
March 5, 2008

Adequate School Funding: One Opinion
By Grant Lattin
Member, Prince William County School Board (Occoquan District)

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors will vote this Tuesday to set an advertised tax rate for next year’s budget. The rate they set on Tuesday will be the maximum rate they can approve in April.

As reported in the Potomac News, one member of the Board of County Supervisors said he was concerned that the school’s central office staff is top-heavy. The most recent data from the Educational Research Services shows that per pupil expenditures for central office and school board services in Prince William County are 44 percent below the national average.

This same board member was concerned about a new administration building. This new building is needed for exactly the same good reasons that the Board of Supervisors recently finished building a new county administration office adjacent to the McCoart Building. Much of our central school staff is currently housed at Independent Hill in old trailers and World War II vintage buildings where some employees have to walk a significant distance outside their trailer to another trailer just to use a bathroom.

Last year the county’s schools received $32 million less than anticipated in county funding. The School Board has recently been informed that it must cut an additional $6 million from the Superintendent’s proposed budget during this budget cycle even if the rate is set at the highest rate discussed by the Board of Supervisors this past Tuesday. When State funding is decreasing, we are at risk of not being able to provide the essential educational services that our children require.

Our citizens should know the facts about county revenues. Our county demands from its citizens the lowest revenue per capita in Northern Virginia. The latest data (provided by the county’s staff in October 2007) for Fiscal Year 2005 ranges from a high in Arlington County of $3599 revenue per capita to a low in our county of $2033. Our county's citizens also enjoy one of the highest levels of per capita income in the U.S.

Our citizens need assurance that our schools are run efficiently. According to the latest available data from the Washington Area Boards of Education, our county schools have the lowest per pupil expenditure of the nine reporting school systems. The high was Alexandria at $19,341 per student, and the low was Prince William County at $10,429. A recent study by the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute looked at whether school divisions in Virginia used public dollars cost-efficiently. It concluded that Prince William County Schools were among the state leaders in producing better student achievement results at a lower taxpayer cost.

In 2007, a school efficiency review was completed that will eventually evaluate all school districts in the Commonwealth. This program's goal is to identify cost savings in non-instructional areas to ensure that maximum funds are redirected towards classroom activities. Our Superintendent volunteered our district for this State-sponsored, external efficiency review. Our staff was given high marks for utilizing best practices in its efficient management and administration of a school district that employs more than 10,000 people and serves more than 70,000 students. Many of these recommendations have already been implemented. More than 86 cents of each dollar in the proposed budget goes directly to schools and instructional programs.

Almost 78 percent of the proposed budget is for compensation-related expenditures. Staff compensation in Prince William County is the lowest in Northern Virginia. The proposed budget this year includes a pay increase for staff and teachers that will enable them to at least keep up with the region, but it still does not permit us to achieve parity. Everyone agrees it is essential for staff pay to be regionally competitive to attract and retain a quality staff and to prevent current staff from migrating to surrounding jurisdictions.

Growth is our biggest challenge. Based upon a building space audit initiated by our Superintendent, existing space has been fully utilized and no new trailers have been purchased since his arrival more than two years ago. Our 10-year Capital Improvement Plan will adequately build new facilities and renovate or expand existing facilities. This is critical in a county where growth was nearly 2000 students this year and another 2000 expected next year. Public schools cannot turn these children away. Teachers, textbooks, and classrooms must be provided for all. At roughly $10,000 per student, such growth requires an additional $20 million per year just to maintain the status quo.

Our goal is to have world-class schools. I hope we agree that our schools are the best public investment we can make in our children’s futures. It is essential for the Board of County Supervisors to ensure that education receives the level of funding that our children deserve.

Did You Know Ex-Felons Have to Ask for the Return of Civil Rights?

I didn't! But according to Charlottesville/Albemarle League of Women Voters Newsletter, ex-felons who have paid their debts to society have to go through paperwork hell to get some of their Civil Rights back, including the right to vote.

Before you jump in and say "But they are felons!" remember that a felon could have been someone with a non-violent drug related charge but has since cleaned up. It could be a person who had a DUI and was driving with a suspended license but has not done so since (and didn't run anyone over). It could be a broke mother willfully passing bad checks. But no matter what that person was "in for," he/she has had to pay back society in jail. Why should they be held up so long in the restoration of their rights?

Four to five percent of the population are unable to vote in Virginia. Think about how close some elections are--many candidates win or lose by only that percentage.

The racial implications are also a concern. Half of the prison population are African Americans.

When half of the prisons are comprised of African Americans, what happens to the community's voice?


Background information: Restoration of Civil Rights of Felons

Only the Governor in Virginia has the authority to restore civil rights to felons. These civil rights include the right to vote, to hold public office, to serve on juries, and to serve as a Notary Public.

Over the years, different governors have had differing procedures and differing degrees of support for restoration.

In 2002, Governor Mark Warner streamlined the paperwork required for ex-offenders to regain their voting rights and reduced the waiting period for non-violent offenders to begin that process. During his four-year term, he restored voting rights to 3,414 Virginians, exceeding the combined total for all governors in the previous 20 years.

A former felon may begin the paperwork required three or five years after completing his sentence, parole and/or payment of fines. A one-page application to the Governor after three years begins the process for a non-violent felony while a 6-page form after five years, including three letters of reference, is required for someone convicted of a violent felony.

An estimated 240,000-300,000 Virginian citizens are unable to vote because they are ex-felons: this represents 4-5% of Virginia citizens who are age 18 or older.

About half of these citizens are African-American. As many as one out of every six African-American men in Virginia cannot register to vote for this reason.

information courtesy of

Charlottesville/Albemarle League of Women Voters

Newsletter Editor, Michele Kellermann

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Penn State Study: Literacy, Poverty and PWC

According to a recent study by the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy at Penn State, "Adult educators have typically tried to improve persistence by changing adult learners’ attitudes (e.g. increasing motivation) or the program itself. However, situational factors and community conditions such as lack of affordable housing and well-paying jobs substantially limit the life chances and educational progress of poor and working-class families. To enhance families’ residential stability and persistence, programs should help participants access housing assistance services, develop a plan with learners to pursue self-study and minimize disruption following a move, work with school teachers to help children adjust after a school change, coordinate with housing advocacy organizations, and advocate for affordable housing and other policies that benefit poor and working-class families."

What does this mean for Prince William County?

Budget cuts in adult education and other services at the local, state and federal levels impact our communities and quality of life.

The Adult Education Department, part of the PWCS K-12 system, serves adult students in need of basic education, much of it beginning at the elementary levels. These are students who want to learn but could not in the traditional system. Many are learning disabled, new English speakers, and poor. They are over the age of eighteen and have not earned a high school diploma. They have families whom they struggle to support through low paying jobs. Their options are limited, and according to this study, so is their housing resulting in constant transition.

In high cost areas of living like PWC, especially in the falling economy, these students have a greater risk of developing serious medical problems and/or of falling into homelessness. PWCS typically has more than 1000 students enrolled in adult education, but services are affected by the allocation of budget monies. Lack of low cost housing and social services contribute to increased risk among this population.

Esther Prins, Assistant Professor and Co-Director Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy and co-author/co-investigator, Kai Schafft write, "This study examined how poverty and residential mobility influence low-income adults’ persistence in family literacy programs in Pennsylvania. Twelve out of 20 program directors reported that learners typically moved at least once a year. In five of these high-mobility programs moving was reported to significantly hinder persistence. Geographic location and the availability of inexpensive and subsidized housing increased mobility. The 17 learners we interviewed moved 78 times in the previous five years, for an average of once per year. One-half of the moves were within15 miles, yet even short distance moves often delayed progress and disrupted program participation. Although residential mobility did not hinder persistence in all programs, it is part of a constellation of poverty-related problems (e.g., poor health, lack of childcare and transportation) that pose challenges for learners to attend classes regularly and meet their educational goals."

Social outcomes of budget cuts in education, housing subsidies, and social services, common community complaints increase: "The house next door has too many people living in it." "No one speaks English anymore." "We have too much crime in our neighborhood." "Our neighbors are constantly moving in and out." "We don't even know who lives in that house."

Intervention and prevention, not punitive measures supported by increased taxes, cure problems like these; yet Prince William County Executive Craig S. Gerhart says, "The biggest winner in the budget is the adult detention center."

Prince William County is attacking the symptom and not the disease, a tactic similar to putting Neosporin and a Band-Aid on a wound that needs stitches, but a wound that could have been avoided by a pair of work gloves. The Band-Aids only look less expensive than the gloves, but in the long run, the gloves protect and they last longer. But the gloves must be purchased before the bandages are needed.

information courtesy of
Esther Prins
Assistant Professor and Co-Director
Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy ( for the Study of Adult Literacy (
Adult Education Program, Dept. of Learning & Performance Systems Pennsylvania State University
305B Keller Building
University Park, PA 16802
814-865-0128 (fax)
via National Institute for Literacy (NIFL)

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt is neither a spokesperson nor a current contract instructor for Prince William County Public Schools.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

La Raza: What Is It?

Inspired by Nadia, I looked up La Raza (the organization) and discovered some interesting things, especially regarding translations and rumors. Take a look below, or go right to their website.

Here's my ignorance which has been cleared up: I didn't know La Raza was a formal lobbying group. I thought it was more like a cultural shift, something like the "Civil Rights Era" with separate groups working towards the same goals. In a way, it IS a cultural movement, but La Raza the organization is something specific.

Goes to show you how much I know about lobbying! Ha ha ha!
Open Letter to the Public:

Those familiar with the work of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) know that we are the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., and that we are an American institution committed to strengthening this great nation by promoting the advancement of Latino families. Our mission is to create opportunities and open the door to the American Dream for Latino and other families.

We proudly represent nearly 300 Affiliates – community-based organizations providing a range of essential services to millions of Latinos and others in need. Since 1997, NCLR and its Affiliates have helped more than 22,000 low-income Hispanic families purchase their first homes. In addition, NCLR’s network of 115 charter schools provides quality education to more than 25,000 Latino children every year. The health clinics we help build and the lay health educators we train provided care and information about prevention and detection of serious illnesses to nearly 100,000 people in 2006. Our Affiliates are working every day to help Hispanic immigrants integrate fully into American society by providing English-language classes, civics courses, or naturalization assistance.

NCLR is also among the most recognized organizations in the nonprofit sector. Our work in the health arena has been honored by the Surgeon General of the United States and by numerous professional organizations. Both our former President/CEO and the current Chair of our Board of Directors have earned the prestigious Hubert H. Humphrey Civil Rights Award by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and The Nonprofit Times has recognized NCLR’s leadership with its coveted “Power and Influence Top 50” award, honoring the top 50 leaders shaping the nonprofit world. In addition, NCLR is featured alongside Habitat for Humanity and the Heritage Foundation in Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits, a book that analyzes the practices of 12 nonprofit organizations which have successfully created social change (released in October 2007).

We recognize that some people might be confused about our organization’s name, our mission, and our work. Much of this is understandable. Compared to some of our venerable counterparts in the civil rights and advocacy community, we are a relatively young institution, representing Latinos, an historically disadvantaged and oft-misunderstood ethnic minority. We have a Spanish term in our name, “La Raza” (meaning “the people” or “community”), which is often mistranslated. Furthermore, we are engaged in some of the most controversial issues of our time, which we believe is essential if we are to stay true to our mission.

As an advocacy organization engaged in the public arena, we know that some will disagree with our views. As Americans committed to basic civil rights, we respect anyone’s right to do so.

But it is also clear that some critics are willfully distorting the facts and deliberately mischaracterizing our organization and our work. Recently, we have been the subject of a number of ad hominem attacks that we believe cross the line of civility in public discourse.

At times, we have ignored these attacks, preferring to invest our precious time and resources in our work, believing that the quality of the work speaks for itself. At other times, we have responded in a civil fashion, through private correspondence or by requesting a meeting with a critic so we can discuss our differences. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do this in every case, especially when our private requests for civil discussion are responded to with further unfounded attacks, often echoed in the media as if they were accurate, which they are not.

So, today we are engaging in an unprecedented step to make sure that the record is as clear and accessible as we can possibly make it. We do so in the interest of full disclosure and in the spirit of complete transparency. We trust that, after reviewing all of these materials, readers will come to their own conclusions about the merits of these and similar attacks to which we have been subjected.

Janet Murguía
President and CEO
National Council of La Raza

NCLR Responds: A Point-by-Point Analysis

The following are common misconceptions voiced about NCLR and our work. Please click on the links below for more information on NCLR’s response to each accusation.
The Translation of Our Name: National Council of La Raza
Support of Separatist Organizations
Reconquista and Segregation
Solely Hispanic-serving Programs
Border Security and Immigration
Full Disclosure of Our Lobbying Funds
Earmark of Federal Funds

1. The Translation of Our Name: National Council of La Raza
Many people incorrectly translate our name, “La Raza,” as “the race.” While it is true that one meaning of “raza” in Spanish is indeed “race,” in Spanish, as in English and any other language, words can and do have multiple meanings. As noted in several online dictionaries, “La Raza” means “the people” or “the community.” Translating our name as “the race” is not only inaccurate, it is factually incorrect. “Hispanic” is an ethnicity, not a race. As anyone who has ever met a Dominican American, Mexican American, or Spanish American can attest, Hispanics can be and are members of any and all races.

The term “La Raza” has its origins in early 20th century Latin American literature and translates into English most closely as “the people,” or, according to some scholars, “the Hispanic people of the New World.” The term was coined by Mexican scholar José Vasconcelos to reflect the fact that the people of Latin America are a mixture of many of the world’s races, cultures, and religions. Mistranslating “La Raza” to mean “the race” implies that it is a term meant to exclude others. In fact, the full term coined by Vasconcelos, “La Raza Cósmica,” meaning the “cosmic people,” was developed to reflect not purity but the mixture inherent in the Hispanic people. This is an inclusive concept, meaning that Hispanics share with all other peoples of the world a common heritage and destiny.

2. Support of Separatist Organizations
NCLR has never supported, and does not support, separatist organizations. Some critics have accused MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán or Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán) of being a separatist organization and denounced NCLR for being a “major funder” of the organization. The reality is that in 2003, NCLR provided one chapter of the organization (Georgetown University) with a $2,500 subgrant to support a conference of Latino students – mainly from the Southwest and West Coast – who were attending East Coast colleges but who could not afford to travel home for Thanksgiving. These Latino student groups hold mini-conferences with workshops and speakers, bringing together students who are often the first high school graduates and college attendees in their families.

According to its mission statement, MEChA is a student organization whose primary objectives are educational – to help Latino students finish high school and go to college, and to support them while at institutions of higher education. NCLR freely acknowledges that some of the organization’s founding documents, e.g., Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, contain inappropriate rhetoric, and NCLR also acknowledges that rhetoric from some MEChA members has been extremist and inflammatory. In a June 2006 Los Angeles Times op-ed, journalist Gustavo Arellano noted that all of the MEChA members of his class graduated from college and have gone on to successful careers, a rarity at a time when only 12% of Latinos have a college degree. And to the group’s founding documents, Arellano also pointed out that “few members take these dated relics of the 1960s seriously, if they even bothered to read them.”

NCLR has publicly and repeatedly disavowed this rhetoric as we have others that we believe are inappropriate, as we did when we criticized a pro-separatist Latino website for its racist and anti-Semitic views. We will continue, however, to support programs and activities that help more Hispanics enter and finish college.

Throughout its history NCLR has supported numerous initiatives to oppose all forms of unlawful discrimination; for example:

  • A series of campaigns in conjunction with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
  • Education Fund calling on all Americans to be tolerant of diversity
  • Joint initiatives with the National Urban League, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, and Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics to identify and denounce hate crimes and other acts of intolerance
  • Educational seminars and roundtables to expose and explore the causes of discrimination against Afro-Latinos and Indigenous Latinos, including instances of discrimination perpetrated by fellow Hispanics
  • Public service campaigns with the National Fair Housing Alliance, the Children’s Defense Fund, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, and other partners to prevent housing discrimination against minorities, families with children, and individuals with disabilities

3. Reconquista and Segregation
Another misconception about NCLR is that we support a “Reconquista,” or the right of Mexico to reclaim land in the southwestern United States. NCLR has not made and does not make any such claim; indeed, such a claim is so far outside of the mainstream of the Latino community that we find it incredible that our critics raise it as an issue. NCLR has never supported and does not endorse the notion of a “Reconquista” or “Aztlán.” Similarly, NCLR’s critics falsely claim that the statement “Por La Raza todo, Fuera de La Raza nada,” [“For the community everything, outside the community nothing”] is NCLR’s motto. NCLR unequivocally rejects this statement, which is not and has never been the motto of any Latino organization.

NCLR’s work as a civil rights institution is about inclusion and participation in the American Dream, including extensive efforts to assist new immigrants in the process of fully integrating into American life. In fact, NCLR and its Affiliates work every day to provide English classes, support naturalization efforts, and provide other services that help integrate immigrants fully into American society.

Many of these critics claim that NCLR supports dividing up sections or regions of this country by race or ethnic heritage. In particular, this claim was made by one outspoken critic of NCLR, Representative Charlie Norwood (R-GA), who unfortunately passed away on February 13, 2007. As the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights organization, NCLR has a long, proud, well-documented history of opposing segregation based on race or ethnicity. Toward that end, we have actively contributed to the enactment and enforcement of fair housing and other civil rights laws, and supported numerous measures to ensure that all Americans have the freedom to choose where to live.

NCLR has also supported:

4. Solely Hispanic-serving Programs
Critics also argue that NCLR’s programs only serve Hispanics. This is simply not true. NCLR and its programs are sanctioned by civil rights laws administered by independent agencies at the federal, state, and local level. We helped enact some of these laws, and we take them very seriously.

For example, in 2006, as part of NCLR’s homeownership program, NCLR Affiliates served about 29,000 clients. Almost 20% were White and approximately 12% were African American. The program targets low-income neighborhoods that contain large Hispanic populations. NCLR Affiliates are some of the few institutions in many cities that offer their services in both English and Spanish. Due to the demographics of the neighborhoods served, and the type of services offered by NCLR Affiliates, collectively they tend to attract an Hispanic clientele, although not exclusively.

We note that NCLR’s staff includes Americans from all racial and ethnic groups – White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American. We note further that NCLR’s bylaws, personnel policies, and institutional values contain explicit prohibitions against discrimination.

5. Border Security and Immigration
Unfortunately, NCLR has been called an “open-borders advocate” and the “illegal alien lobby” numerous times. NCLR has repeatedly recognized the right of the United States, as a sovereign nation, to control its borders. Moreover, NCLR has supported numerous specific measures to strengthen border enforcement, provided that such enforcement is conducted fairly, humanely, and in a nondiscriminatory fashion.

For example:

  • NCLR helped draft and advocated for bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate which included tough enforcement measures against unauthorized migration.
  • NCLR’s President and CEO served on and endorsed the recommendations of the Independent Task Force on Immigration and America’s Future, an independent, bipartisan, blue ribbon commission chaired by former Rep. Lee Hamilton and former Senator Spencer Abraham, which recently released a set of recommendations on immigration reform, including more than a dozen new enforcement measures.
  • In a major address in San Diego in 2005, NCLR President Janet Murguía stressed that any comprehensive immigration reform needed to include a strong, effective, and humane enforcement component.

All of NCLR’s policy materials describing its positions and activities on the immigration debate are all available on its website. In particular, an Issue Brief, Immigration Reform: Comprehensive Solutions to Complex Problems can be found here. In addition, a set of FAQs related to NCLR’s position on immigration can be found here.

6. Full Disclosure of Our Lobbying Funds
Information regarding NCLR’s lobbying expenses and activities is available and easily accessible to the public and updated twice a year. NCLR carries out its lobbying activities in strict compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including filing reports twice a year with the clerks of the U.S. House of Representatives** and the U.S. Senate. NCLR’s expenses for activities defined by law as lobbying, at the federal and state level, range from 1%-2% of its annual budget. Lobbying expenses are separately accounted for, consistent with nonprofit best practices, and are supported by unrestricted revenues such as Affiliate dues, registration fees, sponsorships for events, and other unrestricted funds. No public or foundation funds are used, directly or indirectly, to support any lobbying activity. In addition, consistent with nonprofit best practices, NCLR is subject to an annual audit by an independent auditor and publishes its financial information in its Annual Report, which is readily available to the public.

**To access public records filed with the House of Representatives, you must visit the following:Office of the Clerk - U.S. House of RepresentativesB106 Cannon House Office BuildingWashington, DC. 20515-6612

7. Earmark of Federal Funds
Some critics have implied that federal funding earmarked to NCLR for housing and community development financing has been used, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, to advance our public policy efforts on immigration. This is simply inaccurate.

Our housing and community development financing is carried out through our subsidiary, the Raza Development Fund (RDF). Established in 1999, the mission of RDF is to bring private capital and development assistance to local organizations serving Latino families in areas such as affordable housing, primary health care, and educational facilities. The RDF board of directors includes experts in housing and community programs as well as representatives from a number of prominent private financial institutions including Bank of America, State Farm Insurance Company, Citi, and JPMorgan Chase.

In 1999, the Department of the Treasury certified RDF as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Today, RDF is by far the nation’s largest and most successful Latino CDFI. Since its inception, RDF has made more than $50 million in loans. About half of RDF’s capitalization comes from private financial institutions including State Farm Insurance Company, Bank of America, Allstate Insurance, and other sources. RDF uses these monies, along with other public and private funds, to finance charter schools, health clinics, day care centers, and other community facilities; affordable housing developments; and small businesses.

RDF uses the funds appropriated by Congress under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Fund for the sole purpose of supporting its lending activities. Moreover, RDF’s policy is that all earnings from its lending activities are to be reinvested in the fund for the sole purpose of advancing its mission. Thus, no federal funding earmarked to RDF has been retained by NCLR for any purpose; on the contrary, NCLR supports RDF by deploying considerable resources of its own to assist Latino-serving community-based organizations in developing community facilities and housing programs.

NCLR has published this extensive analysis because we trust readers to come to their own conclusions about the merits, or lack thereof, of our critics’ charges. View below what some other observers have concluded.

Letter from Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL) in support of NCLR against Rep. Norwood's (R-GA) claims
Letter to Rep. Norwood from Reverend Timothy McDonald, Chair of African American Ministers in Action, requesting that he apologize for recent remarks made about NCLR.
Commentary by Janet Murguía: "Latinos Don't Have Secret Agenda"
Michelle Malkin column: " 'The Race' Schools: Your Tax Dollars at Work"
Janet Murguía's response to Michelle Malkin: "She's Wrong About My Group"
"Dear Michelle Malkin: Study Spanish," a column by Mary Sanchez
The Denver Post: “Hispanic Council Fighting Negative Perceptions of Purpose”


Here is the email I sent to them this morning.

Dear Members of NCLR:

I am writing because I have been concerned with the "Immigration Resolution" that has been implemented in Prince William County, where I reside. I and many others believe this resolution was not passed with consent of all county residents, that it has created a hostile environments of ALL immigrants, that it is a gross misuse of our taxes (which have been raised), and that it violates civil rights. Immigrants are being targeted, racially profiled, and harassed; this resolution has spurred on hate groups and other vocal dispute as well.

I am wondering if La Raza is addressing the issues in Prince William County specifically, and if not, I am asking for your assistance (as I am sure others have done).

Below is a letter I sent to the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice for your review. (Where I used the word "embassy" I believe the correct word is "consulate." My apologies.)

Thank you for your time and for helping the immigrant communities in our country.


Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20520

March 3, 2007

Dear Secretary of State, Dr. Rice:

I am writing to ask for immediate assistance in Prince William County VA where we have an emergency. One form of assistance could be establishing immigration embassies here in this county to help immigrants who are RIGHT NOW being persecuted in our local system. Another would be to grant temporary, emergency amnesty to immigrants who have lived and worked here and who have no criminal record.

As you might have heard, PWC has implemented a "crackdown on illegal immigration." That "crackdown" officially begins today in the form of a local "Immigration Resolution." But even before today, we have had immigrant families in crisis--fathers and mothers and family members in jail awaiting deportation while their children and families suffer without them.

The resolution was passed without full consent PWC citizens. The resolution was passed without evidence of need and implemented without having funds to pay for it. The resolution is putting our county in debt and raising our taxes. But more importantly, the resolution is violating human and civil rights. Racial profiling is already happening.

The resolution was created as part of a political stunt to elect the Chair of the Board of County Supervisors, Corey Stewart, and his counterpart, John Stirrup. These BOCS members took their policy from a "Help Save" group related to FAIR, a designated hate group. BOCS member John Stirrup and Chair Corey Stewart have made openly racist comments (on video) and have aligned themselves with racist, abusive members of local groups that are targeting and harassing immigrants.

While Congress has dragged its feet in addressing immigration problems, local factions are creating hostile and frightening environments right here in the D.C. Metro area. I realize you can't ignore current law, but in times of crisis, I know you have the authority to use diplomacy and use emergency intervention.

Dr. Rice, these are hard working people with paperwork problems--they are not criminals. If any truly ARE criminals, then these are the ONLY ones who need to be deported, not the people who have worked here and have been contributing members to our communities.

Please do all you can to address the issues here, in Mexico, in Central America, and in Asia. Please do not allow hatred and violence in our county and in our country. Please do not allow another bloody Civil Rights era to wound our country and the world. We must help our international brothers and sisters before this erupts into global conflict.

Thank you for your time and your service to our country.


Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Support SB441

SB 441 is the bill that makes it state policy that law enforcement officers will not routinely ask crime victims and witnesses questions about their immigration status.

Let your member of the House of Delegates know NOW that you support SB 441 and want him/her to vote YES when the bill is considered on the floor of the House of Delegates this week.

This bill is a public safety bill. We will all be safer if the bill passes because members of immigrant communities in the Commonwealth will be more willing to report crimes to police and to cooperate with prosecutors.

Most people who are not lawfully present in Virginia are not guilty of criminal violations of immigration laws. They are people who entered the US legally and overstayed their visas or are otherwise out of status. Nonetheless, because of their fear of deportation if identified, persons who are not documented (and members of their families some of whom may be citizens or otherwise lawfully present) are reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of crime.

To find out who your member of the House of Delegates is go to Then, use the contact information to send the member an email or call him/her at his/her office.

Or, call the constituent viewpoint line to make your views known: (800) 889-0229 (outside Richmond) or 698-1990 (Richmond area).

It is VERY important that members of the House of Delegates hear from supporters of SB 441 before the vote on Tuesday.

information courtesy of

Claire Guthrie Gastanaga
Claire Guthrie Gastanaga
CG2 Consulting
501 E. Franklin Street
Richmond, VA 23219


My Email:

Dear Senator Colgan and Delegate Marshall:

Please protect our communities through SB 441.

This bill is a public safety bill. We will all be safer if the bill passes because members of immigrant communities in the Commonwealth will be more willing to report crimes to police and to cooperate with prosecutors. Statistically, most people who are not lawfully present in Virginia are not guilty of criminal violations. They are people who entered the US legally and overstayed their visas or are otherwise out of status. Nonetheless, because of their fear of deportation if identified, persons who are not documented (and members of their families some of whom may be citizens or otherwise lawfully present) are reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of crime.

In Prince William County we are facing a crisis because the disputed Immigration Resolution is now in effect. This bill would mean ALL residents could breathe a little easier in what has become a fearful and divided community.

Thank you for considering my request.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

Planned Parenthood--I've Been Wondering About Them

I received this information via a forwarded email from Lynn Gordon, League of Women Voters (who is not on the PP Board)

"In Virginia, there are nine Planned Parenthood health centers, operated by four Planned Parenthood affiliates. Planned Parenthood is the nation's leading sexual and reproductive health care advocate and provider. Our mission is to ensure that individuals and families have the freedom, information, and ability to make their own informed reproductive choices.



Senate Bill 30 - Budget Amendment Offered by Sen. Cuccinelli Senator
Cuccinelli's amendment would prohibit any Planned Parenthood entity from receiving state general fund, nongeneral fund, or special funds for preventative medical services. The language would prohibit the free access of women, particularly Medicaid recipients, from taking advantage of the necessary and critical medical services Planned Parenthood offers. Cuccinelli's amendment is unconstitutional because it singles out a specific entity, Planned Parenthood, for punishment by disqualification for eligibility for funding.

The core of Planned Parenthood affiliate medical service is contraception and accompanying health care, education, and information. The overwhelming majority of Planned Parenthood services focus on prevention.

  • Family Planning Counseling and Services
  • Free Pregnancy Testing and Options Education
  • Low Cost Birth Control
  • Emergency Contraception
  • Annual Gynecological Exam
  • Cancer screenings: Pap Smear, Breast Exams (Health services, cont'd
  • Colposcopy and Cryotherapy
  • HPV Vaccination
  • Testing and Treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections (women and men
  • HIV Testing (women and men
  • Safe and confidential first trimester abortions
  • Adoption through a partnership with the Children's Home Society of Virginia
  • Prenatal CareEducation ProgramsPlanned Parenthood education programs cover many content areas, such as AIDS/HIV, contraception/family planning - including abstinence, family life education, parent-child communication, puberty education, safer sex, sexual orientation/homophobia, sexuality education, sexually transmitted infections, teenage pregnancy, and women's health.
In addition to education programs, training programs are provided to community agencies and professionals working with children, teens, and young adults.
  • Postponing Sexual Involvement is an abstinence-based program emphasizing communication skills, decision making and peer pressure refusal skills.
  • Becoming a Responsible Teen encourages the understanding of sexual development, feelings and values as well as ways to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
  • The Brothers is a mentoring program that pairs valuable male role models with 5th grade boys to help them make healthy choices and set future goals
  • More than Shelter pairs free clinic services for homeless women with educational programming on gynecological care, sexually transmitted infections and healthy relationships.
OPPOSE - House Bill 30 - Budget Amendment Item 4-5.04#1h
This budget amendment would prevent the most vulnerable women in Virginia from accessing medically-necessary abortion care.
Medicaid would still have to treat the serious health problem that resulted from not having access to abortion care.
Situations of severe, incapacitating fetal abnormality are tragic. The decision to terminate a non-viable pregnancy should be left to a woman, in consultation with her family and physician.
This budget amendment would further restrict Medicaid funding for abortions to circumstances when the woman's life is at risk, or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. It prohibits funding for women who have serious health risks or a non-viable pregnancy.
Currently, Virginia permits Medicaid coverage of abortions for these reasons, as required by federal law:
  • Rape
  • Incest
  • Life of woman
Additionally, Virginia allows Medicaid coverage of abortions for two circumstances beyond federal law:
  • Substantial endangerment to the health of the woman
  • Severe, incapacitating fetal abnormality."
Information Courtesy of
Jessica L. Honke, MSW
Director of Public Policy
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia
3415 Floyd Avenue
Richmond, VA 23221
804.355.4358 ext. 16
804-355.5216 Fax

Here's what I have been thinking.

First, I don't think it's right that PP has been singled out. To me, that says someone in Richmond has an ax to grind and a personal agenda.

Second, I would like to see PP and organizations like theirs come up with a plan and a goal to reduce referrals for abortions/abortions by 10% in two years. That would mean they re-direct two out of every 200 women over a two year period in addition to re-directs they already do. (Is that too many two's?) This adds up to THOUSANDS more abortions avoided.

An additional 1% reduction would be a goal for each consecutive year.

In this way, we slowly eradicate the need for abortion except in absolute emergencies by education, prevention, adoption, etc. And places like PP improve their public image which has largely come to equal "baby killers."

Just my two cents.

NOTE: I am not associated with Planned Parenthood.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Open Letter to Sec. of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice

Dear Secretary of State, Dr. Rice:

I am writing to ask for immediate assistance in Prince William County VA where we have an emergency. One form of assistance could be establishing immigration embassies here in this county to help immigrants who are RIGHT NOW being persecuted in our local system. Another would be to grant temporary, emergency amnesty to immigrants who have lived and worked here and who have no criminal record.

As you might have heard, PWC has implemented a "crackdown on illegal immigration." That "crackdown" officially begins today in the form of a local "Immigration Resolution." But even before today, we have had immigrant families in crisis--fathers and mothers and family members in jail awaiting deportation while their children and families suffer without them.

The resolution was passed without full consent PWC citizens. The resolution was passed without evidence of need and implemented without having funds to pay for it. The resolution is putting our county in debt and raising our taxes. But more importantly, the resolution is violating human and civil rights. Racial profiling is already happening.

The resolution was created as part of a political stunt to elect the Chair of the Board of County Supervisors, Corey Stewart, and his counterpart, John Stirrup. These BOCS members took their policy from a "Help Save" group related to FAIR, a designated hate group. BOCS member John Stirrup and Chair Corey Stewart have made openly racist comments (on video) and have aligned themselves with racist, abusive, members of local groups that are targeting and harassing immigrants.

While Congress has dragged its feet in addressing immigration problems, local factions are creating hostile and frightening environments right here in the D.C. Metro area. I realize you can't ignore current law, but in times of crisis, I know you have the authority to use diplomacy and use emergency intervention.

Dr. Rice, these are hard working people with paperwork problems--they are not criminals. If any truly ARE criminals, then these are the ONLY ones who need to be deported, not the people who have worked here and have been contributing members to our communities.

Please do all you can to address the issues here, in Mexico, in Central America, and in Asia. Please do not allow hatred and violence in our county and in our country. Please do not allow another bloody Civil Rights era to wound our country and the world. We must help our international brothers and sisters before this erupts into global conflict.

Thank you for your time and your service to our country.


Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
sent via email, to be sent in hard copy as well

Sunday, March 02, 2008

PWC's Resolution to Persecute: A Conversation With Nadia

Our conversation began on a national listserv. The following is a partial transcript of our discussion. I will be adding more as I can (Gmail is being quirky, and I can't get to all the messages).

Hi Katherine:

I lived in Virginia 16 years ago and kept visiting for the following 10 years or so. My parents in law lived in a small town called Emporia. My mother in law went back to Sao Paulo, Brazil after my father in law passed away.

I went to Virginia because I was offered a job in Mexico City to come to the States and teach Spanish in High School. My relationship to people was mediated by the fact that I was a middle class woman, a teacher and oftentimes in the company of white people. Brazil has a much wider spectrum of ethnicities than Mexico. Kevin and his family are European descendants with a mix of Jewish and Protestant heritages.

I have always been in touch with Mexican people in theUnited States and a lot of times they are the so called "illegal" people. This reminds me of Manu Chausong "Clandestine". You may want to listen to it in you tube.

The racism that you talk about is evident. The greed with which illegal workers are treated is also evident. To me the witch hunt is more a product of the candid belief that it is illegal people, those people, brown people who are coming to rob this country from its wealth and whiteness. Alas, African American can be quite resentful, too.

I honestly believe that it is always good for greedy governments to pit some groups against others. It is in the interest of businesses in the States to keep workers making much less than the minimun salary. However, as the recession seem to gain some momentum in the United States, illegal immigrants have become more and more the target to be blamed and hated. This is the saddest part. Hate really hurts and I know you agree with me because I have read your postings.

What does the Mexican government have to do with allthis? A lot. Mexico is a country with a milenary tradition, an incredible history of contesting and confronting power. Mexico has been the recipient of people in exile from Spain and most Latin American countries. This has enriched our intelectual tradition a lot. But, our history, Katherine, has been written with blood. In Mexico poverty is really democratic. You don't need to descend from a Mayan ethnicity to be poor. Surely ethnic groups are the poorest. And they are incredibly interesting. But, going back to my point. The majority of peoplein Mexico, light or dark are poor. The elite likes to have particular features and women tend to enjoy cosmetic surgery. But the Mexican "poltico" still tends to be Mestizo. Anyway, I find the Mexican government absolutely responsible for the exodus of poor people. Octavio Paz wrote in one of his first books "Zapata, is before and after neomarxists, and if Mexico doesn't die he will be after.

Thus the Zapatistas...and Subcomandante Marcos. One day I will tell you how I met him in Chiapas and even dared sending him a romantic note...

Best wishes and good day, Katherine.


Nadia, I just returned from an immigration meeting. The infamous "immigration resolution" is beginning tomorrow in our county....which means anyone who is determined to "seem" illegal can be jailed and deported, after being cited for something like driving with a broken tail light.

Nadia, my heart was breaking, just listening to the emergency plans immigrants should have in place in case they are pulled over or have the police come to their homes. Right now, there are about 400 immigrants in prison awaiting deportation. These immigrants have families and children who have depended on them. In some cases, both parents have been arrested, and children are left alone or in limbo. As I looked out into the sea of faces--workers, mothers, fathers, children, babies--I could not help but cry for them and for ourselves.

We have created another era of civil inequity, another era of marches and persecution and hatred just like we saw in the era of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and the African American Civil Rights era. The people who have done this to the Hispanic and all immigrant populations are local leaders looking for political fame and a way to inflict their personal bias on the entire county. No one who has an accent or a skin color other than white is completely safe from the kind of persecution this resolution has caused. And no one who is white who wants to help the immigrant community is safe, either.

One blog in particular has openly harassed people they identify as "illegal sympathizers," posting names, addresses, and pictures on the blog, and open invitation to harass citizens exercising their free speech and right to demand social justice. The blog I am talking about demeans people with disabilities, mental illness, and those of particular religions.

Regarding Mexico, is there any way to get a delegation here to help Mexican immigrants, especially those who have worked and lived here for years, contributing to our community? I heard sometimes countries set up embassies to help their people get paperwork through. Why can't Mexico and other countries do this?
I really don't know. It does not surprise what ishappening. But, are you asking about embassies as in the Mexican Embassy in DC?, or consulates as in the consulate say in NY City or Raleigh, N Carolina? Itseems to me that the Mexican government does resent what is happening but I am not sure that they are heart broken. Unfortunately I don't live in your area so that I don't know about social movements withc onnections to the Mexican Consulate and/or Latino organizations as La Raza. What I hear from you is that a real Nazi-like movement is emerging in your county and it has become strong enough to act without fear of political, legal or social consequences. Scary.

The Mexican people you are talking about seem to be going through hell. Personally, I think it is good that they are deported with their children. They will be poor but maybe their children will be spared from hatred. This is heart breaking for me, too, becauseit is exactly what you said, a reminder of the days when blacks where lynched.

In Mexico City we have a progressive mayor, Marcelo Ebrard. The city is vibrant with popular culture and countercultures. Yes, I know there is poverty, pollution, traffic and noise like in any other big city. And in the United States there is Obama, for me the hope that something will change in this country. So, I can only think of the song "Change is gonna come".

Another thing that has been really bugging me regarding politics in Mexico is whether or not we have the government we deserve. When I look at the history of Mexico, my country, my passion, (I am visiting within two weeks Mexico City) I tend to think that the answer is negative. Somehow, I feel that theories that look at ideologies and control (however we want to call them) have a lot to explain and explore when it comes to the rise and fall of social movements. I learned a lot from an American scholar in New York, Frances Fox Piven. She wrote a book called "Regulating the Poor". It is co-authored with Richard Cloward. It is a great book to read because it analyses the privileged moment when workers united and rose during the FDR era. Then they explain the dissolution of the movement. I should read it again.
It is because of the rise of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, a day after NAFTA was signed, that I wanted so much to go to the Southeast. From the point of view of history the Mayan and non Mayan ethnicities in the region have really shown that they are a lot more civilized than the West. Yes, despite the fact that they are poor and despite the movie directed by the same creator of the Passion of Christ....

We should NEVER separate children from their families. And sending them from hatred to poverty and danger are equal in my mind. BOTH are horrible, and neither is a real choice.

Nadia, tell me about Zapatistas and your love letter. : )

Seriously, there are so many misconceptions about La Raza and other Hispanic organized groups. Rumor has it that they are terrorists, that they are trying to overtake our country, that they are one big criminal gang. What's up with them?


La Raza, terrorists? Never heard of that. It reminds me of conservative attempts to rehash on Obama's Muslim background. The love letter is the least important thing. If you want to learn about the Zapatistas read "El durito de la Selva" prologued by Saramago, the Novel Price of Literature a couple of years ago. Or read a book co-authored with Paco Ignacio Taibo II.

As for separating families I suspect the groups of Neonazis might face human rights lawyers to defend the custody of parents of their biological children. In fact the Mexican government can defend them since they are children of Mexican citizens. I hope that people like you will be able to gather some muscle, legal help, grass roots organizations, and so on.

As for a take over of your country I would not worry. Just do research regarding the IFM and the World Bank to understand what peaceful take overs look like. Again, both a government in dire need of liquidity(the Mexican government) and speculators both inMexico and the States had a great time.

Your comments are interesting but sound a bit off themark. Wouldn't it be better to inform yourself a bit, do your readings and then define your own conclusions instead of looking at silly rumors and stupidity?

Oh I'm not telling you MY comments on all this. I am repeating "the word on the street" to get your opinon and help clear things up. We have some ignorant bigots in my neck of the woods. Most of what I have learned about Mexico has been from friends, some light reading, some attempts at translating, and my visit there. (My attempts at translating were bad, as you can imagine, because I was using my basic training in Spanish I and II....a literal translation of things like philosophy!)


Friday, February 29, 2008

Help Maintain Strong, Healthy Families

Please contact the appropriate person (listed below) and help protect families at risk! could be YOU or someone you love who needs this help next.

The competing budgets have been adopted by the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate. The increase in FAMIS Moms eligibility to 200% FPL is only in the Senate Budget, and it will not take effect until July 2009. This is the best we can hope for this year – and BUDGET CONFEREES NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU ASAP! Please call or email the conferees – and if you can generate more contacts from their constituents please do so! Our message:

“Please increase FAMIS Moms eligibility to 200% of the poverty line. Helping uninsured women get prenatal care is smart! We get $2 dollars for every state dollar spent, AND Virginia saves money on indigent care costs and the costs of treating premature or sick babies.”

Below is the list of conferees and contact info.

Budget Conferees 2008
Senator Charles Colgan 698-7529

Senator William Wampler 698-7540

Senator Walter Stosch 698-7512

Senator Edward Houck 698-7517

Senator Janet Howell 698-7532

Senator Richard Saslaw 698-7535

Delegate Lacey Putney 698-1019

Delegate Phil Hamilton 698-1093
(Newport News)

Delegate Beverly Sherwood 698-1029

Delegate Kirk Cox 698-1066

Delegate Clark N. Hogan 698-1060
(South Boston)

Delegate Johnny Joannou 698-1079

information courtesy of John Horejsi, SALT (Social Action Linking Together) and Jill A. Hanken, Staff Attorney, Virginia Poverty Law Center

Monday, February 25, 2008

Health Care and Illiteracy: The Tragic and Frightening Epidemic in the United States

Special Announcement
From the Desk of Dr. Sandra L. Baxter, Director, National Institute for Literacy.

Join us as we tune into watch ABC's "World News with Charlie Gibson," thefirst installment in this special series airs Monday, February 25, 2008.(Please check local listings.)

Text link:
Video link:

Living in the Shadows: Illiteracy in America
Millions Live With a Crippling Secret That Affects Their Everyday Lives

It's a chronic crisis of huge proportions, one that keeps millions ofAmericans living in the shadows. And for nearly all of her of 45 years, Monica Baxley had lived with the crippling secret.

"I cried a lot over this," she said, "when I was alone and just would wonder what could be done, you know, if there was any help out there for me."

Baxley, of the Florida panhandle town of Chipley, was functionally illiterate. She quit school in the ninth grade, and for 30 years kept her secret from friends, family and even her husband.

"I didn't want to be exposed, beyond anything else. That was the most important thing -- for no one to ever learn."

Baxley joins so many others with literacy challenges: 7 million Americans are illiterate, 27 million are unable to read well enough to complete a job application and 30 million can't read a simple sentence.

Her travel was limited because she was unable to read road signs. She was unable to read a newspaper or food labels in a supermarket.

Baxley never voted in an election. "I didn't know who or what to vote for,"she said.

Her illiteracy even impacted her physical health, as she avoided seeing the doctor out of fear she would have to fill out a medical form or read a prescription.

"My health is poor now, but I really believe that's because I never went to the doctor and had my physicals and stuff that I should have had," Baxley admitted.

A recent study from the Archives of Internal Medicine revealed patients who had difficulty reading prescriptions were 50 percent more likely to die from disease than patients who were literate.

"It is a life and death issue," said study author Dr. David Baker of Northwestern University. "Literacy affects your health in so many different ways," he said, from inability to properly follow instructions to not knowing about common conditions or what symptoms to look for.

"So when you put all of these things together it's not surprising that people with the lower literacy levels are more likely to die [earlier], "Baker said.

Baker said his team has interviewed hundreds of patients about their experiences, and Baxley's situation was a common theme -- hiding illiteracy from those close to them.

"It's very scary for people" when their first contact with the healthcare system involves filling out detailed medical forms. "That's not a great start," Baxter said, "and then when they are seeing their doctor they're given other information they don't understand" such as prescription information and instructions to take care of themselves.

"Many people are afraid to come in and see the doctor," Baxter said. They don't seek care, resulting in the worsening of their conditions and an increased likelihood of trips to the emergency room.

The American Medical Association Foundation did a private study of patients who could not read. One woman who provided a testimonial said signed a form agreeing to a medical procedure with no idea what it meant.

"The nurse said, how are you feeling since your hysterectomy?" according tothe testimonial. "And I acted as normal as I could, but inside, my mouth fell open and I thought to myself, how could I be so stupid as to allow somebody to take part of my body and I didn't know it?"

Another patient took her medication improperly, afraid to tell her physician about her difficulty reading.

"I didn't take it right. I admit it," her testimonial said. "I just didn't have they nerve to ask them and I didn't want anyone to know I couldn't read."

"It's a tremendous problem when you think about the costs for us, economically, health-wise," said Sandra Baxter, director of the National Institute for Literacy.

"For so many adults who don't have the education, it's embarrassing to haveto say, would you explain that to me?" Baxter said of potential problems during a doctor appointment. "And so they don't ask the questions that they need to.

"Undiagnosed learning disorders, poverty and an unstable home life are allf actors.

As for Monica Baxley, she confronted her illiteracy at age 42 and learned to read. But illiteracy persists for millions who continue to live with it in the shadows.

If someone you know needs help, contact your local library, or use one ofthe following resources:

Reading is Fundamental:

To find a literacy program near you:

To search resources by state:

Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

Student Loan Updates

Courtesy of Alan Collinge,

Join the new Student Loan Justice Facebook Group!

Hey Everyone,

Welcome to the new members. I hope everyone is doing well, and taking actions to bring attention to the astonishing lack of consumer protections for student loans. I have seen an increase in blog entries regarding student loans, and so that is a good thing. Also, our facebook group is now up to 170 members. My hope is that we can get it up to 25,000 or so in the next 6 months, so please check it out, and help spread the word about it.

I am still very concerned at what the Blue Dog Democrats did to Danny Davis's amendment to return bankruptcy protections to private student loans. I hope that you all will check the list of BDD's who voted to kill this amendment, and if one is in your state, call them, and let them know your feelings. Her is the list of BDD's who voted to kill the amendment:

Baca, Bean, Berry, Bishop, Boren, Cardoza, Carney, Chandler, Costa, Davis, Donnely, Ellsworth, Giffords, Hill, Holden, ampson, Mahoney, Marshall, Matheson, Melanon, Moore, Murphy, Peterson, Ross, Herseth Sandlin, Schuler, Space, Taylor, Wilson

You can find their contact info at:

Also, the private loan industry has asked the Feds to consider a bailout for their private loans (these are the high interest, non federally loans that have become hard to resell in the current credit crunch). I find it irksome that Congress is willing to consider this, and at the same time is unwilling to consider returning standard consumer protections to student loans. At every opportunity on Capitol Hill, the borrowers are relegated to second position behind the banks. This is what we need to change, folks. Now more than ever, your activism is needed.

Also, I've been asked alot recently to give an endorsement for the democratic presidential race. From my perspective, this is very easy to do. Hillary Clinton did more to restore standard consumer protections to student loans than any other member of Congress in the last Congress with her Student Borrower Bill of Rights (S.511), and so of course my endorsement goes to Senator Clinton. Ralph Nader, who recently entered the race, has written excellent pieces on this issue also, I should add, but has not specifically advocated for the return of consumer protections for student loans to date. Senator Obama has not done or said anything to my knowledge on this issue, nor has Senator McCain.

Having said that, it is incumbent upon us to make this a presidential campaign issue, regardless of who the candidates are. It appears to me that thus far, no candidate has been eager to discuss the astonishing lack of consumer protections for student loans. We can change this. I encourage you all to get with your state chapters, and see what you can do together as the campaigns come through your state. I think we've demonstrated pretty strongly that affecting media stories about the problem is the most efficient way to go about this, but please don't be limited to just this.

I know you all are struggling, and appreciate that. However, we have to devote our efforts to this issue. So please, don't get discouraged, and keep fighting!


Please support the StudentLoanJustice.Org PAC

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Places I want to see

Not necessarily in this order:

Someday, I hope to see Tibet and the Dalai Lama (who probably will not be in Tibet).

India and the Taj Majal (which probably will still be in India). Maybe I can see His Holiness there.

Recently added: Bhutan.


The English countryside, London, English villages.

Rome and the Vatican and the Pope (who will probably still be in Vatican City).

Assateague Island and the wild ponies (which I hope will still be there by the time I get there).

Lebanon and Sicily.

The Korean countryside and villages.

Africa, African village life, African wildlife.

Australia, the aborigines (I hope there are some left), the wildlife, coral.

The Amazon, the rain forests, the bugs (but not on my body).

Mexico (again, this time more of the countryside and the people).

Bar Harbor and the national park there (the one with the mountains...can't recall the name right now but I camped there once).

New York (again but this time the Statue of Liberty).

Native American reservations.

If I ever get to see all or any of these things, it probably will be somewhat of a miracle. New York and Assateague might be within range. But the rest, I just live through with Internet pictures, writing (much of it from students), imagination and occasional movies.

I want to see people, nature, indigenous culture, architecture, churches, religion in motion.

I wish the world would leave indigenous cultures alone to be who they are. We have so little respect for natural living. But then, we have so little respect for life sometimes that this does not surprise me.

Always the dreamer, aren't I?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Imagine the BOCS in charge of all our schools!

School Board sends opinions to Richmond


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Of 30 education-related bills before the General Assembly for consideration, Prince William County School Board members have found one they seem to relegate to the category of detestable: House Joint Resolution 245.

The measure would amend the Virginia Constitution so that schools could be supervised by "a local governing body and locality's chief administrative officer," if the General Assembly enacted legislation toward that effect, according to the bill. In other words, laws could be passed giving the county supervisors and executive, say, authority to run the schools in place of the School Board and superintendent.

Board members voiced unanimous dissension for this bill via a written poll that's due for discussion at the Feb. 20 meeting at 6:30 p.m. The poll was aimed at gauging the support levels of each board member on the education bills awaiting decision in Richmond right now; the results will go to the school's legislative lobbyist. As of Jan. 18, HB245 -- which was introduced by Del. David Poisson, D-32nd and supported by Delegate Frank Hargrove Sr., R- 55th -- has sat in the Committee on Privileges and Elections, according to postings on the Virginia General Assembly's Web site. (See the rest of this article.)


The horror! Let's, for a moment, put Corey Stewart in charge of the school budget. I know it's distasteful (especially first thing in the morning, so I want some kudos for even thinking about it before 8:00 a.m.), but imagine.

Parents would have to fight to get new schools to prevent overcrowding because in this "difficult budget year" which he and others did not plan for (but funded programs, paying for them even before the money was transferred), schools would just have to take a back seat.

Can you say "trailer time," people? Because that's where your children would be if they aren't already there already.

Teachers wouldn't get competitive raises. You know it and so do I because Corey and the BOCS have previoulsy resisted increasing teachers' pay to competitive salary rates for at least one budget cycle. Under-paid teachers mean turnover, difficulty recruiting, and short-staffed schools at a time when SOL's are still the stressful focus of the curriculum and the mark of school success or failure.

Can you say, "substitute teacher time"? Because that's what your kids would end up with, assuming the county deemed it necessary to get subs--that is, if they didn't decide instead to combine classrooms to ridiculous maximums.

Programs deemed by the BOCS as "unnecessary" would be cut. For all you folks out there who complain about international students not knowing the language, get ready to complain even more because you KNOW ESOL classes would be slashed in K-12 and Adult Education--Corey doesn't exactly support the international community, and this would be one more way to help him meet his pre-existing ambitions of purging public education of imaginary "illegals."

Can you say, "academic failure"? Can you say, "high drop-out rates"? I hope so. Because without adequate instruction, that's what would happen, and schools would be vulnerable to state and federal sanctions.

Specialists would be cut. IEP (individual educational plan) meetings for special education would become nearly impossible to coordinate, with more reliance on outside consultants. For those of you who have no idea what an IEP meeting entails, let me give you a sketch of what is LEGALLY required: at least one teacher besides the classroom teacher, the Vice Principal, speech and/or LD specialists, a counselor, a social worker and other professionals as appropriate. You can bet the schools would have to wait the maximum legal time allowed to set up these meetings because of staffing and funding problems. You can bet "child studies" to help educationally at-risk children would have to be put off even more so than they are now because they require meetings with multiple professionals.

Can you say, "mistreatment of the disabled"? I hope so. Because that is what would happen with a budget that is already too tight, that would be cut further by the BOCS in control.

There are a million other cuts the BOCS could (and would) apply to suit their own needs and political aspirations. If you think what they are doing to the libraries and other services is bad, just let this bill get passed.

We have two Boards in the county because our county voted to do so (source: League of Women Voters, Prince William Area).

We have Boards in this county because two Boards means we have checks and balances. It means we have educators running education, not professional politicians and lawyers with their own interests.

Whether or not we like our School Board or BOCS members is irrelevant.

Whether or not we agree with either or both Boards' decisions is also irrelevant.

What is most important is that Richmond is attempting to eradicate the democratic process, putting all the power in the hands of a single Board, and the ultimate power in the hands of someone like Corey Stewart.

House Joint Resolution 245 removes all checks and balances.

Contact your Delegates and State Senators. Tell them we resent and oppose their attempt to ax our state constitutional right to a democratic state.

Keep Virginia fair and educated.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

At What Cost THEIR Priorities?

According to The Bull Run Observer*, the budget is so tight, the BOCS is requiring all County Department Heads and other Boards to trim costs. For the libraries, this might mean closing one day a week, some including Sundays.

John Stirrup says, it's "incumbent on us to find cuts."

The Library Board of Trustees, of course, doesn't want to resort to such drastic measures, and for good reasons. Dick Murphy, Library Director, is reported as saying, "There's no good time to close the libraries....There's no slack time."

For families on the run and for families with small children looking for an educational outing, this is more than just true. Libraries run on extended schedules and tight budgets to support the diverse needs of the community. Sundays are often the only days working families can bring their children to the library for some uninterrupted quality time. Cutting hours can only mean, once again, cutting education and support of the family, in just one more sector.

Recall that among other services the BOCS intends to cut, PWC already has a waiting list for elderly and disabled services. The police department, fire departments, and other emergency services are already running at deficits from last year's cuts. The BOCS plans to cut even more health and safety programs by banning undocumented immigrants from gang prevention programs, providing substance abuse treatment, and cutting other health and safety programs. Social services for the poor, mentally ill, and the chronically ill operate on bare minimums already, providing hardly enough assistance to keep residents in their homes and off the streets. Schools have taken the hit for many of the BOCS's priorities, most of which target the least fortunate and the middle classes.

Yet, the BOCS today is about to push through use of their discretionary funds to pay for the controversial, expensive and what many say is discriminatory, immigration resolution. The resolution, specific to Prince William County, will cost millions to implement. While today's decision might fund the Criminal Alien Unit, one wonders first, how the rest will be funded, and second, how many more services the BOCS intends to deprive the communities of in their reach to satisfy the few?

Noting the tight budget, *Stirrup claims he and the BOCS will be closely examining every Board's budget to find cuts and trim the 'fat.' Why didn't the BOCS plan for such an economic emergency? Why doesn't PWC have more than just contingency funds to fall back on in a near-recession with a crashing housing market? Stirrup and Stewart plan to apply the panic process to service budgeting and every Board in the County.

Apparently, this process doesn't apply to their own Board, the Board charged with overseeing the well-being of the community. One wonders, "Who oversees the BOCS?"

No matter what we think of immigration policy and the immigration resolution, we must think carefully about how much we are willing to give up to fund what has become the political capstone on the BOCS and the resolution's supporters. Funds dumped into an endless pit of bureaucracy, racial profiling, liability, and ego deprive all of us of programs we need to take better care of our families.

If PWC is truly that concerned about taking on the federal responsibility of immigration control, why not start with increased policing of health hazards such as houses occupied over the occupancy limits, policing of truly criminal activity being run from homes, and environmental issues such as waste disposal?

Why not invest in adult education to teach all immigrants to assimilate and speak English and gain citizenship?

Does the budget truly reflect satisfaction of all County residents? How does the County actually measure satisfaction?

But most importantly, why not invest in services that support strengthening, educating and maintaining the health of all our families?

These are serious questions we need to ask of Stirrup, Stewart, and the BOCS.

It's time to demand answers NOW.

*information courtesy of The Bull Run Observer, "Tight Budget could cause library closing one day a week," by Gretchen L.H. O'brien, Feb. 15, 2008.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Dire Necessity of Student Loan Reform: A True Story


Chuck Schumer, online comment link: http://schumer. SchumerWebsite/ contact/contact. html

Dear Judicial Committee Member Schumer:

The good, recent work of our NYS Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, investigating the student loan business, deserves to to be taken several steps further: I can not urge you too strongly to establish broad and possible-to-meet disability and poverty discharge standards for student loans legislatively.

Furthermore to preserve equal access to due process for people in bad financial straights, I feel there should be a 20 year term standard after which student loans are discharged in bankruptcy. After 30 years in default, student debt should be able to be discharged without even filing for bankruptcy.

Here is an example in the form of an absolutely plausible case study,which demonstrates the injustice of the current discharge standards for student loans: Imagine that a person you know came from below the poverty line and persisted there their entire life, dropping out of college because s/he could neither afford to continue nor was s/he likely to benefit from higher education. Suppose this person has a significant impediment to employment. Imagine that these troubles have contributed to his or her default on a federal student loan.

That person is likely to have had their meager bank account emptied, every low wage garnished at a rate of 15%, been blocked from any form of public employment and entitlement grants to complete education.

Imagine that the person became further disabled by one accident in middle age, and in quick succession another, incurring massive medical debt that s/he could not pay. Then s/he was fired from his or her entry-level job (s/he did not graduate from college- remember?). Bankruptcy was the only option, but, of course, even after 32 years in default and 38 years after the initiation date of the first loan when the student debtor was 17, since 1977 student loans have been excluded from discharge in bankruptcy.

Even though this debt is over 3 times older than the statute of limitations for any other type of debt on the books, it is being collected by a private, for-profit business. The original loan was sold off by the government at a profit to a guarantor 32 years before and then sold and resold, with 20% penalties tacked on each time the loan was flipped between collection agencies unilaterally for the companys' profit.

Imagine how this unfortunate friend feels to be staring down retirement age with the prospect of SSI or SSD being offset 15% for the an ancient student debt receivable which at this point has exploded 400% of the original and realistically will never be paid off.

Picture this person to have married late and badly and that s/he is the single parent of a talented child who luckily has no impediments to learning who just entered college and just signed up for the same amount of loans in one year that the undischarged debtor, now a senior citizen, borrowed in his or her entire college "career".

I am that 57 year old single mother with a disability, poor all mylife- and the above is MY story.

I feel that because of poor judgement when I was a hopeful 17-year-old that I am now a slave to student loans. The worst mistake I ever made was borrowing money to go to college. I never should have attended. Almost 40 years of harassment for such an old debt has ruined my prospects and my life. Sometimes I wish I were dead.

I thought our country was founded partly to provide a refuge from debtors' prison and indentured servitude. The laws as they stand on student debt collection are un-American, in my opinion.

Please initiate change in the law to allow discharge of student loans for disability and poverty and in bankruptcy after a setterm in default. Bring back standard consumer protections back to student loans in my daughter's lifetime!

Yours truly,

Heather Dunbar

22 Langford Street

Van Etten NY