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PRRAC Update September 29, 2011

Welcome to the PRRAC Update! Every other Thursday, PRRAC sends out a brief digest of news, recent publications, and other points of interest related to our work in housing, education, and health. We welcome feedback and encourage you to forward to others. To join the PRRAC email list, click here.

Foreclosed properties and access to opportunity

Last week, we joined with other civil rights and housing advocacy groups to urge the federal government to help recycle its vast stock of "real estate owned" (REO) foreclosed property in a way that opens up new rental housing opportunities for low income families. Our letter urged elimination of barriers and new incentives for scattered-site re-use for thousands of foreclosed properties in high performing school districts across the country. The letter was in response to a "Request for Information" by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant "government sponsored enterprises" now in federal receivership.

Housing and School Integration

The National Coalition on School Diversity has released the latest in its "Research Brief" series, The Reciprocal Relationship Between Housing and School Integration by Roslyn Arlin Mickelson. Professor Mickelson's research report is excerpted from the forthcoming report, Finding Common Ground: Coordinating Housing and Education Policy to Promote Integration, to be published soon by PRRAC and the National Coalition on School Diversity.

Obama Administration Announces New Waiver Plan

In the absence of Congressional action to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary School Act (ESEA, formerly known as "No Child Left Behind"), the Obama Administration announced last week that it would provide qualified states with "waivers" of certain provisions of the ESEA. These waivers would exempt states and districts from NCLB's accountability provisions designed to improve low-performing schools and address achievement gaps for identified "subgroups." These provisions were long considered to be the core of NCLB but had become unpopular with many school districts. States will have to comply with certain conditions in order to receive the waivers - including desiginating the states's lowest performing schools for particular reforms. We worked with the Leadership Conference Education Task Force to craft a civil rights position on the waiver process (see the coalition's Sept. 15 letter), and were pleased to see several important safeguards included in the Administration proposal.

The new Poverty & Race: special issue on "Implicit Bias" theory

A provocative discussion of the pros and cons of an emerging doctrine in anti-discrimination law from Ralph Banks, Richard Ford, john powell, Rachel Godsil, Eva Paterson, Andrew Grant-Thomas, and Olati Johnson. See the new issue.

Other news and resources

Transportation or housing for homeless students? A new report from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, Beds Not Buses: Housing vs. Transportation for Homeless Students, shows that providing affordable housing to homeless families is more cost-effective than providing federally mandated transportation for homeless students.

In case you were wondering: A new study from the Furman Center should help to put a persistent urban myth to rest: Memphis Murder Mystery Revisited: Do Housing Vouchers Cause Crime? examines neighborhood crime and voucher utilization data from 10 large cities and finds that voucher holders do not increase neighborhood crime.

Teacher professional development: Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching was chosen by Teaching Tolerance magazine as one of the best professional development resources for teachers wishing to introduce students to a more accurate portrayal of the Civil Rights Movement. PTMBCRT (published by Teaching for Change and PRRAC) was cited as one of the top 20 titles from the last two decades. Ironically, this honor comes at a time of declining awareness of civil rights history among American youth, according to a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (see this week's N.Y. Times article on the SPLC report)

"Can We Achieve Diversity and Stability in Gentrifying Neighborhoods?"

A panel discussion featuring Sheryll Cashin, Betsy Julian, Ingrid Ellen, and Robert Damewood. At the Housing Justice Network Conference, Monday, October 17, 2011 at 2:00 pm, as part of the annual Housing Justice Network Conference. Washington Court Hotel, 525 New Jersey Avenue NW, Washington, DC. There is no charge to attend this panel discussion, as long as you RSVP to PRRAC. If you'd like to attend other portions of this excellent two-day conference (sponsored by the National Housing Law Project), you are welcome to register if you are a legal services lawyer, researcher, activist, affordable housing advocate or supporter - go to nhlp.org.

Philip Tegeler
Saba Bireda
Poverty & Race Research Action Council
Washington, DC

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