GEAR UP Advocates For Families at Becerra Town Hall

A town hall meeting hosted by Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) at the New World Open Academy in Koreatown was attended by hundreds of constituents on Tuesday evening, most of whom had questions about the role he would play on a 12-member deficit reduction committee and how he would protect key programs.

Becerra, whose district includes the Los Angeles neighborhoods of East Hollywood, Mount Washington, Highland Park, Echo Park and Eagle Rock, is charged with helping to devise a plan to reduce the nation’s deficit by $1.5 trillion in the next 10 years. These reductions include all discretionary spending programs that could include GEAR UP.

Many constituents asked Becerra to affirm his support of programs such as GEAR UP and TRIO, Medicare and Social Security, while others asked that he not support any plan that would raise taxes.

The town hall was attended by constituents in Becerra’s district who also work for the students and families of GEAR UP programs. The GEAR UP supporters asked the congressman to continue to advocate for programs, such as GEAR UP, that he has always supported. Becerra’s reply was “my voting record speaks for itself.”

For his part, Becerra said he would hold true to his convictions by attempting to protect what he considered invaluable social programs. However, he said in order for compromise to be made, he had to put everything on the table.

“I need to be able to say to [Republicans] that [Social Security] is there on the table. But, before we leave it on the table to find savings, they’re going to need to prove to me why it deserves to be cut,” Becerra said. “I believe I can win that argument.”

Speak Up for GEAR UP: Sign the Petition

Just before leaving for their August recess, members of Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011. While the full implications of the Act are not yet clear, one thing is crystal clear: GEAR UP is at risk.

When Congress re-convenes in early September to pick up their budget and appropriations work, they’ll be tasked with cutting billions of dollars from the federal budget. GEAR UP and other college access programs may well be on the chopping block.

Our members of Congress and the Obama administration need to hear from each and every American concerned about college access and committed to efficient, effective, locally-driven, and family-focused programs like GEAR UP. Now is the time to make our voices heard: protect the future by protecting funding for GEAR UP and other college access programs.

Here’s where you come in. I need you to act TODAY.

Please click here to sign the petition asking the President to stand up for college access during the upcoming appropriations battles.

Signing the petition adds your voice to the GEAR UP chorus, and is a first step down the road to protecting this critical program.

Action Alert: Contact Washington Week

Contact the House and Senate Leadership, YOUR Members of Congress and the White House every day through August 2, and demand they protect GEAR UP.

The debt ceiling debate rages on in Washington, DC. Negotiations between the White House and Congress collapsed last week. Now, both the House and Senate leadership are pursuing two separate plans to raise the debt ceiling before August 2, when America’s borrowing authority reaches its legal limit, resulting in default.

As you can see, things are evolving very rapidly as time runs out and only three things are certain:

  1. Both Republicans and Democrats are aware of the need to raise the debt ceiling to avoid default, but there’s no agreement on how to do this;
  2. Both the House and Senate plans include $1.2 trillion in cuts to discretionary spending over the next 10 years (approx. 12 billion a year);
  3. You need to stand up for the principle that low-income people should be protected in whatever deal is cut.

You need to make sure your voice heard every day this week leading up to August 2 and demand that GEAR UP and other college access programs be safeguarded in the deal-making process.

Here’s what you can do now:

  1. Recruit 5 persons to reach out to the House of Representatives, Senate and White House (GEAR UP students, GEAR UP parents, GEAR UP teachers, GEAR UP partners, colleagues, friends and family).
  2. Contact the following offices:
  3. Follow-up with your group, ask them to continue the “chain” by recruiting 5 more people and get the word out!

PLEASE NOTE: Capitol Hill switchboards and websites have been overloaded over the past few days, keep insisting until you get through because GEAR UP must make its stand for college access, NOW!
The Message

“[ELECTED OFFICIAL NAME], the American people need you to protect the programs and services our low-income, minority and disadvantaged students depend on to enroll in and succeed in college. I urge you to defend GEAR UP in the debt-ceiling and deficit-reduction negotiations, because only an educated workforce can help us secure a prosperous economic future for our country.”

Thank you very much for your hard work and your support in responding to this call to action. It is very important that you act NOW for the duration of this process. Not doing so will have dire consequences for GEAR UP, college access and all of education for many years to come!

Action Alert: Call Congress and Save GEAR UP

(Click on call script above to enlarge and download.)

As you know, the environment in Washington is quite heated with the Administration and Congress negotiating how to pare down the federal deficit. A number of rumors are swirling around town and the only thing that is certain is that all non-security programs – including GEAR UP -are at risk of being severely reduced or cut altogether. In the coming days the GEAR UP community is organizing advocacy measures directed at the House of Reps, Senate, and the White House. Here is the schedule:

  • Wednesday, July 13 – U.S. House of Representatives
  • Thursday, July 14 – U.S. Senate
  • Tuesday, July 19 – White House

Here is how:

  1. Search who your legislators are here.
  2. Call your House Representative via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
  3. Deliver the message (from script above): “Tell [LEGISLATOR NAME] not to cut GEAR UP in FY 2012!”
  4. Find five other people to do the same!

Here is how to call the White House:

  • Call the White House @ (202) 456-1111 and let President Obama know he “MUST protect TRIO and GEAR UP in the debt ceiling and FY12 negotiations.  There is no college success, without college access.” Also, e-mail (click) the President and repeat your messsage!

    PLEASE NOTE: White House switchboard shuts down @ 5:00 PM (ET) and the lines are often busy. Please call early and insist until you deliver your message!

We know our programs work. We know they make a tremendous difference in the lives of all of the students we touch. Many on Capitol Hill know this as well, but the nature of the current debate is so serious that we cannot sit idly by in hopes of being spared. Now is the time to act!

10% of California Schools are in Deep Trouble

A recently released report by State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson shows 13 school districts have “negative” certifications.  That means they may not be able to cover their bills through the end of next year.

Nearly 2 million students—roughly 30 percent of pupils in California—now attend school in a district facing serious financial jeopardy, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced.

“The emergency confronting California’s schools is widening and deepening,” Torlakson said. “As disturbing as these numbers are, unless the Legislature moves to place the Governor’s tax extension plan on the ballot, they are just the tip of the financial iceberg facing school districts up and down the state.”

Torlakson’s findings came as he released the results of the first semiannual Interim Status Report that represents budget certifications for California local educational agencies (LEAs) through the end of October 2010. The reports reflect a certification of whether an LEA is able to meet its financial obligations.

The number of LEAs on the negative certification list rose to 13 from 12 last year at this time. The number of LEAs on the qualified certification list dipped slightly to 97 from 114 last year at this time.

“Schools face the daunting challenge of up to $4.5 billion in additional cuts if tax extensions are not placed on the ballot by the Legislature and approved by voters in June, an additional cut of 10 percent.” added Torlakson. “This would be devastating to an education system that has already sustained $18 billion in state funding cuts over the last three years – a loss of one-third of the annual budget for schools.”

With an already decimated education budget in California, massive teacher reductions, the loss revenue from these tax extensions could be devastating. Now more than ever, support for GEAR UP programs will continue to be the lever of change throughout school districts in California.