New MA in Urban and Public Affairs Program Combines for a Winning Formula

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This spring the Leo T. McCarthy Center announced that it will be combining two former programs: the Master of Arts in Urban Affairs and the Master of Public Affairs into one robust program, the MA in Urban and Public Affairs (UPA). Professor Rachel Brahinsky, program director of UPA, has been apart of the process since its inception.  In a recent USF News story, Professor Brahinsky speaks to the unique features of the program and the excitement of bringing the best of the two former programs together.  Read the full  story here.

April 15th is the priority date to apply to the USF’s MA in Urban and Public Affairs for fall 2017.  Applications received by this Saturday will receive priority consideration for admission and scholarships.

You can apply to the UPA program online. For questions about the application process, financial aid, or other topics about admission, please contact us at upa@usfca.edu or at 415-422-5683.  We wish you the best as you consider the University of San Francisco in your educational and professional goals!

OpEd: Should feminine hygiene products be subject to sales tax?

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Bianca Rosen, MA Public Affairs ’17

In 40 states and the District of Columbia, women pay for having their periods. Literally. The sales tax in these states does not exempt feminine hygiene products as a necessity of life. Instead, these products are taxed like other luxury or non-essential items. In California, the sales tax exempts candy and Viagra, while taxing tampons, menstrual sponges, and pads. Women pay an extra price for their biological make up, as menstruation products are deemed by lawmakers as unnecessary to the, “…sustenance of life”. Across these 40 states, the sales tax on feminine hygiene products ranges from 2.9 to 7.5 percent according to the Tax Foundation. In California alone, the taxation of feminine hygiene products generates an estimated $20 million with a 7.5 percent sales tax. The Guide to Local Government Finance in California explains that medicine and groceries are included in the state sales tax exemption. In this instance, medicine is defined as, “any substance or preparation intended for use by external or internal application to the human body in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease and which is commonly recognized as a substance or preparation intended for that use”. In other words, menstruation is not considered a medical or health matter, and therefore feminine hygiene products are not a necessity of life.

Of the ten states that do not tax feminine hygiene products, five do not have a statewide sales tax and the other five including Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, have exempted these products from taxation. Across the country, in states like Utah, Michigan, Virginia, Wisconsin and California, there has been a push by activists and lawmakers to exempt feminine hygiene products from the sales tax. Specifically looking at California, the effort for a tax exemption was thwarted in September of 2016 when Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a “No Tax on Tampon Bill” put forth by Representative Cristina Garcia.

According to NPR, some lawmakers argue that, “presenting the issue as an instance of sexism may ignore the nuances and inconsistencies of state tax codes,” citing that an exemption for all women would require a nationwide exemption. Others, like Governor Jerry Brown, worry about the budget implications of such an exemption. When he vetoed the “no tampon tax” bill in 2016, he stated that a combined diaper and tampon tax exemption, “would reduce revenues by about $300 million through 2017-18.” Economist Nicole Kaeding from the Tax Foundation argues that “product-specific” tax exemptions raise the tax rates of other products. Furthermore, it can incite a mad dash by, other interest groups, to get more specific items exempt, creating chaos in state tax codes. If the stability of state tax codes rely on taxing women’s menstruation and preventing our “special interest” in controlling our period, we have a serious problem.

 

Taxing women for a bodily function that they cannot control is a gendered and discriminatory policy. Such a tax on feminine hygiene products also disproportionately affects low income women and girls. When living from paycheck to paycheck, the $7 to $10 dollars a month for tampons or pads, can really add up. On that same note, what do young girls in these low income families do when they get their period and don’t have access to these products? Most likely, they stay home, as some have told California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia. This is not only about women’s health and well being, but equal access to to these products for all women.

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As discussed in our course, Urban Public Finance, a large part of taxation is encouraging and discouraging certain behaviors. We tax tobacco consumption in order to discourage this behavior as well as to force smokers to pay for the damage this habit costs the healthcare system and the environment. This suggests that as a state, we do not value smoking. We think it does damage that needs to be paid for by those who cause it. In California, Viagra is tax exempt, as an Los Angeles Times editorial puts it, “Viagra is…dispensed to improve quality of life.” Not only do we value men’s erections as a necessity, but we validate its importance with a tax exemption. Feminine hygiene products lack such legitimacy. At the same time that opponents argue feminine hygiene products are not a necessity of life, I cannot imagine they would be okay with menstrual fluids staining the benches of public parks. Menstruation is a part of life for women and taking care of our periods is crucial in sustaining the quality and dignity of our lives. Until lawmakers and opponents of a “no tampon tax” have a period and walk around for a day without a tampon, they have no right to make women pay for having theirs.

Activists, organizers, and lawmakers in every state should continue advocating for a “no tampon tax.” Menstruation is also not a disease, as the tax code includes as a stipulation in the definition of medicine. We need to revisit how language in the tax code can be altered to better reflect the realities of women’s every day lives. The change we need on an even larger scale is more women in elected office. When President Obama was asked why he thinks there is no exemption for feminine hygiene products, he answered, “I suspect it’s because men were making the laws.” With more women in office, their understanding of what is and is not necessary in sustaining women’s lives can help to create policies that reflect those necessities.

 

 

Beginning a Literacy Partnership with Dr. William L. Cobb Elementary School

Dr. Mary Murray Autry

Dr. Mary Murray Autry, Associate Director
Engage San Francisco Literacy Programs

 

When first visiting Dr. William L. Cobb Elementary School (Cobb) in October 2016, with hopes of beginning a literacy partnership, I vividly remember entering the office area and being pleasantly surprised to see a wall covered with banners. These were not just any banners but banners representing various universities throughout the United States and graduates from this very elementary school. I had no trouble identifying the principal’s office door that had been labeled with the name of his alma mater. The banners clearly sent a message to me about the mission of the school and the value of education. Because I really did not know what to expect from this meeting, I began with, “The University of San Francisco, through its Engage San Francisco initiative within the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good would like to partner with you in creating a literacy program.”

We have made significant strides since our initial meeting. The literacy program began as a pilot with a shared vision to improve reading proficiency and support K-5 students to reach grade-level proficiency. We also agreed to place university students as volunteers in a first-second grade combination class and a third-fourth grade combination classroom to provide relevant literacy experiences for classroom students.

One freshman and four juniors comprise the pilot of cohorts and began as interns working with elementary students and our community partners in spring 2017. These interns are undergraduate candidates in the Dual Degree in Teacher Preparation Program at the University of San Francisco. Under the guidance of Engage San Francisco staff, the school’s literacy coach, and classroom teachers, interns work six to twelve hours a week to improve K-5 literacy proficiency while fostering competent communication while speaking, reading, writing, and listening. Interns, required to complete the entire semester must consistently demonstrate the same professional and ethical behaviors expected of teachers, and are enrolled in a 1-unit Directed Study course. The course, Literacy, Environments, and Assessments, emphasizes the basic history of the community, literacy instruction, social emotional development, trauma informed approaches, and effective use of the learning environment.

Several questions guide the development of the literacy program. These include: What would this literacy program look like? How do we define literacy? What are the literacy goals of the school? What is best practice for TK-5 students? What are worthy and reasonable goals for university interns? How do we involve teachers? How do we build a relationship of trust with the school in light of the fact that a previous partnership folded? From these inquiries, these key questions emerged:

  1. How do we create a literacy program for traditionally disenfranchised K-5 students who consistently perform lower than their white counterparts in spite of laws and policies designed to support their academic achievement?
  2. How do we create a literacy program for teacher candidates, that models effective teaching, embraces diversity, addresses biases, and focuses on community?
  3. How do we move the conversation from “volunteers” in the classroom to members of the school community?

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The initial launch of the pilot has been far from perfect, but we have learned as we face challenges, and we make changes and restate our commitment to moving from the pilot stage to executing the literacy program in the fall of the 2017-2018 academic year. Feedback from school administrators has led to discussions on expanding the program and including two prekindergarten classrooms. Initial findings thus far suggest that although only 20 percent of interns had any involvement with the school community prior to placement, 100 percent see themselves committed to continuing the internship during the 2017-2018 academic year. We have also learned that the school’s literacy needs were broader than the original plan. Instead of teaching in only two classrooms, interns work in classes across the grade span and have begun the process of seeing themselves as more than volunteers in the school but actually members of a community.

Learn more about Engage San Francisco’s literacy programs and other community partnerships by contacting Karin Cotterman, Director of Engage San Francisco <kmcotterman@usfca.edu>

Traveling with the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars to NYC

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Janelle Nunez (’19) is a participant of the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars cohort that went to New York this January.  Here she shares her reflections on this transformative trip

 

During the University of San Francisco’s winter intercession, the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars (EMDS) got the incredible opportunity to spend a week in New York. Prior to their travel, this living-learning community spent a semester exploring issues of diversity, inequality, and social justice through the lens of hip-hop. The four elements of hip-hop (MCing, DJing, B-boy/B-girling, and graffiti writing) were examined as well as the fundamental relationship to the network of youth subcultures. From the origins of hip-hop music as it began in the Bronx neighborhoods to the multi-billion dollar business that it is today, the EMDS students analyzed this incredible journey as a means to better understand their conception of “resistance”and “social justice” that has engulfed our nation’s history. Now that you have a better understanding of who EMDS is, let me introduce myself and take you to New York on this recent adventure.

My name is Janelle Nunez and I am currently a sophomore at USF. I am a History major, Chemistry minor, and pre-med. Like many of my fellow cohort members, I have a passion for social change and have a love for hip-hop. What makes the EMDS experience so unique amongst many examples, is that all us of come from various walks of life. Our cohort has members from Southern California, the Bay Area, Chicago, and Latin America, each of us with diverse majors as well. You take all that diversity and put them together and it makes for well rounded perspectives that were applied to our New York excursion. The New York trip was an amazing experience and I know the members from my cohort who were able to take part in this will agree. However, there were three events that my cohort and I were able to participate in that exceeded all of our expectations, and that was the Art as a Weapon conference, the visit to the BOOM!Health center, and the discussion at the Apollo Theater, “Where do we go from here?” Let’s explore these experiences.

Art as a Weapon

On one of of our last days of the trip we attended Art as a Weapon, an all day conference that discussed a variety of topics on the use of art as a form of activism and healing. The conference agenda included a morning keynote address, two workshop sessions and a closing panel. One of the workshops I attended was called “Happened Yesterday, Happening Tomorrow.” This session discussed the Black Lives Matter movement, and looked at the historical context of police brutality, and racial profiling. In this small intimate setting, our groups conversed about how artists have responded to injustice with the use of poetry and performance. We were put into small groups and together made a collaborative art piece of poetry that we later shared with the larger group. What struck me most from this experience, was the realization that historically, police brutality against people of color has been an ongoing battle. From the first graphic images of Emmit Till to the case of Trayvon Martin, history doesn’t necessarily repeat itself but it sure does rhyme.

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(New York City) We are Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars

BOOM Health 

Our visit to BOOM!Health in the south side of the Bronx, introduced us to a full range of prevention. This one stop shop, provides syringe access, health coordination, housing, behavioral health, legal and advocacy services to over 8,000 communities in New York. After having one-on-one conversations with their employees, it was inspiring to see their hard work and dedication even when they left the building. The center actively works to fight the viral HIV and hepatitis illnesses that can severely harm those who are active drug users or at risk for HIV/AIDS. While we were there, my cohort and I were also trained in opioid overdose prevention. It was beautiful to see how the organization prioritized the dignity of its everyday members who receive services and made their facility a comfortable place to call home. BOOM!Health is a family that works for its communities’ unique needs.

Apollo Theater: Where do We go from Here?

Lastly, our time spent at the Apollo Theater during M.L.K. weekend discussing “Where do we go from here?” celebrated the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King. Here EMDS students were able to engage in dialogue about inclusion and what that means for our future. The Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi and Shaun King, a social justice journalist, were a part of a panel that we got to hear from. It was an empowering afternoon with poetry renditions with a theme was about igniting hope. The speakers reminded me that this country is more than our president. It is about us—the people that create power and movement for change.

Thank you for joining me in this experience of social change.

Interested in becoming an Esther Madriz Diversity Scholar? Applications for next year’s 2017-18 EMDS cohort are due on February 28, 2017. Apply here

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Contributing from D.C. and Common Sense Media

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Ayah Mouhktar (’18)
USF in D.C. Fellow

 

Ayah Mouhktar is one of our not-so-secret weapons in D.C.  As a Student Communications Assistant for the McCarthy Center, she took on the mission of serving the Winter semester as a participant in the USF in D.C. Fellows program. We are thrilled to report that she is applying her skills in an internship at the national office of San Francisco based, Common Sense Media, a non-profit education and advocacy  organization promoting safe technology and media for children.

Ayah has wasted no time in jumping back into her blogging. She shared her first blog post focusing  on a policy campaign called the FAMILY Act, 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. Click here to read.

Ayah is a Newmark Scholar and recipient of the Betty L. Blakley Scholarship. Read her earlier blog post at http://bit.ly/2lktCut. Meet our other USF in D.C. Fellows at http://bit.ly/2l8Vxet

The Worst that Could Happen with Betsy DeVos

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David Donahue, Director and Professor, Urban Education Reform

A recent article by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post was headlined “What’s the worst that could happen with Betsy DeVos as education secretary?” Only in a Trump administration where knowledge and expertise are not considered assets would DeVos be nominated for secretary of education. DeVos has neither attended public schools nor worked in them. She has not sent her children to public schools and she has no credentials or degrees in education. She does head a political action committee “All Children Matter” that helps politicians supporting privatization.

In the Washington Post article, Strauss lays out two scenarios under DeVos, both developed by Aaron Pallas, a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. One of the scenarios has DeVos leading the federal government in replacing Title I support to poor schools with $20 billion in funding for vouchers enabling families to send children to private, less regulated, for-profit schools that track success less by the academic achievement of their students and more by their ability to attract students – and the dollars attached to them – in a marketplace.

Unfortunately, research on vouchers offers no evidence of their effectiveness. The achievement of children attending private schools on vouchers is no better than if they were in public schools, and the public schools with fewer dollars have even more difficulty educating the children left behind.

Market based reforms of education treat schools like businesses, students like clients. Education does indeed provide wonderful individual benefits, and not just preparation for a good paying job, but — one hopes — discovery of lifelong intellectual pursuits and passions. In the United States, public schools also serve the common good, something that seems lost on market based reformers like voucher proponents. Some families with children in private school support vouchers with the argument that they should not be “doubly burdened” paying for their own children’s education and supporting public education with their tax dollars as well. A good society is not just the sum of everyone looking out for himself or herself, however. Even enlightened self-interest should remind those without children in public schools that their health depends on educated nurses, their safety on educated brake mechanics, the future of our democracy on an electorate able to distinguish fake news from journalism.

Defense of the common good will require action on multiple fronts in the next four years. Public schools are key to that common good. They are worth fighting for, they are worth funding, and they are worth keeping out of the hands of privateers, like Betsey DeVos.

Betsy DeVos’ nomination was originally scheduled to be reviewed by the Senate Committee last Wednesday morning. DeVos’ hearing has been rescheduled for Tuesday, January 17 at 5:00pm.