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In today’s news . . .

We have excerpts and links below about the following:

  • A story about the possibility of billions more in federal funds for early childhood education. 
  • A blog post written by self-described weatherization fanatic and U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Cho
  • A column about a state effort in Colorado to find a middle ground between leaders who believe in assisting the poor and others who want the poor to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.    
  • A story about Rep. Joe Lieberman’s vow to end poverty (OK, this never happened, but why not read about it anyway?).

From My Fox in Memphis, Tenn., Tennessee looks forward to the prospect of Congress passing billions in early education funds.

While local law enforcement agencies are stuck with the responsibility and the higher costs of arranging for rehabilitation programs for youth who’ve already crossed over to criminal activities, the group Fight Crime/Invest in Kids has been at work for twelve years trying to save the next generation of underprivileged kids from even thinking about embracing a criminal career. They’re optimistic the state is in position to take advantage of President Obama’s aggressive efforts in Congress to reward states with established programs that identify and give at-risk kids a safe and healthy start in life from birth to Pre-K education.

State Director Mark Rogers says “That would provide a billion dollars a year to the states for ten years for high quality early learning. It’s called the Early Learning Challenge Fund… If it passes, that billion dollars isn’t going to go proportionately. It’s going to go to states based on competitive proposals.”

Among the programs the state already has in place are thriving successes in early education through Headstart and Pre-K areas, with a national study citing Tennessee as meeting nine of the ten standards for high quality Pre-K.

Rogers says of the success, “It’s being able to be in small groups, like 20 or less, and identifying problems that an individual child may have which are not serious problems. But, if you wait until the child is in the first, second or third grade then suddenly it’s a big problem.”

Rogers says his organization is taking its message to another audience, forming a new group called Shepherding the Next Generation.

Rogers explains, “The idea is have pastors to do what we have law enforcement successfully doing now which is to make the case to policy-makers, to legislators, to administrators, that these are the things we need to do and here’s what the evidence shows works best.”

Meanwhile, Tennessee is among those awaiting a final congressional decision that could go a long way toward making the next generation the last of the lost.

Rogers concludes, “Show us what you want to do and the best stuff gets the money. Tennessee is so well placed to clean up on this.”

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Cho blogs about how he is an “energy efficiency nut” who is trying to cut energy use by 50 percent in his own home. He also gives a run down of this administration’s efforts to help people save money by saving energy:

We are making a major down payment on this effort through the President’s economic recovery plan.

First, the Recovery Act expanded tax credits for energy efficiency upgrades to your home. If you purchase and install certain energy-efficient windows, insulation, doors, roofs, or heating and cooling equipment, you can receive a tax credit for 30% of the cost, up to $1,500. For example, if insulating your attic costs around $1,600, you’ll receive a $480 tax credit, and you could save up to $200 on your utility bill each year.

Second, we are launching an innovative new effort called “Retrofit Ramp Up” that will simplify and reduce the cost of home retrofits by funding pioneering programs that reach whole neighborhoods and towns. If we can energy audit and retrofit a reasonable fraction of the homes in any given residential block, the cost will be greatly reduced. Programs such as these will decrease barriers to saving money: inconvenience, inertia, and inadequate information. We want to make home energy efficiency upgrades irresistible and a social norm for homeowners.

This effort could offer homeowners innovative ways to finance the upfront investments they can’t afford on their own. For example, homeowners might receive a loan for an energy improvement and pay back the principal and interest over time via an assessment on their property tax bill. The homeowners might pay an extra $400 per year on their property tax bill but save $500 a year on their utility bill. Since the financing would be attached to the property tax bill, both the savings and the loan payments stay with the house if the owners decide to sell.

Finally, for low-income families who are hit hardest by high utility bills, the Recovery Act provides $5 billion for home weatherization. This is the largest single investment in home energy efficiency in U.S history. This program is creating jobs now, putting money back in the pockets of hardworking Americans, reducing our environmental footprint, and making these homes more livable. However, some people – including me – have been frustrated that the program started off more slowly than we’d hoped.

Poverty Task Force a Study in Determination, from DenverPost.com:

“I want to reframe this discussion. Like so many issues in this country, we’re polarized on this. You have ‘expand government programs’ versus ‘people have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.’ Someplace in there is an intersection between the two approaches. I think we can find it.”

 – Colorado Rep. Rep. John Kefalas

How did that go, Rep. Kefalas?

“I’m not about to say we’re all holding hands and dancing around in a circle,” Kefalas says. But, “I do think we were able to get past some of the politics. I think we were all able to see it’s not a black and white issue. It’s as complex an issue as we’re going to face. It’s not over, believe me. We have a lot of work ahead.”

And, finally, the spoof news website Unconfirmed Sources is “reporting” that health care reform bill opponent Joe Lieberman has vowed to eliminate poverty:  

“We must eliminate poor people!” Lieberman said. “Just yesterday I was in a hospital in Washington, DC that was filled to the brim with poor and elderly people. Some of them had cancer. Others had heart disease, poor circulation, kidney trouble, liver disease or had been in some kind of accident. Treatments for these things are very expensive! I suggest we put these people back on the street where they belong to free up medical resources for the wealthy and well-insured who can afford these services”.

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