Dallas Nonprofit Organizations Helped And Hurt By New United Way Grant Process

December 1, 2011 by · Comments Off 

BEYOND THE BUBBLE

By Lauren Scheinin
lscheinin@smu.edu

The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has seen a six percent increase in the number of donors and contributions in 2011, allowing them to disperse nearly $25 million to 77 nonprofit service providers.

Despite the increase, however, United Way has either decreased or stopped providing funds for 31 organizations in the Dallas area, resulting in budget cuts, some layoffs and a scramble for new money.

“We have an important program that needs to be strengthened and right now it is a lot weaker than I want it to be,” said Diane Jones, the associate executive director of Citizens

Development Center in Dallas, one of the organizations that lost funding from the United Way. Her center provides employment and training to over 150 individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities

The Citizens Development Center’s budget decreased by $200,000 this year. The organization now serves about 40 percent fewer people in their employment program and had to cut back on some of the benefits they were providing.

United Way officials say they stopped or reduced funding for some organizations in order to focus on education, income and health issues. They changed their grant process to allow any nonprofit to compete for money for programs that focus on the three areas. The organization picked up 19 new beneficiaries this year that provide services in these areas.

“Each year our campaign income has increased slightly, and it may not have increased as much as it would have if we were in good economic times, but we’ve raised more money every year,” Susan Hoff, United Way vice president of community impact said.

For the 2011 year, the United Way received proposals for grants from more than 160 different organizations.

Dallas Challenge Inc., one of the new organizations picked up by the United Way, helps more than 6,700 youth a year stay on the right track by urging them to stay in school and avoid destructive behaviors, drugs and alcohol.

Funded by state and county grants and an annual campaign, Dallas Challenge Inc. has been able to provide a new program, Smart Decisions, because of the $45,000 it received from United Way.

“Because of the new funding from the United Way, we will be able to serve more children than in the past,” Vicki Keifer, the Dallas Challenge Inc. director of development said.

The new program teaches children aged 12 to 17 how to obtain and manage money legally, and the importance of education as it relates to earning money in the future.

Camp Summit, an organization that offers weeklong and weekend camp sessions for adults and children with mental and physical disabilities, lost $130,000 in United Way funding.

Carla Weiland, the CEO of Camp Summit, said her organization has been very careful with their money for the past few years fearing they would not receive money because of the new United Way grant process.

2011 was the first year that United Way allowed any nonprofit to apply for program funding.

“We’ve seen a shift in how we’re being funded, so we really just tried to structure ourselves in a way to not get into any trouble,” Weiland said.

Camp Summit brings in revenue through small program fees, a small amount of designated United Way funding, direct mailing and two annual fundraising events.

Last year, the 64-year-old overnight camp in Dallas added nine weeks of camp services in the fall, which helped bring in money. Weiland hopes the expansion will help them increase funding over the years.

“Even though we were a year-round facility before, with the new program we are offering we are being taken more seriously, and hopefully it will help bring in money from funders and foundations,” Weiland said.

The open application process for 2012 United Way grants ended Nov. 7 and officials report they received applications from about 150 organizations.

Around 200 volunteers will now review the applications and make site visits to determine if the proposal fits within the long-term goal of the United Way.

With funding decisions announced in May, Diane Jones of the Citizens Development Center is remaining hopeful that they will receive funding for 2012.

“We’ve been able to continue our program without them this year, but we are definitely a lot stronger with their support,” she said.

Life In Another World

November 29, 2011 by · Comments Off 

BEYOND THE BUBBLE

By Brooks Igo
bigo@smu.edu

Susannah Crumley says she has been living in a world most people don’t know about. It’s a world that has been scrambling to survive the recent state budget cuts to education.

Crumley, who works for the Plano Independent School District (PISD), has been teaching special education for the past 14 years. She has spent the past seven years providing one-on-one support and serving as the eyes and ears for a student who is deaf-blind.

The budget passed by PISD in June included $23 million in cuts this year and an additional $10 million reduction in 2012. There was about a five percent overall staff reduction, which has been felt across the board, including in special education.

The state allocates $33 million annually to Regional Day School Programs for the Deaf with an additional $5 million coming from federal funds, according to the director of deaf services for the Texas Education Agency (TEA) Brent Pitt. These schools provide special programs for students who are deaf through school districts like Plano’s. The $33 million allocated by the state has been the same amount since 1995, which has posed a problem as the demand for specialized services for the deaf continues to increase.

This leaves special education professionals like Crumley worried about their future and the future of students receiving services from their local Regional Day School Program. When the

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which ensures services to children with disabilities across the nation, passed in 2004, the demand for those services increased.

Crumley says special education teachers are having to do the same job with fewer paraprofessionals, leaving educators feeling overwhelmed and worried about who’s going to be there to help.

“I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in a year,” she said.

For students who are deaf and need specially trained teachers, this poses a real concern.

According to Angela Johnson, the executive director of the Deaf Action Center in Dallas, only 10 percent of mothers and 5 percent of fathers of children who are deaf know sign language.

“Parents have limited resources,” she said. “How can we expect them to be on the same levels as students who aren’t deaf or hard of hearing without specialized teachers?”

Johnson is hopeful to provide more of those resources next year. The United Way cut this year’s funding to the Deaf Action Center from $225,000 to $75,000. The Deaf Action Center, which has offices across the state, has its headquarters in Dallas and serves around 350 students who are deaf or hard of hearing from schools in Dallas, Mesquite, and Plano. While the local Regional Day School Programs are responsible for providing the students with the services they need, the Deaf Action Center offers additional educational support services.

Parents like Jill LaMorge, whose son Christopher is deaf-blind and works with Crumley, rely on the state to continue to provide the specialized services their children receive.

Crumley, who has worked with Christopher since he was in sixth grade, says she fills in the gaps a sighted, hearing person would have. With the help of an AV radio and headphones, she is able to pull out background noise to help him hear better. She also customizes his reading material by enlarging the font to help him see.

In addition to Crumley’s help, Christopher also receives services from a deaf itinerant teacher through Plano’s Regional Day School Program for the Deaf. LaMorge says she hasn’t noticed a change in the services her son has received and said that Plano’s Regional Day School Program for the Deaf has been very consistent throughout the years.

She says the relationships she and Christopher have developed with the staff at Plano’s Regional Day School Program for the Deaf have been fabulous.

“It’s almost like a small family,” she said.

The services her son is able to receive are so valuable to LaMorge and her husband that they have chosen to remain in Plano despite several opportunities to move because of her husband’s job.

That’s why Crumley, who speaks with an easy British accent, is worried about the future of funding for special education. She knows the importance of what she and her colleagues do and the services they provide.

“All teachers do things people aren’t aware of,” she said. “Special education teachers do things other teachers aren’t aware of.”

The Daily Update: Tuesday, March 29

March 29, 2011 by · Comments Off 

President Obama explains why he feels U.S. involvement in Libya is necessary. At least 120 people are dead after an ammunition factory exploded in Yemen, and religious leaders in Washington are going on a hunger strike. Here on the hilltop, candidates for SMU Student Senate will debate tonight at five p.m. All this and more on today’s Daily Update.

The Daily Update: Tuesday, March 29 from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

New Education Budget Cuts Mean Less For Low-Income College Students

March 9, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Kimmy Ryan
kryan@smu.edu

Proposed Budget Cuts from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

President Obama is proposing to cut 100 billion dollars in Pell Grants and other federal education programs.

Pell Grants help more than nine million low-income students each year. With a large increase in recipients in the past few years, the Pell Grant Program faces a $20 billion funding shortfall.

The proposed cuts means fewer students will receive the grants, but those who are eligible will receive the maximum award of $5,500 per school year. Students will no longer be able to receive two grants in one year, both a summer school and school year grant. Savings from these cuts would be $60 billion in ten years.

Graduate and professional school students will also face changes. The graduate student debt burden will increase due to changes in loan subsidies. These cuts will save the federal goverment $29 billion in ten years.

Students will be greatly affected by these budget cuts: college tuitions are rising across the United States and need-based grants are being cut.

The Daily Update: Monday, Feb. 21

February 21, 2011 by · Comments Off 

On today’s Daily Update you’ll learn more about the political tensions in North Africa and how even the United States is facing some uprisings. Also, it was a mixed bag for SMU sports this weekend, see which teams tumbled while other triumphed. All this and more on your Daily Update.

The Daily Update: Monday, Feb. 21 from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

Daily Update: Tuesday, Feb. 8

February 8, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Freezing rain, sleet and snow expected again tonight, two American, teenage boys killed in Juarez, Mexico, and “sexting” could become a class C misdemeanor. All this and more on your Daily Update.

Daily Update: Tuesday, Feb. 8 from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

Note: Daily Update has been cancelled for tomorrow due to weather.