ISAAC gets support for Youth PROMISE Act, Equal Opportunity K-12 Funding, Very Early Childhood Focus, and Sunday Buses

All 450 people at the ISAAC Public Meeting on 10/9/14, rose to their feet in an instant when middle school student and Freedom School Scholar Jumica Golliday recited the poem he wrote and said, “Stand up and say, ‘No more violence!’ ” Jumica led the ISAAC presentation on the need for the Youth PROMISE Act, or Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support and Education Act. It is a bi-partisan bill in Congress that would fund evidence-based, locally controlled programs for youth. Sheriff Rick Fuller spoke in support, Chief Jeff Hadley and Senator Debbie Stabenow both sent statements of support, and candidate for US Congress Paul Clements sent a representative to speak in support.

Pastor Rick Tyson spoke of raising foster children for 32 years! “One boy who came to me when he was 11, rode on the bus for severely handicapped students. With extra help from teachers, he was out of special ed and in regular classes by the end of the second year, and he went on to graduate high school. Another young man who had been severely abused came to me in fifth grade and could not read. With extra help he got up to speed. This would not have been possible if the funding had not been there to support their needs.” ISAAC called for public officials to invest more in K-12 Education, especially in districts with high numbers of children who have special needs, are learning to speak English, or live in poverty. Those who answered “Yes!” to our question, “Will you commit to advocating for and supporting legislation that matches funding to the needs of the actual children served?” were State House candidates Jon Hoadley & Mike Perrin (both 60th District), John Fisher (61st), Bill Farmer (63rd), and Michael Seals speaking for State Senate candidate Sean McCann.

A video clip from the new documentary “Are we crazy about our kids?” showed that the “achievement gap” begins long before kindergarten–at birth or before. WMU Early Childhood faculty member Regena Nelson, physician Nick Andreadis who coordinates the WMU Health Equity grant, Alyssa Stewart from the United Way of the Battle Creek & Kalamazoo Region, and Great Start Collaborative Coordinator Jacque Eatmon all encouraged a community-wide focus on giving all children in our county a strong start from birth. ISAAC asked all County Dept. of Health and Community Services leaders and all the County Commission candidates present, “Do you commit to attend the special viewing of the video “Are we crazy about our kids?” at Mt. Zion Baptist Church on November 13 at 7:00 pm, and participate in the community conversation about improving the social and health conditions for very young children?”

Most amusing of the evening was the children holding posters of everything open on Sundays in Kalamazoo County–places of worship, shopping, restaurants, theaters, festivals, hospitals–and the young man playing the Metro Transit bus “driving” by them on Monday through Saturday, but not on Sunday. All the children are connected with Disability Network Southwest Michigan. In response, Linda Teeter, chair of the Kalamazoo County Transportation Authority and member of the new Central County Transportation Authority, pledged to research and develop opportunities for expanding public transportation to include Sundays. All 450 people present stood in support of helping to expand public transit by participating in forums such as the Public Transportation Community Focus Group on November 6, 1:00-2:30 at the Metro Transit office on N. Rose St at Ransom.

Pastor Christopher Moore gave a warm welcome from Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and performances by Zumba Dancers, Freedom School Scholars, the Grace Covenant Ministries Worship Leaders, and the Band from Sunnyside United Methodist Church all added to the inspiration, energy and power of the evening. Congratulations and huge thanks to everyone involved, for this progress toward the Youth PROMISE Act, K-12 equal opportunity funding, focus on very young children, and Sunday buses.

Photos of the ISAAC Public Meeting 10/9/14, by Amy Peterson & Rick Johnson

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