and dance: Students perform at Wednesday's advocacy day.
Out of Time
an unexpected loss of funding, after-school programs ask for
a small share of the $575 million that can be added to the
(Wednesday), hundreds of students, parents, educators, and
after-school program advocates from across the state converged
at the Capitol as part of an annual after-school advocacy
day. This year’s convention came with additional urgency,
however, as more than 200 after-school programs across the
state soon may be forced to either significantly scale back
services or shut down entirely due to a decision by the state
Education Department not to release any federal money to after-school
programs whose funding is up for renewal this year.
a time when the state is trying to really improve student
achievement and achieve educational excellence, it’s a particularly
huge problem to be shutting down programs that are having
a really strong impact on kids’ success in school,” said Karen
Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action of New York
and chairwoman of the Coalition for After-School Funding.
CASF is one of several organizations lobbying the Legislature
and governor to save the 207 affected programs by adding $30
million to the state budget.
Locally, a program enabled by a partnership between the Albany
School District and Capital District YMCA stands to lose the
$543,000 it uses to operate extended-day programs in five
of the city’s elementary schools. In total, the five sites
serve 320 students and employ 60 staff members.
know there’s money out there,” said Lynn Siebert, chair of
the Albany YMCA board of managers and school-age education
coordinator at the Capital District Childcare Council. Gov.
Eliot Spitzer and the Legislature agree there is about $575
million in additional money that could be added to the originally
proposed state budget. “We’re just asking for $30 million
[of that] to keep 34,000 children off the streets, not just
our 320, but 34,000 across the state of New York.”
The Assembly and Senate had their first opportunity to add
to Gov. Spitzer’s proposed state budget earlier this week,
when they passed their individual budget bills. Neither house
responded to the pleas of after-school advocates.
this is not resonating with our legislators at this point,
and our governor, is a little perplexing to me,” Seibert said.
The state Education Department’s decision affects after-school
programs funded through the federal 21st Century Community
Learning Center grants, a No Child Left Behind program. The
federal money is distributed to the Education Department,
which, in turn, distributes five-year grants through a competitive
process. The first funding round was offered in 2002, with
additional rounds beginning during the following two years.
The first round of funding expires in June, but officials
from the Education Department decided there isn’t enough CCLC
money to allow for new or renewal applications.
The problem isn’t just that the state isn’t financially supporting
the expansion of after-school programs, Scharff said, but
also the programs that would lose funding are the most established
programs that have had made the largest investments in terms
of time and resources.
believe these are very worthwhile programs, and we would like
to see them continue uninterrupted,” said Jonathan Burman,
a spokesman for the state Education Department. However, he
explained that federal funding grants have been “severely
cut back,” so much as to necessitate a suspension of the competitive
process until next year.
According to Siebert, that decision came abruptly and without
warning to the programs that rely on these funds. As recently
as the fall and winter, she said, the Education Department
was indicating that information about the new round of competitive
funding would become available in the near future.
all of a sudden, on a Friday, we got the e-mail,” Siebert
said. “We’ve been in crisis mode ever since.”
The $30 million figure would support the continuation of all
207 programs for one more year until the state education department,
Legislature, and governor can “look forward and think about
how we’re going to deal with after-school funding long-term,”
If an alternative source of funding cannot be secured, the
most obvious effect will be on the 34,000 students who currently
attend CCLC-funded after-school programs, Siebert acknowledged,
but it’s far from the only impact.
aren’t communities that can necessarily sustain these programs
through fee-base,” Siebert said of Albany’s five program centers.
“We have plenty of fee-base programs that are doing well and
are vibrant and they are in communities that can sustain them.
These five communities cannot.”
The Albany School District and YMCA have spent five years
investing in the professional development of people who staff
the extended-day programs, Seibert said, and they may suddenly
have to do away with 60 employees.
be honest with you, in the Capital District, in our YMCA,
we have folks now who are already putting in their notice,”
Seibert said. “They’re not waiting. They can’t wait until
June. We are already beginning to see staff leaving us, which
is not good for the children. They’ve built relationships
with these staff, not only this program year, but for years
because some of the staff has been with these programs for
Make a Deal
about thinking outside the box: In an attempt
to boost organ and tissue donation, South Carolina
state Sen. Ralph Anderson is sponsoring legislation
that would give inmates a “get out of jail early”
card in exchange for bone marrow or one of their
kidneys. The volunteer program would allow prisoners
to cut their sentence by as much as 180 days.
The incentive policy would be the only one of
its kind in this country, and begs questions of
legality, based on a federal law that prohibits
giving organ donors “valuable consideration.”
La Vida Loco
Foreign Ministry announced this week that it had
recalled its ambassador to El Salvador. The reason?
Two weeks ago, police found the ambassador, Tsuriel
Raphael, naked, drunk, and wrapped in bondage
gear in front of his home. The police reported
that they had to remove the ball gag from Raphael’s
mouth in order to identify him. In announcing
the replacement of Rapheal, the Israeli ministry
referred to his behavior as “unbecoming of a diplomat.”
the largest military contractor in Iraq, announced
Sunday that it will move its corporate headquarters
from Texas to Dubai. The company, which was led
by Vice President Dick Cheney from 1995 to 2000,
currently holds a five-year, $16 billion contract
with the military. It is estimated that the move
to this tiny, West-friendly member of the United
Arab Emirates will save the company hundred of
millions of dollars in taxes. Sen. Hillary Clinton
(D-N.Y.) has voiced suspicion over the move, noting
that Halliburton currently is being investigated
for questionable business practices and has been
accused of overbilling on government contracts.
to the Machine
past week, the Albany County Legislature voted
to fill the seat left vacant by recently deceased
Republican legislator Ann Comella. Comella’s husband,
Joe, had requested that he be allowed to serve
out her term as representative for the 25th District,
but the Democratic majority apparently had other
plans. Democrat Ryan Horstmyer, a 24-year-old
student at Albany Law School—and an intern to
Supreme Court Justice Eugene Devine—was confirmed
as Comella’s replacement by a 27-9 vote.
their support: Advocates for Hossain and Aref gather
outside the U.S. Courthouse
Time to Leave
“occupy” lawmakers’ offices to demand that their elected representatives
get America out of Iraq
Peace activist and Vietnam veteran Elliot Adams knew before
arriving at the Albany office of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton
(D-N.Y.) March 12 that his visit likely would end with his
arrest, or at least some sort of run-in with the law. And
despite that, Adams said that he and the 15 other local activists
engaged in a very pleasant, albeit disappointing, meeting
with Clinton’s staff. According to activist Bob Alft, the
meeting was cordial even though they were informed that the
senator would not take the action they had requested and vote
against funding for the Iraq War. After the meeting, instead
of leaving the Leo O’Brien federal building, four of the activists,
including Adams, refused to vacate the premises and read the
names of Americans and Iraqis who have been killed during
the war that is now approaching its fourth anniversary.
The four protesters who were ticketed took their action as
part of the Occupation Project, a campaign sponsored by Voices
for Creative Non-Violence. VCNV was founded by Kathy Kelly,
a nationally recognized activist and cofounder of the defunct
peace group Voices From the Wilderness. Protests in lawmakers’
offices resulting in the arrests or ticketing of protesters
have been taking place all over the country, thanks to the
efforts of VCNV, who want to keep the pressure on officials
to end the Iraq war. Protesters also have performed “occupations”
in the offices of Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain.
Kelly said that it is important to remind officials that the
Democratic majority was elected on a mandate to end the Iraq
War, and that they need to deliver.
the first time in my life,” said Kelly, who waged a campaign
to heighten awareness of the suffering inflicted on the Iraqi
people during the trade embargos of the ’90s, “the public
is on my side. It’s like trying on a different pair of shoes.
Seventy percent of the public now disapproves of how President
Bush has conducted this war. When we first started, we couldn’t
get the word ‘Iraq’ into the newspapers. There was zero mention
of the economic war waged. . . . Now the public knows very
clearly there is tremendous suffering going on in Iraq. I
think that one of the reasons elected representatives are
trying to figure out what to do is they know we are not representing
an eccentric, offbeat, fringe perception.”
Alft said he appreciated speaking with a Clinton representative
about the senator’s decision to not vote against funding the
Iraq War. And, he said, he appreciates her promise to end
the war in 2009 if elected president. But he wants action
now. “Her position is something that is being molded, as far
as I can tell, and she will vote for the supplemental spending
bill,” he said. Alft also said that Clinton’s representative
told him that Clinton will not vote against the spending because
if President George Bush sends troops to Iraq, they would
be left without funding. Alft countered that he thinks the
Pentagon would not send troops anywhere without funding.
Adams said that he is not sure whether his protest has been
effective, but regardless, he felt bound to take action against
an unjust war. “My war was Vietnam, when 20,000 of us were
dead KIAs [killed in action]; the White House was talking
about an unwinnable war and looking for a way out. Thirty
thousand more of us died while they were trying to find an
According to Adams, if politicians don’t start to stand on
principle rather than politics, the Iraq War will not end.
“I am tired of seeing these exit strategies. There are only
two exit strategies, and those are ships and planes.”
Muslims receive 15-year sentences for terror-conspiracy conviction,
and announce their intention to appeal
Hossain stood before U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy March
8 to plead on his own behalf. Yassin Aref, the imam of the
Albany Central Avenue mosque that Hossain helped found, had
earlier that morning received his sentence: 15 years in federal
prison. The U.S. courthouse, inside and out, was teeming with
supporters of the two men. It was the first time Hossain would
speak to the court during the long trial that convicted he
and Aref of conspiracy to lend material comfort to terrorists.
He was facing a possible sentence of 30 years to life, and
was overcome with emotion.
any person who stands here,” Hossain said, his voice breaking,
“I want to get back to my life. I want to get back to my wife
was arrested, along with Aref, in 2004, in a terrorism bust
that grabbed national headlines. Top government officials
heralded the covert FBI operation—a sting—that netted the
two men as a success in post-9/11 counterterrorism efforts.
They were found guilty last year after a monthlong trial.
lawyer, Kevin Luibrand, said they intend to appeal the court’s
government has been using sting operations for 100 years,”
Luibrand said. “There is no recorded case of a sting operation
where the target . . . had never committed a crime, was not
committing a crime, was not thinking about committing a crime,
and was living an average American life. And that is the core
of the appeal.”
however, Hossain, who also received 15 years, and Aref will
be moved to a federal prison to begin serving their sentences.
Luibrand said that he has no idea what kind of prison the
government will choose to incarcerate his client. Aref has
been held in near-solitary confinement at the Rensselaer County
Jail since 2005. Hossain, who was out on bail during the trial,
was taken to the Rensselaer jail after his conviction, and,
until three weeks ago, was being held in 23-hour lockdown
as well. Luibrand said that he has no idea if his client will
be sent to a maximum-security prison, or even where in the
country he will be sent.
not been able to even guess where he will go or how he will
be treated,” Luibrand said. “Will he be treated as a convicted
terrorist or is he going to be treated as a fairly run-of-the-mill
federal inmate? I don’t know.”
in treatment, Luibrand said, is drastic.
had gotten the 30-to-life, I have no doubt they were heading
out to Colorado for Supermax or a comparable prison,” Luibrand
said. The Federal Supermax Prison, located in Florence, Colo.,
represents the highest-level security facilities in the country.
It houses such notable criminals as Ted Kaczynski and Zacarias
Moussouai. Prisoners are typically kept isolated for 23 hours
a day in 7-by-11 foot cells. “It is basically solitary confinement.”
has hope, he said, based on how the sentence was read and
comments made by the judge during sentencing, that Hossain
will not be treated with such intensity.
judge made a specific recommendation that Hossain be sent
to a location as near to Albany as possible,” Luibrand said.
The decision is made by the Bureau of Prisons, however, and
no one will know until Hossain has been moved.
no inside information. And neither does the judge,” Luibrand
said. “I’ll know where he is when he calls me up and tells
attorneys were unavailable to comment for this article.
loose ends this week-