Nonprofit Newswire | November 20, 2009

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The Nonprofit QuarterlyConsider the source: The Ford Foundation finds a needy cause: Teachers unions
Nov 17, 2009; Wall Street Journal | No surprise that a Wall Street Journal editorialist skewered the Ford Foundation for its $100 million grant commitment to transform education in disadvantaged schools. The reason? Ford will devote a chunk of the money to the American Federation of Teachers Innovation Fund. To the Journal, a grant to the union is apostasy. It could have gone to all the alternatives to public education that the Journal and conservatives support—school vouchers, charter schools, and Teach for America. To be fair to conservatives, liberals frequently support charter schools and TFA gets support from across the political spectrum. In some cases, the teachers unions have been hardly stellar actors in the educational process, particularly as seen here in DC where the union’s leadership a couple of years ago pillaged union resources on an unparalleled shopping spree, leaving educational reform and even basic union functions along the road. To the WSJ, Ford could have done better by emulating the Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation and their big time commitments to charter schools and charter school operators like KIPP. Of course, the key concern for the Journal is the odd notion that something like a union could possibly be innovative. Maybe the Journal’s editorial writers need a history lesson about the innovations in U.S. social justice that were brought to us by the union movement. And Ford’s helping a union retrieve its innovative role in educational reform is entirely legitimate and welcome, especially since we’d guess that Ford’s new social entrepreneurship-oriented leadership is hardly ignoring charters, KIPP, and TFA.—Rick Cohen

The Nonprofit QuarterlyMelee on ARRA accountability: Stimulus creating jobs even if numbers not known, watchdogs say
Nov 19, 2009; | The government officials in charge of tracking stimulus dollars don’t want you, or their critics, to worry; their work is having its intended effect, even if they can’t prove it as they promised. Yesterday’s meeting of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was tempestuous, a morning full of cursing, derision, and defensiveness. The meeting was called to discuss the quality of stimulus reporting, due in part to the outcry over the reportage mechanism,, which NPQ has covered since early October. Now, it’s no wonder that tempers flared, numbers can be made to lie, and there’s going to be some dander raised when phantom congressional districts start reporting the results of real stimulus funds, and 15,000 recipients—ten percent—didn’t file their reports. Of particular concern to us, some of those who filed wrongly—and who Joe Biden accused of being bad at civics—are nonprofits. What’s more, as questions mounted, it seems some in the nonprofit media have backed off their criticism. Hardly a good day for the sector.—James David Morgan

The Nonprofit QuarterlyAnother property tax story: Tax exemption ends for B.C. Girl Guides camp
Oct 31, 2009; The Globe and Mail | It’s not just in the U.S. where nonprofits are facing local property tax pressures. In Canada, the local council of the District of Sechelt voted 4 to 3 to tax half of a previously tax exempt 140-acre property owned by Girl Guides of Canada. That will mean a property tax bill of $100,000 for the Camp Olave site, which only has an annual operating budget of $250,000 (generated by Girl Guides registration fees and cookie sales). The result? The Guides can’t afford to pay the bill and say they will be forced to sell the camp which they’ve operated since the 1920s. The Sechelt argument was simple: The value of the property is $26 million. The District calculates it had foregone $2 million in tax revenue during the previous 12 years. Camp Olave comprised 44 percent of the total value of exemption requests made to the District this year (including nonprofit housing groups, churches, and the Sunshine Coast Rod & Gun Club). Thus, Camp Olave is now half-taxed and will possibly be on the sales block.—Rick Cohen



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