NYS Welfare Recipients Win A Battle In The Fight For Equal Access to Education

Learn Something // Take Action // Policy // Young Gets It Done

A group of about 20 people met in the backroom of the Black Bear Lounge in late June to listen to Maureen Lane from Welfare Right Initiative speak about her efforts to promote “Access to Education for all”. Over the course of an hour we were given the short history of a movement predicated on the principle that making higher education opportunities available to those who need it most is our best weapon for reducing welfare dependency and providing the life changing catalysis that can turn lives around.

The Welfare Rights Initiative is a 15 year old organization dedicated to addressing the systemic issues behind welfare reform by providing education, legal, social service and advocacy program training. These tools empower young men and women to organize for fair and equal access to among other things, the right to a higher education.

Part of what allowed this program to flourish was their successful push in 2000 to get college enrollment and work-study recognized as sufficient for fulfilling  the welfare work requirement . However to get this passed advocates had to jump enormous hurdles. The passage of the Work Study and Internship Bill in 2000 essentially rested on the leadership of State Senators Tom Duane (D) and Ray Meier (R) ability to foster bi-partisan cooperation between the parties and correct an injustice in the CUNY system that had already “lost over 20,000 students receiving public assistance because of misguided federal, state and city welfare policy”

Now 10 years later what was originally a 2 year renewal law has finally been made permanent when Gov. Patterson signed The Work Study Internship Law on June 29th with the overwhelming support of legislators from both sides of the aisle.

“The law has allowed thousands of students receiving welfare to continue their college enrollment while participating in work study, internships and externships. It has been one of the most effective tools in allowing individuals to benefit from the life-changing impact of higher education. Research studies over the years have affirmed this positive impact–over 88 percent of individuals who attain a college degree move out of poverty”

– WRI Press relase

We congratulate Welfare Rights Initiative for their lastest victory and look forward to seeing what kind of future accomplishments WRI trailblazers will create in the years to come

This summer the MYD Education Committee began a series of education discussions focused on exploring current approaches being presented in the debate to reform education. Our goal was to evaluate how leaders were meeting the challenge of improving current practices and upgrading the existing infrastructure to close the learning gap for all children regardless of race, culture or economics.

If you’re interested in learning more or becoming part of our committee just email Ahmed at education@gomyd.com