BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Over 300 Texas Industrial Area Foundation leaders from across the state will hold a press conference on the south steps of the State Capitol on Thursday.
There, they will call on the House and Senate to invest in families through adult workforce development and public education.
Among those present will be more than 75 members of Valley Interfaith, which is part of the IAF network. In addition to pushing for adult workforce development and public education, Valley Interfaith members will also call for investment in border colonias.
The Rev. Kevin Collins of St. Eugene Parish in Brownsville is a leader with Valley Interfaith. He said Valley Interfaith wants legislators to increase the state’s overall share of the cost of public education and to increase the per-pupil allotment.
“Quality public education is a question of a strong Valley economy and quality of life,” Collins said. “The state needs to step up its game and invest more in public education. Property taxes skyrocketed because the state’s share of school funding went from 50 percent to barely 36 percent. The state needs to increase investment to improve the quality of public education in Texas.”
Eddie Anaya is leader with Valley Interfaith from St. Frances Cabrini church in Pharr and a board-member of Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA).
Anaya pointed out that VIDA is funded in part through the Texas Innovative Adult Career Education (ACE) grant. ACE was created 2013 that provides grants to match and leverage local public and private dollars to regional workforce partnerships across Texas.
IAF says more than 16,000 previously-low-income Texans are now in high-value healthcare, technology, and trades careers in demand since the first workforce project was founded in 1992.
IAF leaders argue that by investing in programs like Project QUEST and Capital IDEA through the ACE fund, more underemployed adults will go from earning $11,000/year to over $44,000 a year on average after completing their degrees in nursing, medical technology, and programming.
Anaya said over 7,000 previously-low-income Rio Grande Valley residents are now in high-value healthcare and trades careers since VIDA was founded in 1995, moving from earning $11,000 a year to over $38,500 a year on average after completing their degrees in high demand occupations.
“These workforce programs take people living in poverty and move into the middle class,” Anaya said. “These programs get people off public assistance and into jobs that pay enough to buy their own homes. They are a hand-up, not a hand-out.”
Rosalie Tristan is a Valley Interfaith leader from Our Lady of Guadalupe in Raymondville. Tristan called on legislators to continue the Economically Distressed Areas Program (EDAP), which Valley Interfaith helped create in 1989.
Tristan pointed out that over $1.5 billion dollars have been invested in water and waste-water infrastructure – hundreds of millions of which has been invested in the Valley.
“This is one of the greatest successes of the state and Valley Interfaith,” Tristan said. “However, the program will sunset and end in 2021. We are calling on the legislature to extend the program and increase the funding by $200 million dollars by supporting House Joint Resolution 11. This program needs to continue – its work is not finished.”
Valley Interfaith is a broad-based community organization with institutional members across the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Its purpose is the development of community leaders who organize the people of their communities to develop effective strategies to deal with issues that affect the welfare of families.
Issues championed by Valley Interfaith include education, housing, job training, health care, and infrastructure, among others. The organization is nonpartisan and does not support candidates for public office, political parties or political philosophies.
IAF is a national network of organizations that includes 12 groups in Texas. The Network of Texas IAF Organizations includes the following affiliates across Texas: COPS / Metro Alliance, San Antonio; Dallas Area Interfaith; AMOS, Arlington / Mansfield; EPISO / Border Interfaith, El Paso; West Texas Organizing Strategy, Lubbock; TMO / GCLC, Houston; Austin Interfaith; Valley Interfaith, Rio Grande Valley; and The Border Organization in Del Rio.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows the Rev. Kevin Collins of St. Eugene Parish in Brownsville. He is a leader with Valley Interfaith.