In Focus

Jul 27, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Missed Opportunity: Young children and disadvantaged youth deserve more attention in ESEA Reauthorization

By Kisha Bird and Christina Walker

Earlier this month, on July 16th, the U.S. Senate passed its Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) reauthorization bill, the Every Child Achieves Act ( S.1177), with an overwhelming show of bi-partisan support. The bill, brokered by Senate leaders Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Patty Murray (D-Washington), includes important provisions, such as:

  • requiring goals for achievement and high school graduation;
  • specifying the collection of data related to educational resources, including per-pupil expenditures;
  • disaggregating student achievement data; and
  • allowing funds to be used to improve early childhood education programs and to promote better coordination through agreements with Head Start agencies and other entities to carry out these activities.

However, the bill fails to direct or provide resources to local districts and states to implement effective strategies to improve student achievement and address access and equity gaps for poor and low-income students. In particular, the bill does not include a dedicated funding stream for pre-k or for dropout prevention and recovery for students in the middle and high school grades. 

On July 8th, the House passed its ESEA reauthorization bill, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). Similarly, H.R. 5 does not target funding to address these issues and fails to include protections for poor and vulnerable students. H.R. 5 would also divert much-needed funds from the highest poverty schools and districts through the “portability” concept. This would allow Title I funds, which have the express purpose of assisting public schools with high concentrations of poverty and high-need students, to follow a child to any public or private school and would undermine critical targeting of limited Title I funds.

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Jul 2, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Prioritize Prevention and Rehabilitation over Punishment: Reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act

By Andrea Barnes

Earlier this spring, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced legislation to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act (JJDPA). Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced a companion bill in the House. If passed, these bills would reauthorize JJDPA’s grant programs through FY 2020.

JJDPA funds programs supporting youth who are involved in—or are at risk of being involved in—the criminal justice system.  Title II programs include prevention programs for at-risk youth, law enforcement and judicial training, mental health interventions, keeping youth out of adult jails and lockups, and keeping status offenders out of jail. Title V programs include the Tribal Youth Program and youth violence prevention and interventions.

JJDPA’s authorization expired in 2007. Since then, Congress has continued to appropriate funds, but the investment declines each year. For FY 2015, Congress funded Title II programs at $55.5 million and Title V programs at $15 million. Support for FY 2016 funding varies. The House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee eliminates funding for Title II and Title V in its  FY 2016 budget. In the Senate, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee (CJS) preserves Title II and Title V programs in its FY 2016 budget.

Continuing the JJPDA is critical for many reasons, including its requirement that states meet four core mandates: de-institutionalization of status offenders, addressing disproportionate minority contact, sight and sound separation of juveniles in adult facilities, and removal of juveniles from adult jails and lock-ups. While juvenile arrest rates have fallen and there are fewer youth incarcerated in deep-end residential facilitates (which more closely resemble prisons than residential treatment centers), the core mandates of JJPDA have not been fully met. Status offenders are still being locked up when they would be better served in community settings, and minority youth are still over-represented at nearly every level of the juvenile justice system.

According to the latest data from the Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2014 National Report:

  • 11 percent of juveniles in residential placements were held in the facility but were not charged with or adjudicated for abuse, neglect, emotional disturbance, or mental retardation.
  • In 2010, on any given day, nearly 71,000 juvenile delinquents were in residential placement facilities. More than 6 in 10 juvenile offenders in residential placement were minority youth, with Black youth experiencing the highest rates.

For those youth involved in the system, JJDPA funding supports a variety of tailored services, including mental health care in community settings. With 70.4% of youth in the juvenile justice system meeting criteria for at least one mental health disorder, continued investment in mental health care is critical to reduce justice system involvement. Youth in juvenile justice facilities do receive some mental health services – in 6 of 10 facilities, in-house mental health professionals evaluated all youth held. However, residential placement is not the best environment for youth to receive mental health treatment; more than half of youth experience theft or violence while in placement. Several studies have shown that youth who are incarcerated are more likely to recidivate than youth who are supervised in a community-based setting or not detained at all.

South Dakota and West Virginia are two states showing leadership in juvenile justice reform—saving their states millions of dollars while reducing recidivism. Prioritizing incarceration for only the most serious and violent offenders, as well as expanding re-entry and treatment programs, will go a long way in increasing public safety while also helping at-risk youth. Much progress has been made since 1974 to protect system-involved youth. However, our work is far from done. JJDPA is still needed to influence and encourage states to prioritize prevention and rehabilitation over punishment. We urge Congress to reauthorize this vital law.

Jun 30, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

The Complex Challenges of Working Out-of-School Youth

By Andrew Mulinge

When teens are exposed to work through summer and year-round employment, internships, and service opportunities, they are far more likely to stay in school, graduate on time, and be consistently employed as adults. Youth who have been employed also earn higher wages in young adulthood. However, despite the long-term advantages of access to early employment, the challenges facing  youth ages 16 to 19 who are employed but not in school are often overlooked.

There are many factors that lead young people to drop out of school. Chief among them is family financial obligations. Working youth typically live in households that are more likely to have lower combined income than unemployed youth who have dropped out of school. Additionally, working youth’s households have less access to federal safety net programs that could help meet basic needs and reduce the pressure to drop out.

A recent report by the Urban Institute highlights the complex challenges faced by out-of-school youth who are employed. This population is mostly male, Latino and immigrant, and working in low-skill, low-paying jobs. The majority (63 percent) are working more than half the year, and 51 percent are working at least 40 weeks a year. The American Community Survey estimates that 60 percent of working youth ages 16 to 18 contribute over 10 percent of their household income.  Additionally, among working poor households, one-third exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) as a result of youth earnings.

Young people should not have to choose between staying in school and going to work to help support their families. Under the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), states and communities have an opportunity to better address the workforce development and employment needs of low-income youth, particularly those who have dropped out of school. WIOA requires that 75 percent of youth funds be spent on out-of-school youth—an increase from 30 percent under the previous law. Furthermore, WIOA encourages states to develop career pathwaysthat integrate progressive levels of education and training. This will help working youth move into jobs that provide higher wages and more stable careers while increasing their education and skill attainment.

Losing out on a high school diploma has severe implications for youth’s future outcomes.  Looking forward, we must provide poor and low-income youth more opportunities to gain critical employment skills and earn wages while also strengthening the safety net to help their families meet basic needs.

Learn about CLASP’s resources on WIOA impacting youth and adults.

Read CLASP’s issue brief on employment for young men of color.

Read the Urban Institute’s report on working youth.

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