In Focus

Apr 18, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

ACA Provision Could Help Thousands of Foster Care Youth If Implemented Effectively

By Zane Jennings

A provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could help thousands of former foster care youth who face distinct health care challenges.  However, its success will depend on state implementation.  A new report co-authored by CLASP Executive Director Olivia Golden and Urban Institute Research Associate Dina Emam offers specific recommendations to states to ensure these young people benefit from the provision.

Before the ACA, 20,000-30,000 youth per year who “aged out” of foster care benefits often lost health care coverage as well—a particular challenge because of the high levels of health and mental health problems these young people experience.  But the ACA includes a provision to help them, based on the idea that former foster youth whose families cannot care for them ought to have coverage just like other young people who can remain on their parents’ plan until age 26.  Therefore, the ACA enables young people who have aged out of foster care to receive Medicaid benefits until age 26.  If effectively implemented, the ACA provision could cover nearly 100,000 youth through 2017 alone.

 The report highlights eight steps states can take to make the provision most effective.  It addresses:

  • re-enrollment of foster care youth who previously “aged out”;
  • automatic enrollment of foster youth as they age out, building on coordination between Medicaid agencies and the child welfare system;  and
  • ensuring services for aged-out youth who now live in other states.

 “This provision is a particularly powerful example of the broader potential of the ACA to open doors for poor and vulnerable families, including those involved in the child welfare system, by treating medical and behavioral health problems that can cause enormous suffering and hinder success in school, on the job, and as parents,” said Golden.

Read the report here >>

Mar 21, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Education as a Civil Right – We Have a Long Way to Go

By Rhonda Bryant

Today, the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights released new data on the condition of our nation’s schools with regard to racial and ethnic disparities in access to quality education and fair treatment of students. We applaud the courage of the Obama Administration in requiring all of the country’s 97,000 school districts to report this data, and for making this data publicly available for the first time in almost 15 years. While it reveals troubling trends nationally, it provides an opportunity for both serious discussion and timely action.

The data reveal that all along the educational continuum, students of color are in a position of extreme disadvantage in our country’s public schools. They are far more likely to be retained in grade, to miss precious school time because of excessive suspensions and expulsions, and less likely to be prepared for the rigors of college because fewer courses are offered in their schools and fewer experienced teachers are in their classrooms. Children of color are also less likely to attend college because there are fewer guidance counselors in their schools to provide the supports necessary to get them prepared and enrolled.

A few facts:

  • Native-Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, American Indian and Native-Alaskan students were held back a year in kindergarten at nearly twice the rate of white kindergarten students.
  • In ninth grade, Hispanic, American Indian and Native-Alaskan students are retained in grade at twice the rate of whites, while black students are retained at three times the rate of whites.
  • While black children make up 18 percent of preschool children, 60 percent of the children suspended from preschool more than once are black.
  • Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students. American Indian and Native-Alaskan students are also disproportionately suspended and expelled.
  • While black students represent 16% of student enrollment, they represent 27% of students referred to law enforcement and 31% of students subjected to a school-related arrest.
  • Schools with the highest black and Latino student enrollments reported 13 percent of their teaching staff in the first or second year of teaching in any school compared to 8 percent in schools with the lowest black and Latino student enrollments.
  • A quarter of high schools with the highest black and Latino enrollment don’t offer Algebra II; a third of these schools don’t offer chemistry. Less than half of Native-American high school students have access to the full range of math and science courses in their high school.
  • Black and Latino students represent 23 percent of the students enrolled in gifted and talented programs, compared to 40 percent of black and Latino enrollment in schools offering gifted and talented programs.
  • Black and Latino students represent 37 percent of high school enrollment, but only comprise 26 percent of students taking advanced placement courses, 26 percent of students taking AP exams, and 19 percent of students receiving a qualifying score of 3 or above on AP exams.
  • English language learners (ELL) represent 5 percent of all public high school students but only 2 percent of those taking either the SAT or ACT.

The data about the current condition of our schools flies in the face of our national goal to ensure all children receive a quality education from the earliest years through high school to prepare them for college and careers. As our nation becomes more ethnically diverse, the outcomes will only become more grim and the disparities more glaring if we fail to act quickly and purposefully to improve our nation’s schools. No matter where they live, all children should have equitable access to experienced teachers, rigorous courses, counseling supports, and expectations for behavior that is not tainted by racial bias.

The road to equitable schools is not one that can be traveled overnight. There are many issues to be resolved along the way. How should dollars be reallocated for high poverty schools? How can we ensure more experienced teachers are in high-poverty schools? What student supports should be in every high-poverty school? What role do states and the federal government play in supporting high-poverty schools and school districts? How can school districts and other youth-serving systems work together to provide quality supports to students and their families?

Some schools and school systems are already making significant strides in answering some of these questions. By learning from these exemplary approaches and trying new things, we can close the gaps in quality education for students of color. States and districts must be simultaneously pushed and supported to look at:

  • funding formulas and the gaps between high-poverty and low-poverty schools;
  • opportunities to participate in courses that prepare students for college and careers;
  • access to effective teachers and opportunities to incentivize teacher placements; and
  • fair and appropriate discipline practices that do not disproportionately penalize students of color, low-income students, or students with disabilities.  

The following summary fact sheets are available on the Department of Education website:

Early Childhood Education

Teacher Equity

College and Career Readiness

Discipline/Restraint and Seclusion

Mar 10, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

President’s 2015 Budget Proposal and Boys/Young Men of Color

By Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant

President Obama has signaled his support of boys and young men of color in very tangible ways during his 2014 State of the Union address, and in his announcement of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, a partnership between government, philanthropy, and corporations aimed at ensuring boys of color are successful. The President’s 2015 budget proposal is the latest demonstration of his commitment to communities of color through expanded and new investments in key areas such as education, youth employment, juvenile justice, mental health, violence reduction, and strengthening communities.

CLASP’s youth work is centered on the idea that it takes a collective and continuous approach to working with youth to ensure that young people remain on a path of ongoing academic achievement, high school graduation, postsecondary enrollment and completion, and solid employment. Currently, young people of color face lesser outcomes than their white peers in each of these areas, with those living in poverty faring the worst. Failure to face this national dilemma and identify solutions has deleterious implications for the nation and communities of color. The President’s budget proposal lays out key investments and ideas that touch youth at critical times in their development and that address issues of concern for communities of color.

A few highlighted opportunities in the President’s proposed budget that have particular impact on boys and young men of color are:

Increase equity and opportunity for students of color along the entire education pipeline.

  • Expand access to high-quality early learning through increases in the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Head Start, Early Head Start, preschool development grants, the Maternal and Infant Early Childhood Home Visitation program, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Part C).
  • Fund a new $300 million Race to the Top Equity and Opportunity competition centered on increasing the academic performance of high-need students and closing the achievement gap. This competition is based on recommendations from the Equity and Excellence Commission’s report, “For Each and Every Child: A Strategy for Education Equity and Excellence”.
  • Invest in community-level programs serving school-aged children through a $43.3 million expansion of the Promise Neighborhoods to serve 35 additional communities.
  • Support innovative strategies and practices that improve college completion rates and make college more affordable for low-income students through the First in the World fund.

Improve the health and well-being of youth of color.

  • Improve and expand mental health services for youth and families through a $164 million investment in the President’s Now is the Time initiative, which includes $20 million to support transitioning youth ages 16-25, and $50 million to train mental health workers to work better with youth.
  • Make targeted improvements to the Medicaid program to increase accessibility of mental health services, particularly for youth.
  • Strengthen health services for the American Indian/Alaska native community through $4.6 billion in resources for the Indian Health Service (IHS) to strengthen services and improve accessibility.
  • Through the President’s Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative, fund construction of two new Indian Health Service healthcare facilities to improve the health of American Indians and Alaska natives.

Address issues of violence and concentrated poverty in communities and schools.

  • Make schools safer through the President’s Now Is the Time initiative to reduce gun violence and prevent future tragedies.
  • Transform communities of concentrated poverty through an expansion of the Choice Neighborhoods Program to serve an additional 7-10 neighborhoods ($120 million), and $15 billion in the Project Rebuild program to help communities reduce blight from foreclosed and abandoned homes.

Increase employment opportunities for youth of color and their families.

  • Provide subsidized jobs for low-income individuals by redirecting $602 million in TANF to the Pathways to Jobs Initiative.
  • Create summer and year-round job opportunities for 600,000 youth by investing $2.5 billion in mandatory funding for the Summer Jobs Plus Program.
  • Increase job training and financial incentives for individuals in public housing through Jobs-Plus program.

Reduce ethnic and racial disparities in the juvenile justice system and help youth get back on track.

  • Provide $80 million for Department of Labor programs that provide employment-centered services to adult and youth ex-offenders and at-risk youth. These programs reduce recidivism by providing counseling, job training, drug treatment, and other transitional assistance to former prisoners as they reintegrate into the job market and community life.
  • Through the President’s Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative, create a new youth investment initiative that will incentivize state efforts to increase the availability of alternatives to incarceration, reenroll youth back into school after confinement, and reduce ethnic and racial disparities in the juvenile justice system.

While the deliberations over this budget are just beginning and the extreme level of partisanship in Washington will make it a challenging process, these areas of investment present an encouraging picture. As this process moves forward, there may be opportunities to advocate for particular resources that would be critical to improving outcomes for boys and young men of color, particularly in communities where opportunities are vastly diminished. It is our hope that Congress and the Administration will be able to work together to advance a budget that is both fiscally responsible and sensitive to the issues facing so many communities of color and ensuring equitable outcomes for all.

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