In Focus

Aug 13, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Tying Together Place and Race: New Data on Youth Disconnection

By: Rashaun Bennett

A new study from Measure of America, “Zeroing In on Place and Race: Youth Disconnection in America’s Cities,” confirms that youth disconnection is a nationwide problem requiring federal, state, and local action.  It also reveals racial and geographic disparities, demonstrating where resources are most needed.

Across the U.S., 5.5 million youth are disconnected.  While a large number of them are White (2.5 million), other racial groups are disconnected at far higher rates.  According to the study, 21.6 percent of Black youth, 20.3 percent of Native American youth, and 16.3 percent of Latino youth are disconnected—compared to just 11.3 percent of White youth.  Youth disconnection is linked to residential segregation, which concentrates poverty and marginalizes people of color. Highly segregated metro areas have been correlated to high rates of disconnection for Black youth.

The consequences are severe for youth and communities.  Disconnected youth are three times less likely to have a high school diploma and two times more likely to live in poverty.  Further, disconnected girls are three times more likely to have children than girls enrolled in school.  In 2013, the total cost of youth disconnection was $26.8 billion; this includes lost earnings, public assistance, medical care, and criminal justice expenses.  Now more than ever, it is crucial to invest in high-quality K-12 education, programs and pathways that prevent disconnection, and employment and education assistance for youth currently disconnected.

CLASP has recommended common-sense policy changes around systems building and program delivery to reduce disconnection. Additionally, reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as well as implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, provide strong opportunities for federal investment in dropout recovery and employment strategies.  It’s critical that we seize this moment and give young people the resources they need to connect to school and work and fulfill their potential. 

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.

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