In Focus: Key Youth Legislation

Aug 12, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

New Legislation Introduced to Support Full-Service Community Schools

By Rhonda Bryant

On July 23, 2014, Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) introduced the Full-Service Community Schools Act of 2014. The full-service community school model co-locates education services and a range of vital health and social services, serving as a “one-stop shop” for students, families, and the community. This bipartisan bill would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to create a new competitive grant program, which would provide five-year grants to states, to implement statewide full-service community schools, as well as local partnerships between school districts and community-based organizations. A minimum of 10 percent of the funding would be designated for rural areas.

Proponents of the bill regard the community school model as a key strategy for increasing educational equity, narrowing achievement gaps, and graduating students who are college- and career-ready. This past April, the Coalition for Community Schools developed a framework to elevate community schools as a strategy to make our education system more equitable. The Coalition’s framework calls for three leadership structures:

  • Community-wide leadership groups comprised of school districts, government agencies, United Way chapters, businesses, community- and faith-based organizations are responsible for overall vision, policy, and resource alignment;
  • School-site leadership teams comprised of parents, residents, principals, teachers, community partners, and young people are responsible for planning, implementation, and continuous improvement; and
  • An intermediary entity provides planning, coordination, and management.

Through this integrated approach to partnerships, governance, and systems, communities can ensure everyone has a voice in planning and orchestrating a full-service community school model that meet their locale’s unique needs.

Legislation to fund full-service community schools was introduced in prior congressional sessions, but it has never been passed. However, through the appropriations process, a competitive grant program was created and administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Grants were awarded from 2008 through 2010, and a new competition to award $10 million in grants in FY 2014 is now underway.  While this funding from DOE is critical, the Full-Service Community Schools Act is essential codify the program and ensure its future availability.

Jun 28, 2013  |  PERMALINK »

Supreme Court Sends Affirmative Action Case Back to Lower Court

By Kisha Bird

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its much-awaited decision on the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin  (UT) case.  This challenge was brought by a white student, Fisher, who claims she was denied admission to UT due to an admissions policy that considers race.  For months, advocates of racial justice and supporters of affirmative action anxiously waited for this decision as it would have major implications for racial preferences in admissions to public colleges and universities, as well as for the broader legacy of affirmative action. 

In a seven to one decision, the Court neither rejected nor endorsed the race-based admissions policy at UT and sent the case back to a lower court, citing that not enough scrutiny had been given to the University of Texas' admissions program. With this ruling, the Court upholds previous decisions-including Grutter v. Bollinger-which affirmed the University of Michigan Law School's affirmative action program and held that diversity is a compelling interest for public universities and that race can be used as a factor in admissions.

The Constitutional Law Scholars, in a joint statement, notes that the Court's Fisher decision ultimately determined that "admissions programs that consider race as one of many factors in the context of an individualized consideration of all applicants can clearly pass constitutional review" and that the decision "makes clear that promoting diversity in higher education can justify race-conscious admissions policies when they are carefully designed and consider race only as part of a flexible and individualized review of all applicants." In sending the case back to the lower court, the Supreme Court further clarified how courts must determine if an admission policy passes muster. In a statement issued earlier this week, UT President Bill Powers called the decision encouraging.  Vowing to continue to defend the University's admission policy, he expressed confidence that it would satisfy the strict standards prescribed by the court.

Last summer, CLASP joined the Kirwan Institute and a national coalition of black male achievement initiatives (BMI)  in urging the Supreme Court to uphold the admissions procedures of the University of Texas.  In the BMI amicus brief, we advocated for the Court to examine the low numbers of African American males currently enrolled at select universities, citing that studies of college diversity seldom consider information about both race and gender.  Black males are "especially vulnerable to exclusion from postsecondary educational opportunities without every available constitutional tool to include them."  It is important to improve post-secondary and college attainment for all African-Americans, but great gender disparities exist.  Among U.S. residents, Black females are far more likely to have earned a post-secondary degree-accounting for 68 percent of associate's degrees, 66 percent of bachelor's degrees, 71 percent of master's degrees, and 65 percent of all doctor's degrees awarded to Black students. [i]

Holistic race-conscious admission policies help in allowing young black males to gain access to selective colleges and universities and are a critical tool in helping colleges and universities identify student talent and population groups that have been traditionally excluded from opportunities for higher education advancement.   CLASP is encouraged by this ruling and is hopeful that the American university community maintains a commitment to affirmative action policies and ensuring diversity.


[i] http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=72

Apr 26, 2011  |  PERMALINK »

Just Where's the Cure for the Summer Time Blues?

 By Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt

More than 50 years ago, Eddie Cochran captured the frustration of American teenagers with his hit single Ain't No Cure for the Summer Time Blues.  He sang about a young man lamenting that he has to work all summer long, doesn't get time to spend with his girlfriend, and can't borrow the family car if he doesn't have money. Today's teens would sing a much different and far worse song. They can't get jobs in the first place.

For the last four summers, America's teens have been employed in record low numbers, and this summer is gearing up to be no different. The number of teens working has declined precipitously over the last decade, falling from 45 percent in 2000 to 26 percent in 2010, a major employment crisis for youth.

This summer, the Center for Labor Market Studies anticipates that only one in four teens between 16 and 19 will have employment. This means about 12 million of the nation's young people will be idle. Without work, many of these teens will waste three months being non-productive or, worse, involved in dangerous or criminal activities.

Low-income youth and minority youth of all income levels are far less likely to obtain employment than whites. In June 2010, black teens of all socioeconomic levels had an employment rate of only 15.2 percent, making them 53 percent less likely to work than white teens. Low-income black teens fared far worse, with only 9 percent of them employed. Although Hispanic youth were the most likely minority group to work, they still lagged behind whites. Black male teenagers living in urban communities are the least likely to obtain summer employment. They are also the ones most at risk for engaging in perilous activities due to lack of connection to positive summer opportunities. The teens who need employment and stand to gain the most from the experience are the least likely to get it.

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