School Money for Kids Who Need It Most, a Childhood Trauma Ted Talk, Kids in Gangs, and Pitchess Jail Teacher’s Sex ConvictionFebruary 19th, 2015 by Taylor Walker
MOST CA SCHOOL DISTRICTS FAILING TO USE NEW BUDGET $$ TO RAMP UP SERVICES FOR FOSTER KIDS
Prior to a 2013 funding approach overhaul, California education budget allocation was severely inequitable, often giving more money to affluent school districts while short-changing schools—and kids—that needed the state dollars the most. The new budget system, the Local Control Funding Formula, is a weighted funding approach that allows districts (rather than the state) to decide how a portion of their funding is spent. The new formula aims to level the playing field for high-needs students, including foster kids, who are severely underserved by school districts.
The Local Control Funding Formula allocates more money for high-needs kids, and requires districts to set up goals and action plans for helping these students overcome barriers with regard to attendance, suspensions and expulsions, and interactions with school police.
A year into the Local Control Funding Formula implementation, a new report has found that, overall, California districts are failing to take advantage of the new system to analyze and address the needs of students in foster care.
Foster kids have the worst educational outcomes—including the lowest graduation rates—among high-needs student groups, which are comprised of kids from low-income households, kids with disabilities, and English-learners. In California, kids attend an average of eight different schools while in foster care. Nationwide 67% of foster kids have been suspended at least one time. Just under half of foster kids in the US battle emotional and behavioral problems, and a quarter of former foster kids (now adults) have PTSD, a rate twice that of war veterans.
According to the report, LA Unified was the only school district that had established baseline suspension data to measure the district’s progress in that area. No schools figured out the baseline data for expulsions. Only Temecula established a goal specifically targeting the expulsion of students in the child welfare system. And again, only Temecula set aside money expressly for lowering the rates at which foster kids get suspended and expelled.
Only two districts, including LAUSD, identified the baseline data for foster kids’ school attendance. Only 9% of districts named goals, and just 11% cited spending money on helping foster kids with attendance issues.
The report, authored by Laura Faer and Marjorie Cohen of Public Counsel, which focuses solely on districts’ implementation of the funding changes with regard to students in foster care, examined data from 64 California districts in which 55% of the state’s students in foster care are enrolled (the districts had to have at least 150 kids in the child welfare system).
Among other recommendations, the report calls on districts to get serious and analyze data, create goals, and, you know, earmark that extra money to help disadvantaged kids, as intended. The report lists some worthy things to put the money toward, like restorative justice, Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, and trauma-informed systems.
Fix School Discipline has a good roundup of the report’s main points. Here are some clips:
“Foster youth in California are disproportionately subjected to suspensions, expulsions and contacts with the juvenile justice system, all of which compound and exacerbate the trauma most have already experienced,” said Laura Faer, Statewide Education Director for Public Counsel and co-author of the report. “Improving school climate for foster youth means putting a stop to school removals and referrals to police and developing a school environment that supports their social, emotional and mental health. Developing a positive and trauma-informed school environment must be a top priority this year for districts that serve foster youth.”
…very few districts analyzed the needs of foster youth or created specific strategies for addressing their challenges, which include barriers to enrollment, lack of transportation, disruptive school changes, multiple, disconnected system players, absence of a single and constant adult supporter, and exposure to high levels of trauma, all of which severely impact learning and behavior. However, in response to the new law and the efforts of organizations calling on and working with districts to prioritize school climate improvements, a large number of districts articulated promising overall school climate approaches…
AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC OF KIDS AND TRAUMA…
Center for Youth Wellness founder Nadine Burke Harris explains the link between childhood trauma and long-term health issues in a TED talk (that everyone who hasn’t already, should watch).
NEW REPORT FINDS VERY DIFFERENT TEEN GANG INVOLVEMENT NUMBERS THAN LAW ENFORCEMENT ESTIMATES
There are more than one million kids in gangs across the nation, according to an interesting report that will be published in the March issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. That number is based on a sample of 6,700 surveyed kids and teenagers, and is three times higher than the number estimated by the law enforcement-based National Youth Gang Survey (NYGS).
According to the report, the turnover rate for gang membership was 37% within a year period, a rate that contradicts the notion that when kids join gangs, they never leave them.
The report also found that 30% of young gang members were girls.
The study’s lead author, David Pyrooz, is an assistant professor of criminal justice at Sam Houston State University.
The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange has more on the report’s findings, as well as why Pyrooz says the study’s gang population estimates are so far away from law enforcement numbers. Here’s a clip:
Law enforcement, the study said, puts more emphasis than the study did on older gang members and those involved in violent acts in determining the total number of gang members.
And while law enforcement relies on several factors, such as participating in violent acts or wearing gang colors, the researchers in the new study determined gang membership solely by youths identifying themselves as gang members.
“We’re picking up on this sort of dark figure of this hidden population of gang members in the U.S. that just aren’t going to be identified in law enforcement databases,” Pyrooz said.
“These are the guys who are more peripheral to the gang. They aren’t necessarily involved in deep-end gang activities, whereas law enforcement is picking up on those guys who are the deep end, those individuals who are committing crimes at high rates. They’re involved in lots of violence. They’re extremely embedded in the gang, hanging out on more of a daily basis, whereas we think we’re picking up on the entire picture as opposed to just that core element of the gang population.”
Pyrooz said most youths who join gangs do so at around ages 12 or 13, and the peak age for gang membership is 14.
LA COUNTY JAIL TEACHER CONVICTED OF SEX WITH INMATE STUDENT
A former LA County Pitchess jail teacher, 33-year-old Lisa Nichole Leroy, was sentenced to three years of probation and 40 hours of community service after pleading no contest to having sex with an inmate in a jail classroom.
LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office has further information on the case.