Weekly Roundup

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Advocates Want Juvenile Justice Overhaul, Clash Over Direction, by Jessica DaSilva

Nov. 29 — When it comes to overhauling its juvenile justice system, Virginia has garnered a reputation as a model of teamwork and progress. Yet even in a state poised to set a national standard, it’s still bedeviled by some of the same problems seen in other states, thanks in part to an outdated national attitude that juvenile offenders only deserve punishment.

“I think that’s why we’re sort of slow to this because our country is still in an Old Testament, crime-and-punishment mentality,” said Amy Woolard, staff attorney and policy coordinator for Legal Aid Justice Center in Virginia. “It’s hard to let go of that.”

When Virginia saw its juvenile offender population declining, it took a closer look and realized a wider gap in the youth prison population—more minority and disabled kids were finding themselves in youth prisons as compared to white or nondisabled juveniles, said Andrew K. Block Jr., director of Virginia’s Department of Juvenile Justice. Moreover, Block said the department reviewed data showing that the longer kids stayed in youth prisons, the more likely they were to re-offend. Read more.


Heading into the 2017 legislative session, a few children’s policy issues have dominated the past year’s headlines, legislative hearings, and Texas leaders’ statements about their current priorities:

1. Protecting services for children with disabilities and development delays…
2. Protecting children from neglect and abuse …
3. Supporting children’s and parents’ mental health…
4. Supporting healthy mothers and babies…
5. Maintaining and building on the state’s new commitment to pre-k and early childhood development…
6. Ensuring the juvenile justice system is effective and safe…
Read more.

A sobering look at what Betsy DeVos did to education in Michigan – and what she might do as secretary of education, by Valerie Strauss December 8, 2016.

The people who best know the education advocacy work of Betsy DeVos, the billionaire tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to be his education secretary, are in Michigan, where she has been involved in reform for decades.

DeVos is a former Republican Party chairwoman in Michigan and chair of the pro-school-choice advocacy group American Federation for Children, and she has been a shining light to members of the movement to privatize public education by working to create programs and pass laws that require the use of public funds to pay for private school tuition in the form of vouchers and similar programs. She has also been a force behind the spread of charter schools in Michigan, most of which have recorded student test scores in reading and math below the state average.

Many pro-school-choice groups have praised the choice, saying DeVos will work hard to grow new programs that give parents more school choice. But public education advocates say that they fear she will help propel America’s public education system toward destruction. Read more.


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