Policies Proposed to Boost Boys of Color

Marisa Lagos, San Francisco Chronicle, August 8, 2012

State leaders should revise school testing and funding, extend health care coverage for those aging out of foster care, and make it harder for schools to suspend and expel—all to improve the odds of success for boys and young men of color in California.

Those are among dozens of recommendations from a state legislative committee that spent the past year and a half looking into why the state’s minority youth are less healthy, have lower test scores and are more likely to be incarcerated than other young people.

The Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, led by Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Alameda, will introduce more than 50 pages of policy and legislative recommendations at a hearing in Sacramento on Wednesday.

The report also endorses 19 bills, eight of which aim to reduce “alarmingly high” rates of suspension and expulsions—nearly 800,000 a year—that disproportionately impact students of color. More than half of those disciplinary actions stem not from serious offenses such as violence, but from misbehavior or defiance, the report states.


Swanson, who pushed for creation of the committee, said he was floored by the overwhelming response as the bipartisan panel held hearings in Sacramento, Oakland, Fresno and Coachella (Riverside County) over the past 18 months. They heard from more than 2,000 constituents, including hundreds of youths, whom Swanson said had similar concerns no matter what the city.

“It was very interesting—the kids who were there were not the ones who had lost their way, but those who didn’t want the system to push them in a direction where they found themselves in the criminal justice system,” he said, adding that all Californians should be interested in the issue.

“If we are already spending $50,000 a year per person in state prison, or $200,000 in the juvenile justice system, it isn’t a question of money—it’s a question of how we prioritize the money we have,” Swanson said.

The success of African American, Latino, American Indian and Southeast Asian males is crucial, the report states. More than 75 percent of Californians under age 25 identify as people of color, and many are “trapped in a cycle of prison, poverty and disadvantage,” it says, blaming “deteriorated schools and neighborhoods, poor health, dysfunctional social support and limited job opportunities.”


Swanson, who will term out of the Assembly this year, said the committee hopes to pass at least 14 of the 19 bills endorsed in the report before the end of August and is hopeful the governor will sign them. {snip}


Here is a sampling of recommendations from the state Assembly’s Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color:


School financing: Change the school finance formula so funding is based on regional costs and student needs.

Teacher hiring: Support local efforts to hire experienced, effective teachers at high-poverty schools.

Health care: Require that the state’s health care exchange and Medi-Cal program target and enroll eligible boys and young men of color.

Foster youths: Adopt legislation that extends health care coverage for foster youths up to age 26.

Job help: Remove policy barriers so formerly incarcerated youths can get jobs more easily.

Expulsions: Support legislation to reduce suspensions and expulsions for nonserious infractions at school.


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