Every so often KARA publishes volunteer student research. This piece from Dave Mast at Century College makes powerful points. Please add your own experiences on this topic in our comment section.

Much research exists that identifies failed education systems as a source of juvenile delinquency. More research shows that juvenile delinquency leads to criminal activity when a troubled youth reaches adulthood.

The need for strong education programs should be a primary concern for state and local governments. In addition to improving students’ chances for success in college and their subsequent careers, effective education programs can help keep juveniles from engaging in delinquent activities. This, in turn reduces costs to taxpayers for funding court proceedings and, if necessary, housing juvenile offenders.

Due to the importance of education and the widespread benefits of a successful program, one might question why some programs that have shown wonderful results are being cancelled in the interest of saving money. One such program, implemented by the New York City Council and rallied for by the Coalition for Educational Justice, was very successful in improving the test scores at some of New York City’s worst middle schools. The program, which focused $5 million of its budget on 51 middle schools in northern Manhattan, helped to improve test scores at 40 of them early in its implementation (Melago, 2008).

The extra funding at these middle schools was used to purchase new computers, increase the length of some school days, and improve social service staffs. One of the middle schools, located in Harlem, received a mere $38,000 and was able to use the funding to purchase 20 computers, extend the school day three days a week, add Saturday academies, and add arts programs for students. At this school, the Renaissance Leadership Academy, the passing rate for state English exams rose from 12% in 2007 to 54% in 2009. Meanwhile, the passing rate for state Math exams went from 14% to 80% over the same period (Kolodner, 2010).

So why would the city cancel such a wonderful program? There is just not enough money to keep such a program going. Unfortunately, city officials who handle the budgeting of educational programs are either unable to identify the potential for cash savings by educating middle school students rather than trying and housing juvenile delinquents, or they have been unable to gather enough support to make education a priority in the city’s budget.

If officials in cities across the country can rally to get more funding for programs like the recently abandoned program in New York City, it might be possible to help adolescent kids do well in school and avoid trouble in their lives.

My note on Dave’s piece;

25% of juveniles charged with crimes are prosecuted as adults in our nation. My experience as a guardian ad-Litem convinced me that communities save big money by investing in programs like the one Dave writes about. Safer communities and healthy citizens are a also bonus for doing the right thing.

Kolodner, M. (2010). Successful education program faces ax even though it helped turn middle schools around. NY Daily News. Retrieved September 10, 2010 from http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/education/2010/06/17/2010-06-17_class_act_taking_a_budget_hit_successful_middle_school_program_faces_ax.html
Melago, C. (2008). City has plan, cash to revamp failing middle schools. NY Daily News. Retrieved September 10, 2010 from http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/education/2008/08/26/2008-08-26_city_has_plan_cash_to_revamp_failing_mid-2.html