The Texas Youth Commission bears a great burden that can be traced back to failures of local school districts. But that is a challenge that the TYC must meet for the sake of public safety.Last week, Grits identified what I think would be a huge step toward discouraging schools from dumping kids with learning disabilities and behavioral problems into the juvenile justice system - charging schools the full cost of educating kids they send to so-called alternative schools for discipline. But as Harrell says, a lot more than that bureaucratic fix is needed. In addition to more resources for special ed programming, substantial investments to identify and teach kids with dyslexia would reduce crime, as would extra focus on ensuring the academic success for children of incarcerated parents. Spending extra resources to help kids succeed on the front end aimed at these special populations makes a lot more sense than waiting to incarcerate them on the back end, which costs far more and from which society derives far fewer benefits.
In broad terms, the OIO has the following major concerns about education in TYC:
These issues, which are fully discussed in the attached report, are critical for two important but distinct reasons. First, as we point out in the attached report, educational attainment is one of the most effective means for reducing recidivism among delinquent youth. However, the population of students at the TYC does not represent the population of the typical Texas public school. The TYC is charged with providing education and special education services to a population of students comprised of approximately 40% special education students, and a majority of youth who are substantially behind their peers in all academic areas. The population of students at the TYC is not typical of an ordinary Texas public school, and the TYC requires a substantially different level of support than a typical public school district. Despite the fact that many of the youth committed to the TYC arrive with poor academic histories, the TYC education program can improve the basic academic skills of these youth and significantly improve their chances of successful reentry into their schools and / or communities. Providing these youth with essential skills in reading and mathematics, opportunities to obtain a diploma or GED, and vocational skills is critical for helping these youth to become responsible, civic-minded taxpaying citizens. Not only do these outcomes result in improved outcomes for delinquent youth, they also improve public safety.
- Inadequate intake, assessment and accountability.
- Inconsistent general education programs across TYC facilities.
- Disruption of education by punitive culture and policy which is compounded by race and special educational need.
- Inadequate special education services.
Second, the youth at the TYC are coming from Texas public school systems, and most should be returning to these schools after release. However, many of the TYC youth have not been adequately supported by their public schools. Most do not have sufficient reading skills to access the high school curriculum, and many do not even have the requisite skills to read or complete a basic job application. Additionally, many of these youth have been repeatedly suspended or expelled, or have officially or unofficially dropped out of school. Furthermore, most delinquent youth both nationally and in Texas come from impoverished communities with schools that lack the financial and professional support necessary to adequately educate these youth. If the State is going to successfully rehabilitate these youth, the Texas leadership must identify and implement innovative and responsive public education programs to support these vulnerable schools and ultimately reduce the numbers of youth involved in the juvenile justice system.
SEE ALSO: An interview with Harrell from KHOU and these documents related to TYC education services: