Monday, August 11, 2008

Make schools pay full freight for JJAEP placements

Last week the New York Times opined that Texas schools as well as the Youth Commission bore responsibility for educational failures of kids in the juvenile justice system, declaring too many schools were "dumping" their problems via the disciplinary process into so-called "alternative education programs" (JJAEPs). So I was pleased to see a story from my hometown suggesting a possible fix to reduce unnecessary placements in the justice system. Via the Tyler Morning Telegraph ("TISD, juvenile board, seek JJAEP compromise," Aug. 8):
Prior to the 2007-08 school year, the county went from charging school districts $75 a day per student to place these "discretionary" students into the program to $203 a day per student - a cost superintendents have said they can't afford. County officials, though, have said that the county can charge the districts the actual costs for each student, and that rates have gone up considerably since they were last adjusted 10 or more years ago and it now costs $203.47 per day per student.

School districts must pay for "discretionary" students, while the state pays for "mandatory" students that the program is required to accept by law.

No new "discretionary" students were sent to the program this last school year after the higher cost was imposed.
That's a telling and positive outcome; merely charging the school district actual costs of placing kids reduced the number of discretionary placements to zero. What's more, Tyler operated under that scenario for a full year with no ill effects, so to my mind that's a successful outcome that should be replicated. Indeed, give me my druthers and I'd like to see the Legislature require accurate calculation of JJAEP costs and insist that schools pay the full freight, relieving locals from such dilemmas.

Unfortunately, in Tyler the debate over what's best for kids is being suborned to goals of revenue maximization.
During Thursday's discussion, it was suggested that the juvenile board might be willing to agree to charge districts the daily rate of $125 per student if the districts would agree to place their "mandatory" students in the program for the maximum amount of 90 school days.

The average for placing those students there has been 38 school days, officials said.

County Court at Law Judge Floyd Getz, a member of the juvenile board, said those "mandatory" placement students really ought to be in the program for 90 days. Officials also said the county will receive more money from the state if those students are placed there longer.
Boosting the length of stay for "mandatory" JJAEP placements just to increase revenue (to make up for loss of income from "discretionary" kids) amounts to throwing these youth under the bus for a few extra dollars.

JJAEP funds shouldn't be distributed on a per-kid basis at all, IMO, because it creates a financial incentive for the county to maximize the number of kids sent there. But if Texas is going to operate them that way, school districts should pay the full freight, not just dump their costs and problem kids on the juvenile justice system. Accurately setting the price for discretionary JJAEP placements would go a long way toward reducing them.


Anonymous said...

This was my suggestions with the cite & summons issue as well. For entities that could do it different, but choose the expensive rout e with no real justification, make them pay their own way.

Sadly, it won't come to pass in either area.

Anonymous said...

The juvenile justice system should not be in the "education" business. The schools are dumping on the JJAEPS and the kids get the short end of it. The State has not fully funded the system, so the county must take the hit. Go check it out Grits, you will see what I mean.

Anonymous said...

Make schools pay more for the tards? Screw that. We are already spending way too much on athletics and the bottom 10%. These are not the people that will help us with the long term problems facing this nation and humanity. Better to institutionalize them just keep them fat and happy in a Retard Zoo. Spend the money and attention on training the students that might actually become something someday.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

These aren't retarded kids, 10:59, these are kids who've had disciplinary problems.

g said...

I was raised in many countries, which means that I've attended schools all around the world, including the misfortune of taking part in a Texan High School. I could post an unimaginably long comment on my infernal experience, but I'll limit myself to the following: I have never seen anything closer to prison, so poor on educational content, and so harmful to self esteem as the Texan School System. I think you are embracing a true cause when willing to change and institution so demoralizing it questions human rights. The United States is full of kind hearted people who should not allow their children being submitted to institutional disproportionate abuses. Best luck.