What’s new in public policy? November, 2018

Janet ForbushBy Janet Forbush

Background:  The past ten days in the history of the United States of America have been startling, horrifying, and nationally traumatizing on several levels.  How often have we heard the phrase “words matter” over these past several days?  But are we truly listening to those two words?  As youth advocates and mentors, we bear a unique responsibility to shoulder our individual and collective responsibilities for ensuring that our discourse, demeanor, and demonstrated composure are manifest positively in our familes, community, and professional environments.  This type of behavior can play a vital role in correcting the course of events locally and throughout this remarkable country.  We owe this approach to all of the young people for whom we serve as advocates.

Borrowing from the legendary wisdom of the late Fred Rogers, who was himself a resident of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, moments of consequential challenges prompt us to reach out for “helpers.”  In the timeless Rogers volume The World According to Mister Rogers – Important things to Remember, he wrote”When I was a boy I used to think that strong meant having big muscles, great physical power; but the longer I live, the more I realize that real strength has much more to do with what is not seen.  Real strength has to do with helping others”. We can all be “helpers’ to others in these times and one of the key ways to “help” in the next week is to be sure we exercis9)e our right to vote.  If your mentee is old enough to vote, be sure she or he has transportation to get to the polling station.  We can help change this ‘climate’ given our expertise as “helpers.”

Federal and State Developments

In late October, OJJDP announced grant awards of more than $172 million to support juvenile justice initiatives.  Mentoring programs and services garnered $83 million of this overall package.  The categories of mentoring programs and services grant awards are National Mentoring Pograms (N=6); Multistate Mentoring Programs (N=9): and Mentoring Programs for Youth Involved in the Juvenile Justice System (N=9).  The national grant awards ranged from $2 million (National Council of Young Men’s Christian Association) to $24.5 million (Boys & Girls Clubs of America). All six of the national category awardees were previous grantees of OJJDP.  As a contextual observation for Chronicle readers, while the amount of the single grant to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America appears to be substantial, we know that the need for mentoring is growing…not diminishing.  In 2009, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America was awarded just over $44 million.  Is our advocacy working?  If not, How can we strengthen our legislative advocacy efforts?

Two new categories of mentoring related grants were established to address opiod use among young people.  Seven awards were made to agencies introducing  through Mentoring Strategies for Youth Impacted by Opiods in a range of $450,000 to $500,000 per grant; and, five awards of $1.25 million each were awarded in the category of Statewide and Regional Mentoring Initiatives for Youth Impacted by Opiods.

Additional supplemental awards in mentoring were also announced last week.  The Mid-Atlantic Network of Youth and Family Services, Inc. to provide training and technical assistance to agencies that provide specialized services and mentoring for child and youth victims of sex trafficking.  Other supplemental awards were issued to four previously funded grantees funded under OJJDP’s Practitioner-Researcher Partnership in Cognitive Behavioral Programs.  MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership was refunded at a level of $2m through another supplemental award which ensures continuing support for the field through implementation of OJJDP’s National Mentoring Resource Center. Full listings of other mentoring grantees and upcoming funding opportunities is available through www.ojjdp.org

 Policy Changes Regarding For-profit Colleges

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recently decided to eliminate Obama administration safeguards protecting students from for-profit career programs that left the graduates with dismal job prospects and unmanageable student debt.  This is of concern, and should be, as a policy shift affecting thousands of amilies and young people.

Many higher education analysts anticipated DeVos would scale back the Obama administration’s ‘gainful employment’ but not completely wipe it out.  The dramatic decision was announced in mid-August on a Friday afternoon.  So, if you didn’t learn about this, no surprise!  A central element to the rationale introduced by DeVos was that it was “unfair to hold career programs at public community colleges, private nonprofit institutions accountable for saddling students with unmanageable debt in their jobs because traditional non-career programs were not held to the same standard.  Young people from low-income families, many who are their first family members to go to college, cannot be victimized through low-performing, and often under-scrutinized for profit colleges.  Poorly performing career programs must be held accountable or the debt burden on thousands of families and the students will be jeopardized seriously in the coming years.  Accountability is needed in this education arena.

Should the Voting Age be Changed?

Still fresh in our memories, we recall the activism of Parkland School youth last February who attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who had witnessed and, who were fortunate to escape the terror of the shooter at that high school.  Students at that high school have fostered a national initiative of the civics education group Generation Citizen.  This organization is supporting local, youth-led efforts in a number of cities to win 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in local elections.  In Washington, D.C., for example, the youth are also seeking the vote in presidential elections.  Sixteen-year-olds can already vote in local races in three Maryland cities and in Berkeley, California.  Something for all of us to think about!  (https://www.teenvogue.com/story/the-voting-age-should-be-lowered-to-16-years-old)

Recommended Reading/Listening

As we process recent events, it might be of interest to Chronicle readers to consider the following books.  Each offers different perspectives on the concept of civility, however, both worth considering for your personal and/or professional libraries and reading groups.

How Civility Works by Keith J. Bybee, asks us the question as to whether civility is dead?  It seems eminently suitable to this election season.  One of his points is that rudeness often runs “rampant” during election cycles.  Bybee is the Paul E. and the Hon. Joanne P Alper ’72 Judiciary Studies Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University.

Civility:  Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy, by Stephen L. Carter, suggests that manners have become a “casualty” of our postmodern culture.  He is a Yale law professor and social critic.  He invites us to ask whether we have “forgotten obligations to one another?”  This is a provocative and timely question.

Both of these books are available through amazon.com

Finally, as we enter into what is the month of Thanksgiving, the author of this column invites readers to go on YouTube and listen to one of the many timeless recordings of Peter, Paul, & Mary from a 25th anniversary concert where they sang the poignant piece “Light One Candle.”