California proposal aims to boost education funding for juvenile halls, continuation schools

A California legislator has introduced a bill geared toward generating additional funding for juvenile hall schools and alternative high schools that need high-quality services to prepare vulnerable youth for college and careers.

Under current law, community and juvenile hall schools are operated by county offices of education and funded through average daily attendance.

But some county leaders say that creates too much volatility when it comes to how their regional schools are funded.

Assembly Bill 906, if signed into law, would change that, according to its supporters. Thus far, the bill has no registered opposition, according to education leaders.

Many education leaders said the existing model doesn’t adequately support vulnerable students who need to continue their education while they are in juvenile detention or at continuation high schools, such as Folsom Lake High or Calvine High.

About 400 school board members met with lawmakers March 9-10 to advocate for several bills, including AB 906, authored by Mike Gipson, D-Carson.

Gina Cuclis, president of the California County Boards of Education and member of the Sonoma County Board of Education, said the bill is a game changer for youth.

“Students in our juvenile halls deserve quality education, that’s how we turn their lives around,” Cuclis said. “Students who are expelled or come out of the juvenile system, and don’t go to comprehensive high schools, they need extra support, high quality services and social emotional support.”

Average daily attendance has unintended consequences at schools that have temporary placements for many of their students, said Troy Flint, spokesperson for California School Board Association, which is co-sponsoring the bill.

“The way that the student population cycles in and out of the schools disadvantages them from a funding standpoint and it leads to instability,” he said.

Years ago, 300 students were in Sacramento County’s juvenile hall in Rosemont. Today, in part due to changing views of jailing child offenders, fewer than 90 youth are in juvenile detention, according to Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools Dave Gordon. And most of them stay about two or three weeks.

“The goal is to get them back to their school of origin,” Flint said.

AB 906 would increase funding to community and juvenile hall schools by setting baseline funding. It would give more predictability and stability for the finances of these schools.

“If you create a base, you won’t have to worry about declining enrollment,” said Cuclis.

More support for programs

While some schools are seeing fewer students, the funding would enhance existing programs. The additional base funding will go toward highly-specialized teachers, para-educators, counselors, mental health professionals, and others who serve students, according to Kindra Britt with the California County Superintendents office.

“Compared to a traditional high school, the students we serve tend to have a higher degree of academic and social-emotional needs, which the schools are there to support,” Britt said. “In general, this means we need a higher level of investment per student than traditional school settings.”

The bill would also provide funding for high quality programs. Students continue working on their academic curriculum while in juvenile detention, but the Sacramento County Office of Education, for example, also offers construction programs for both males and females. Among those options are a culinary program, several career tech programs and dual enrollment programs with community colleges.

SCOE expects an influx of additional 20 to 50 students in recent months into Sacramento County’s juvenile hall, coming from state programs that were operated by the Department of Justice that have since closed.

“It’s an extra cost to us, but we are equipped to handle it and give those kids a head start,” Gordon said.

Alternative high schools offer prenatal and parenting education, and students receive health services that may not be readily available elsewhere.

“We are fulfilling the goal of helping our young people get better educated and employable by the time they leave,” Gordon said. “They find their way quickly through apprenticeship programs and internships.”

Legislative officials are hearing from education advocates throughout this week, who are pushing for AB 906.

“This is how we turn around the lives of these at-promise youth,” Cuclis said.