The Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act (Proposition 47)

On November 4, 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47 (Prop 47), a groundbreaking law that changed certain low-level, non-violent drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Individuals with a prior felony or who are currently serving time for eligible crimes may qualify to change their record or sentence to a misdemeanor, thereby reducing the length of their sentence and time spent in jail. The Public Policy Institute of California estimates a 50% decline in the number of individuals being held or serving sentences for Prop 47 offenses. The removal of a felony also helps remove barriers to housing, employment, and government programs that restrict access based on one’s criminal background.

One of Proposition 47’s most promising opportunities is the reallocation of corrections funding to community-based prevention and treatment programs. The state expects to generate between $750 million to $1.25 billion from reduced incarceration costs over the next 5 years, of which 65% is earmarked for the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) to administer grant programs for mental health and substance abuse treatment services that keep individuals out of prison and jail. The BSCC has recently authorized an allocation of $103 million for innovative reentry and recidivism prevention programs. Another 25% of Prop 47 savings are allocated to the California Department of Education (CDE) to administer grant programs that aim to reduce truancy and dropout rates among K-12 public schools; and 10% for victim services grants.

Proposition 47 is also expected to produce hundreds of millions of dollars annually in additional cost savings at the local level from reduced incarceration in county jails. These savings will provide public agencies greater flexibility to invest in preventative programs that link children and families to services long before they make contact with the justice system.

Additional information about Proposition 47 can be found on the Californian’s for Safety and Justice Website.

Prop 47 is only the latest of more than 33 states to address criminal justice policy changes through justice reinvestment. Additional information on the national reinvestment landscape.

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What Does a Trauma-Informed School Look Like?

A trauma-informed school is one in which the adults in the school community (administrators, teachers, staff, parents and law enforcement) are prepared to recognize and respond supportively to those students who have been impacted by traumatic stress. However, a trauma-informed school is not simply about providing intervention strategies aimed at helping individual students recover from trauma. Such a school focuses on addressing the trauma at the systems-level, that is the entire school ecosystem.

A promising example of a school-based trauma-informed systems model is the Trauma Informed Systems (TIS) program, that has been adapted with leadership from the 2020 Vision for Berkeley’s Children & Youth and T2 Trauma Transformed, to train teachers, administrators and non-certified staff in 4 pilot schools in the Berkeley Unified School District in 2016-17. Adapting a TIS model that was successfully used to train the San Francisco Department of Public Health workforce, the Berkeley TIS model begins with a “TIS 101” half-day training followed by a series of “Learning Circle” communities of practice sessions.

The HEARTS program at the University of California, San Francisco is an influential example of a comprehensive, multi-level trauma-informed school model that targets children and adolescents with intervention and prevention work; trains the adult workforce in schools in trauma-sensitive practices; and works to improve school- and district-level policies and procedures.

Incorporating trauma-informed approaches into a school’s culture requires strategic planning on the part of administrators, training of the entire workforce (certified and classified staff), and implementing direct cognitive-based intervention strategies to help affected students.

To support these efforts, the school’s administration works to:

  • Educate the school workforce on the effect of trauma and chronic stress on students’ ability to learn and retain information;
  • Foster a safe and supportive school environment for the workforce through trauma-informed training, supportive counseling, and ongoing professional development for teachers and classified staff;
  • Conduct annual comprehensive threat assessments; and
  • Maintain open communication with students, families and the school workforce.

In addition, teachers can do their part by working with their students in developing healthy stress management and coping techniques, like deep breathing and meditation exercises; ensuring a positive and supportive classroom environment  via desk arrangement, color, light, music, and scents; and finally, supporting a culture of community and respect in the classroom.

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Community College the Funding Landscape

Since the Recession, community colleges have gained greater attention and recognition as a gateway to a better life – as resources for preparing people for secure employment and a family-sustaining income.  The national commitment to increasing postsecondary educational attainment, combined with growing economic anxiety, has made community colleges the focus of many federal and state policy initiatives.

At the federal level, Obama administration promoted community colleges in various ways. For instance:

Funding, through:

  • 4-year, $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) initiative – focused on partnerships between CCs and employers to develop pathway to good jobs in-demand regionally (funding was part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act allocation). By 2014, investment in 700 community colleges, more than 1,900 new or modified training programs had been launched
  • Many other Department of Education, Department of Labor, and NSF grants (see below)

Initiatives to make college more accessible/affordable, principally:

  • America’s College Promise – a plan to make two years of community college free for students, announced by Obama administration in 2015. States, cities, colleges responded by creating their own College Promise programs.
  • Proposed America’s College Promise Act of 2015 – $80 billion over 10 years (pending, or dead)
  • $111 million in America’s Promise Grants (DOL) awarded in November 2016, to 23 regional workforce partnerships
  • Pell grants expanded to high school students taking dual enrollment courses for college credit, in 2016
  • In 2016, Obama Administration proposed tax incentives, the Community College Partnership Tax Credit, to encourage employers to play a more active role in funding and directing educational options at community and technical colleges ($500 million in tax credits per year 2017-2021)

The current panorama at the federal level is very uncertain:

More about the federal landscape and community colleges in January 2017 report by the American Associate of Community Colleges

Overall, budget cuts and shifting priorities may affect many federal discretionary programs that have been resources for community colleges, along with federal student loan programs.

California and other states, local governments, and philanthropy will likely be called upon to step in and continue the momentum in making community colleges more accessible to disadvantaged students and viable pathways to good careers.

At the state level, there has been increased focus in recent years on:

Linked Learning/college and career pathways (academic and technical education), and CCs’ role in them, such as:

  • CCC Linked Learning Initiative, CPT 1 and 2, linkages with high school career academies and pathway programs
  • CA spends $6.5 annually on more than two dozen workforce programs (62% from state funding, most of the rest federal)
  • Adult Ed Block Grant consortia (AB 86)

Student access/persistence:

  • Increased funding for students – e.g., College Promise programs launched locally (such as in Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, Richmond, Peralta Promise), and now CCCCO is awarding CA College Promise Grants to CCs in 2017
  • Developmental/remedial education (e.g., Basic Skills Initiative, California Acceleration Project, Multiple Measures Assessment Project, Basic Skills & Student Outcomes Transformation grants)
  • Student Success and Support, Student Equity, and other apportionments

Current state funding panorama:

  • State revenues, which surged during several years of recovery, are now beginning to lag expectations. Despite this constraint, the budget provides roughly $400 million in new Proposition 98 General Fund spending for California community colleges. New spending will include:
  • $150 million for Guided Pathways Grant Program, upcoming in 2017
  • $20 million for an Innovation Awards program, upcoming in 2017

While state apportionments for community colleges have increased, there is a clear expectation from policy makers that these funds have been provided to ensure colleges are covered for new expenses related to pension costs increases

Summary of how the Governor’s 2017-18 Budget impacts California Community Colleges

California legislators have proposed a new “Debt Free College Program” for resident undergraduates attending public colleges in California. The Legislative Analyst’s Office directed by 2016-17 budget act to estimate annual cost: $3.3 billion annually ($2.2 billion for community college students, $800 million for CSU students, and $300 million for UC students).  AO Report. January 31, 2017.


Federal grants community colleges have been able to apply for in recent years (not a full list). Unclear which will continue.

U.S. Department of Education

  • Trio (Educational Opportunity Centers, Talent Search, Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math-Science, Veterans Upward Bound, Gear Up, Student Support Services, Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement, Training Program for Federal TRIO programs staff)
  • Strengthening Institutions Program
  • Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions Program
  • Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) program
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities
  • Predominantly Black Institutions
  • American Indian Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities
  • Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions
  • Native Hawaiian Education Program
  • Native American Career and Technical Education Program
  • Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program
  • Investing in Innovations
  • First in the World
  • Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS)

National Science Foundation

  • Advanced Technological Education
  • S-STEM
  • Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (NSF INCLUDES):

U.S. Department of Labor:

  • TAAACT (2011-14)
  • Apprenticeship
  • H1-B Technical Skills
  • TechHire
  • America’s Promise grants
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Communities in Poverty

Under the Obama administration, in 2015, poverty rates, income, and health coverage all moved in the right direction. This was the first time this had happened since 1999. At this early stage in the new Trump administration, many of the systems that comprise the safety net are facing if not existential threats, then at least dramatic change. These changes could unfold rapidly and simultaneously across multiple systems introducing historic “shock” to the overall economy and safety net.

As the country and the branches of government struggle over this historic turn, local public agencies and non-profits are wondering how to prepare for potential changes that may be coming and it is difficult to know how to do so at this early stage. One thing we can do is to make sure that we understand where key safety net elements that support low-income individuals and families stand. Some of the important areas to watch that will impact poverty include but are not limited to the following:

Workforce and wages: While President Trump has ambitious job goals, they are unlikely to be met given current full employment. In fact, achieving his goals would require ‘massive immigration or the return to the labor market of elderly Americans.’ Despite full employment, many Californians are low-wage workers living in poverty. While California and many cities have a rising minimum wage, this alone is insufficient to pull workers out of poverty.

Health Care: If the ACA is repealed the number of people without health insurance in California will jump 146% and 4,887,000 Californians will lose their health insurance. Added health care costs and decreased/ lost of subsidies could contribute to a rise in poverty and a decline in economic security in California.

Childcare: While California is supporting state sponsored preschool expansion of these programs has slowed and is not meeting current need. One of the key sources of childcare funding for low-income families, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, has declined as a resource and is insufficient to meet the need of California families that qualify. In California Proposition 10 tobacco tax funds that have been invested in early childhood programs for over a decade are declining, and at this time there is no funding stream to replace it. Just as the research showing the critical importance of early childhood becomes increasingly compelling, funding sources for this essential resource become more uncertain.

Housing and Transportation Infrastructure: The absence of affordable housing is a crisis in many areas of California. Affordable housing can be particularly challenging near major job centers leading to a reliance on public transportation and transportation infrastructure that is weak and underfunded in California. The Trump administration has proposed investing billions in infrastructure that may ease the burden of transportation costs and commute times for low-income households. It is unlikely however that the housing crisis will have a simple solution particularly in dense urban areas.

Trump policies on trade and immigration are likely to introduce great uncertainty and volatility into the economy and labor markets. Changing globalized trade patterns will disrupt markets and supplier relationships. Immigrant workers already face increased intimidation, and the resulting fear may lead to declining access to essential services for immigrant children and families.

Non-profits and public agencies can take steps now to strengthen their message to clients and to build trust with their communities and clients. Stronger partnerships will position your charitable and community development organization to be flexible and effective in the face of coming change, so that when that change begins to take shape, we will be ready to galvanize communities to support each other and push back against discriminatory or destructive policies.

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The Myth of the Carrot and the Stick

Why does our national educational debate continue to fluctuate between reward and punishment – for teachers, principals, parents and ultimately children? What can we do about it?

This past year Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – changing the name from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This apparently innocuous name change signaled major alterations in the Department of Education’s Theory of Change for the nations’ schools and students.

NCLB, despite its flaws, was important and innovative in its day because it called for schools and districts to be held accountable for the predictability of failure among a wide array of demographic groups – divided by gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disabilities, and primary language. Previous to NCLB, schools and districts were held accountable for overall results, but not for results disaggregated in this way. NCLB was a wakeup call for educators who would now be accountable for addressing the achievement gaps between various groupings of students. In the end, the NCLB model proved to be negative, punitive, demoralizing and overly simplistic when it came to making meaningful changes in educational practice across the nation.

In contrast, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is about success for all students, despite race/ethnicity, zip code, or economic status. States are given more flexibility to devise testing or to join consortia of states adopting a common testing framework – with a strong bias toward measuring mastery and capacity to think and do meaningful work. Struggling schools are provided more resources and support for improvement, using evidence-based strategies. States are required to measure the following: 1) reading and math test scores; 2) English language proficiency test scores; 3) high school graduation rates; and 4) a state-selected academic measure for elementary and middle schools. They are also required to measure at least one school-quality factor such as Kindergarten readiness, college readiness, school climate and safety, and chronic absenteeism.

ESSA is only a little more than a year old at this point, but it has already begun to change the dialogue between the federal, state and local agencies from punishment to support. This bipartisan reauthorization of ESEA must be given a chance to work. There are many signs of progress such as: 1) more collaboration between the early childhood, K-12 and higher education sectors to align expectations and to build bridges for children and youth; 2) greater emphasis on treating parents as partners in educating their children; 3) use of experiential, project based learning and career pathways; and 4) a number of states have developed common standards (e.g. Common Core) and testing methodologies (e.g., Smarter Balanced Assessment) that are based on best practices.

ESSA also has a strong focus on equity – understanding that, in a society with enormous disparities of income, stability, discrimination, exposure to adverse childhood events, and widely divergent school quality, students must be provided “what they need” in order to be successful. Equity goes beyond equality.

It seems clear that we are in uncharted waters, and many of us have a great deal of anxiety about what comes next. But there is no reason to despair. No matter who you are, you can get involved in supporting our children who are our future. Stay informed. Go to school board meetings, participate in the Local Control Funding Formula planning process, visit your children’s schools, volunteer, vote for better funding for schools, and most of all expect excellence of your children and their teachers. At the end of the day it will be district, city, county and state leadership that makes things happen for our children. Let’s get active and make a difference.

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