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Young People Throng to Nation’s Capital to Catch a Glimpse of History

WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than a million people poured into downtown Washington, D.C., yesterday, a federal holiday dedicated to slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., for the festivities marking the start of President Barack Obama’s second term in office.

The crowd included hundreds of thousands of young people from around the country, from elementary school students accompanying their parents to college-age youth hanging out with their friends. They spent hours traveling on buses and trains to the National Mall, more hours waiting in the January cold for the ceremonies to begin, and many more stuck in gridlock at security checkpoints and Metrorail stations afterward on their way home.

Youth Today asked some of these young people, many of whom were too young to vote for Obama either time, why they were there.

On the Orange Line Metrorail from Vienna, Va., to L’Enfant Plaza, D.C.

“I just wanted to see what Michelle was wearing,” joked Sarah Allu, 19, who boarded a Metrorail train in Vienna, Va., at the far end of the Orange Line, early Monday morning to head to the National Mall with Amandeep Sandhu, 20, and Pravarjay Reddy, 18.

All three remembered watching Obama’s first inaugural on TV four years ago. Now that they were in college so close to D.C., at George Mason University in Herndon, Va., they wanted to witness the second inaugural in person, Sandhu said.

Reddy, an international student who arrived in the United States from India last fall, said he was impressed by the orderliness of the American political process and the political enthusiasm of his American peers.

“People take pride in being involved in the system,” Reddy said. “Back in India, I don’t think many people are interested in politics at my age. That’s a big difference.”

All three of them had strong ideas about what Obama should accomplish in his second term. The country needs stricter gun laws and students need easier access to financing for college, they said.

But Allu and Sandhu, naturalized citizens whose families migrated from India years ago, opposed any initiatives Obama could put forward to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

“I think it’s a completely wrong idea,” Allu said. “We did a process. We paid so much to get where we are.”

Sandhu agreed. “It took us quite a while to get our citizenship,” she said. “Them coming in and getting the same rights is not right, because we worked hard for that and for so many years.”

7TH and D Streets NW

As the crowds streamed out of L’Enfant Plaza Metro station around 10 a.m., hawkers lined the street corners selling memorabilia like T-shirts, posters and cloth bags printed with four-year-old images of the Obama family. This vendor said she bought her wares wholesale, and was hoping to sell enough to make her mortgage payment. By noon, many vendors were already offering significant discounts.

7th Street and Independence Avenue NW

African Americans of all ages made up a large proportion of the crowds streaming from the L’Enfant Palza Metro station and toward the National Mall before the ceremonies. “I don’t see a lot of white people,” said one young woman in a low voice as she followed a crowd down Independence Avenue.

Security measures were in evidence everywhere. A helicopter patrolled overhead as crowds headed to the Mall.

12th Street NW and Independence Ave NW

Squashed between the masses of people trying to get to the Mall were seven students from Bullhead City Junior High School in Bullhead City, Ariz., and their five adult chaperones. They’d been in town since Thursday and had already visited Arlington Cemetery, the National Air and Space Museum and the Holocaust Museum, said Mike McClurg, a social studies teacher.

Last Constitution Day, the school held an essay contest for students to describe, among other things, their favorite Constitutional amendment and their favorite Supreme Court case. Several of the prize-winning essays, like those by eighth-graders Andrew Gutierrez and Desirae Webb, both 15, referenced Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark ruling against racial segregation in schools.

Community groups, including veterans’ groups and the local Republican women’s committee, helped the group raise about $10,000 to travel to D.C. for the inauguration and some cultural sightseeing, McClurg said. They were blogging about their trip for their local paper, the Mohave Daily News.

A must-see before they went home, McClurg said, was a stop at the National Archives to view the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

National Mall

“We came all the way to Washington to watch TV?” asked 13-year-old India Hicks, looking at the giant screen in the distance that showed images of the Obamas at the inauguration ceremony. Hicks had boarded a bus from Philadelphia in the wee morning hours on Monday, getting to D.C. at 6.30 a.m. with her mother and cousins, Meyona Johnson, 12, and Madison Goodwin, 9. They’d been standing in the cold since, waiting for the ceremonies to begin.

About 150 family and community members had packed into three buses for the trip. “Everybody loves the president,” Hicks said.

Johnson nodded. “He says no guns, no violence,” she said. “And he wants to help the homeless.”

National Mall

Nine-year-old Ayana Pulliam straddled her stepfather’s shoulders, straining to get a better view down the Mall. She’d had an early morning, leaving Camden, N.J. before 5 a.m. on a bus with her parents and about 50 other people associated with her elementary school. They got to Washington before 8 a.m.

“I’m excited to see Barack Obama in person!” she said.

National Mall

Caitlin Christian, 16 (above, second from left), hosted a sleepover at her parents’ home in Chevy Chase, Md., the night before the inauguration. Eight teenagers stayed over, some of whom she’d only met a week earlier. They rose at 4.30 a.m. and took the Metrorail to downtown D.C. together, eager to take part in a historic event.

The nine attend schools all over the D.C. metro area and recently joined Operation Understanding D.C., an organization that promotes dialogue between African American and Jewish teens. They’ll be old enough to vote in the next presidential election, but they still wanted a piece of this one.

“I didn’t get to vote for our first black president,” said Mia Hammonds, 17, who lives in northeast D.C. “So I thought I’d come to the inauguration.”

Daryn Robinson, 16 (above, fifth from left), of Upper Marlboro, Md., attended Obama’s inauguration four years ago, but it’s more special this time, she said. “Last time, my family dragged me. I was 12,” she said. “This time, I set the alarm to wake everyone up. There’s a sense of independence in that.”

Their program supervisor, Aaron Jenkins, encouraged them to attend this “super historic” day, Robinson said. When Martin Luther King Jr. addressed crowds on the National Mall to call for racial equality, he was speaking to future generations like Obama, Jenkins told the group, Robinson said.

And on this day, she said, Obama would speak back.

12 Street NW and Constitution Avenue NW

Cierra Waller, 26, spent 15 hours on a bus to get to D.C. from Bowling Green, Ky., traveling with a group of undergraduate and graduate students and staff members from Western Kentucky University.

In the hours after the inauguration ceremony, Waller found herself jammed between hundreds of other people, including Noelle Johnson, 22, and Abbey Oldham, 21, also from the university, trying to get into the Federal Triangle metro station to take the train back to her Alexandria hotel.

But none of the inconvenience mattered.

“It just gives you hope to be here,” Waller said. “As an African American growing up, you never had hope that you could do anything, but just being here makes you believe that you can.”

Photos by Kaukab Jhumra Smith

Youth Today Speaks with Young Voters at Polls Across US

On Election Day, in the final hours of a historic presidential race, Youth Today reporters spread out to polling stations across the nation and asked young voters what issues mattered most to them. To find out how they voted, check out the continuing updates to this real-time story at youthtoday.jjie3.wpengine.com.

Senate Confirmation Rule Dropped for Federal Juvenile Justice Office

Melodee Hanes, acting OJJDP administrator

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Juvenile justice advocates are dismayed by a new law that they say threatens to accelerate the fading relevance of juvenile justice reform within the federal government.

To the chagrin of many, President Barack Obama has not nominated anyone for the U.S. Senate to confirm as a permanent leader of federal juvenile justice efforts since he took office. For three and a half years, the federal office responsible for setting national policy, sharing research on best practices and funding state initiatives on juvenile justice and delinquency prevention has chugged along on temporary leadership, first under acting Administrator Jeff Slowikowski and since January, under acting Administrator Melodee Hanes.

If the White House does name a person to fill the long-vacant position – something unlikely to happen soon, advocates say, given a looming presidential election -- such a Senate confirmation will never come.

That’s because effective Aug. 10, the process of confirming a person to lead the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has fundamentally changed. Under the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act, passed by Congress and signed by the president earlier this summer, the Senate will no longer have to confirm the nominations of 170 government positions, including that of the administrator of the OJJDP. The president can now simply appoint someone to that office.

“I’m certainly not in favor of it. I think it downgrades the position of the office,” said Gordon Raley, who was staff director of a House subcommittee at the time that the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, which created an office focused on juvenile justice and delinquency issues within the U.S. Department of Justice, was being drafted.

“Kids generally don’t have high priority when it comes to the way things are done in Washington,” Raley said. “Kids in trouble even less so. To get someone who will be able to get stature in the position and be able to work across agencies -- that's what the office was supposed to do.”

Ira Schwartz, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to lead the federal office, echoed Raley’s characterization of the original intention of the 1974 legislation. It drew tremendous bipartisan support for bringing attention to the “many, many problems” faced by children who came into contact with the juvenile justice system, he said.

“Children were not receiving adequate due process, proper representation in the courts, they were being incarcerated for relatively minor and often times non-criminal offenses,” Schwartz said. “They were also being incarcerated for longer periods of time than their adult counterparts who had committed similar offenses.”

The position of the office administrator came up a lot during the drafting of the 1974 Act, Raley said. “The point we wanted to make at the time was that this was a position that needed a presidential nomination and Senate approval at the same time. It needed this stature.”

JJIE spoke to many other people in the juvenile justice field, including another former administrator of the office, and their views on the change were nearly unanimous: removing the Senate confirmation requirement, even in the name of expediency, will have a negative effect on the ability of the office to advocate for juvenile justice issues at the federal level. Hanes, acting administrator of the OJJDP, did not respond to requests for comment.

“I just don't think you have as much power or as much clout if you don’t have Senate confirmation. They don’t really know you then,” said Marion Mattingly, Washington editor of the Juvenile Justice Update, who has followed the juvenile justice field for decades.

Liz Ryan, president of the nonprofit Campaign for Youth Justice, says removing the requirement for Congressional confirmation opens the doors to more partisan and less-qualified appointees for the office in the future.

“Particularly in a situation where you have an unfriendly administration or an administration that views this as a low priority, we won’t have the ability to stop the appointment or hear their views prior to a vote,” Ryan said.

The director of Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, Shay Bilchik, who served as administrator of the OJJDP from 1994 to 2000 under President Bill Clinton, also said he was “disappointed” when he heard the law had been signed.

Sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act is intended to make it easier for the Obama administration to fill 170 vacant federal positions, some with nominees whose confirmations have been blocked or delayed for months by a partisan or distracted Congress. Schumer’s office did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Some juvenile justice practitioners, however, take a pragmatic approach. Like Irv Katz, president of the National Human Services Assembly, an association of the country’s largest youth and human services organizations, including the Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

“What I would observe is that we have had good and bad people in that position regardless of the congressional approval process,” Katz said. He doesn’t blame the administration for the change.

“The whole appointment and confirmation process is so dysfunctional and fractured, that it leads to nominees who are not confirmed in the appropriate period of time, and nominees that withdraw, and a reluctance on part of the administration to put names forward knowing that it will not move forward,” Katz said. “So it appoints an interim person in the chain of command who they know will do a perfectly fine job.”

Jim Moeser, deputy director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, who serves on the federal advisory council for juvenile justice for OJJDP, also doesn’t see a problem with the change.

“If the confirmation process is so cumbersome and politically problematic that we end up with no one there, then that’s not very useful,” Moeser said.

But, several people have pointed out, there has never been an Obama nominee for the job of OJJDP administrator, even though, as JJIE’s sister publication Youth Today reported at the time, two candidates, Karen Baynes of Georgia, and Vicki Spriggs of Texas, came close in 2009 and 2010 respectively before withdrawing from consideration.

“The fact that this administration wasn’t even able to provide a name, or feel strongly enough that they could find someone, tells me that’s a problem with this administration giving this a priority, than it is with the Senate not pushing it through,” Raley said.

Photo by Justice.gov

Comics Journalism: ‘Jessica Colotl: In the Eye of the Storm’

Jessica Colotl says her life is a series of hearings since the struggle began between her and federal and state authorities over whether she can stay in the country she's called home since she was ten years old.

Read the English version here and the Spanish version here.

Colotl is young; she's in limbo like many other immigrants, her story shifts from her college to a detention facility to a presidential announcement to a tenuous freedom. It's a story that's dramatic, tense, and now it's presented in a way more accessible to young people.

Furthermore, the story is reported through an innovative new form: illustrative or comics journalism.

The comic "Jessica Colotl: In the Eye of the Storm" tells her story in panels, color and expression that are probably more engaging — and just as informative — as other forms of journalism.

It's published through a partnership of the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange and Cartoon Movement, an online publisher of political cartoons and comics journalism.

United States Will Stop Deporting Young Undocumented Immigrants Under New Policy

The Obama administration will no longer deport and begin granting work permits to young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, The New York Times reports. The policy change does not need Congressional approval.

President Obama will discuss the plan at a press conference in the Rose Garden Friday afternoon.

The policy change could affect some 800,000 immigrants who are younger than 30 and arrived in the United States before they turned 16, according to The Times. Additionally, they must have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have a high school diploma or GED earned in the United States, served in the military or have no criminal history. They would also be eligible to apply for a two-year work permit that can be renewed an unlimited number of times.

The change achieves some of the goals of the DREAM Act, a controversial bill that would have granted citizenship to undocumented immigrants who had earned a certain number of college credits or served in the military. However, the new policy does not include a path to citizenship for eligible immigrants but does grant them immunity from deportation, The Times reports.

Photo from the White House.

Senate Bill to Extend Current Student Loan Interest Rates Defeated

Tuesday, Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked a bill backed by Democrats that would have kept interest rates for certain federal student loans from doubling this July.

By a 52-45 majority, GOP senators effectively killed the proposal – entitled the Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012, it marking this Congress’ 21st successful filibuster of a Democratic-sponsored bill, according to The New York Times. If an extension of current federally-subsidized student loan rates does not occur, loan rates for undergraduate students are expected to jump from 3.4 percent to 6.8 later this summer.

According to recent reports, American students took out almost twice the value of student loans in 2011 - estimated at about $112 billion – than they did a decade ago. In 2010, student loan debt totaled approximately $1 trillion, eclipsing credit card debt as the nation’s second largest form of debt behind mortgages, USA Today reported.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and given White House backing, would have paid for the interest rate extension via higher payroll taxes and the elimination of certain tax benefits for some private companies. Republicans are currently pushing for an alternative extension bill proposed by Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, which would pay for the interest extension by making cuts to the preventative health care fund – a bill that President Obama has said he would veto if it passed in the Senate, The Washington Post reports.

According to The Boston Herald, the cost of keeping interest rates at their current levels is estimated at approximately $6 billion.

Photo by Collegeview.com

Food is Fundamental, Only Don’t Ask Newt Gingrich

On January 21 Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina Primary. But he did it, in part, by using racist rhetoric, characterizing President Obama as "the best food stamp president in American history." Since then, he has continued to drive this distortion hoping it will somehow resonate with voters. It's not likely to work, because most Americans understand that food is fundamental. Presidents do not put people onto the food stamp rolls. People, predominately people with children to feed, become eligible for food stamps.

The food stamp program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, is a critical safety net for families living in poverty. SNAP eligibility rules require that participants be at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level.

Recent studies show that 49 percent of all SNAP participants are children (age 18 or younger), with almost two-thirds of SNAP children living in single-parent households. In total, 76 percent of SNAP benefits go towards households with children, 16 percent go to households with disabled persons, and 9 percent go to households with senior citizens.

Newt Gingrich’s attempt to paint Obama as the president who oversaw the largest increase of SNAP participation is inaccurate. It was President Bush, not President Obama who has that distinction.  This stands to reason, as it was during President Bush’s administration that our country’s economy plummeted.  Newt Gingrich’ race-baiting tactic is repugnant, of course, and he is just flat-out wrong.  As Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) so eloquently voiced on the floor of The U.S. House recently, “Hunger is color-blind. Of recipients whose race we know, 22 percent of SNAP recipients are African-American. And 34 percent are white. Hunger knows no race, or religion, or age or political party.”

Hunger in America is real.  Programs such as SNAP, WIC, free- and reduced- school lunches, and summer feeding programs exists because there is a need.  These are not fraud-ridden systems somehow sucking the life out of our budgets as some politicians would like you to believe.  According to a recent USDA analysis, SNAP reached a payment accuracy of 96.19 percent in 2012 (the highest ever achieved by the program).  Trafficking rates — the number of benefits exchanged for cash — are at 1 percent, according to 2008 statistics, the most recent available. There is always room for improvement, but the integrity of the SNAP program is solid.

As evidenced by no subsequent primary wins, America is not buying Newt Gingrich’s assault on children, families, disabled, or our senior citizens.

In a recent NPR interview, correspondent David Welna spoke to Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions from Alabama, and Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu from Louisiana. Per capita, Sessions' Alabama is one of the top food stamp recipients in the nation; so is Louisiana.  Sen. Sessions said, “I think it's a policy of the administration, just get money out of the door to try to stimulate the economy, and not look closely at who's getting it and why they're getting it.”  Sen. Mary Landrieu said, “It is blaming the victim, and it's making a mockery of some of the most important, I think, social safety net programs in the country.”  Welna asked about government freeloaders?  Sen. Landrieu responded by suggesting Congress should “take away the special tax loopholes for the rich."

Candidate Gingrich would never advocate for that. Take away tax loopholes for the wealthy? Blasphemous indeed. Hungry children, being hungry, families living from paycheck to paycheck, having a language barrier that limits your ability to navigate our system, being part of the working poor, struggling to find a job, or experiencing financial fear, all these are beyond the realm of reality for Newt Gingrich.

No, he can more easily identify with his patrons such as Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul who donated 5 million dollars to Gingrich through a super PAC. Then his wife Miriam, quickly followed with a 6 million dollar donation. This was just before the South Carolina primary and we know who won the South Carolina primary.

A Look at Youth-Related Spending in Obama’s 2013 Budget

This story originally appeared on YouthToday.

President Barack Obama unveiled his 2013 budget proposal today, which calls for $3.8 trillion in spending and projects a $901 billion deficit for the year. It was quickly met with resistance from Republican leadership.

“The President’s budget falls exceptionally short in many critical areas – including a lack of any substantive proposal for mandatory and entitlement spending reform,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), in a statement issued this morning.

Rogers promised to “go line by line through the President’s budget, prioritize programs, and make decisions on the appropriate investment of discretionary funds.”

Juvenile Justice

The president would fund the Office of Justice Programs at $1.7 billion in 2013, down from $2.7 billion in 2011 and $2 billion in 2012. The budget would increase spending on the juvenile justice and delinquency prevention programs at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, a division of OJP.

Formula grants to states (Title II): $70 million
2012 appropriation: $40 million

Delinquency prevention grants: $40 million
2012 appropriation: $20 million

Block grants to states (JABG): $30 million
2012 appropriation: $30 million

Mentoring programs: $58 million
2012 appropriation: $78 million

Community-Based Violence Prevention: $25 million
2012 appropriation: $8 million

Other notable items from the Department of Justice proposal:

-A $20 million “evidence-based competitive demonstration program” for juvenile justice reform. This, of course, is the concept that the administration proposed for nearly all juvenile justice funding in 2012.

-Moving the Missing and Exploited Children program funding ($67 million proposed) from OJJDP into the Crime Victims Fund.

-There is $80 million included for the Second Chance Act, which aims to assist states with reentry services for adult and juvenile offenders. There is $20 million set aside within that proposal for “Pay for Success” projects, which is the administration’s term for social impact bonds.

-Obama does not include spending for OJJDP’s Victims of Child Abuse program, or for the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, but does include $23 million for the Defending Childhoodinitiative, created by Attorney General Eric Holder to address the trauma experienced by children who are exposed directly or indirectly to violence.

Education and Labor

The big change for 2013 is Obama’s proposed Community College Initiative, an $8 billion venture that would be carried out jointly by the Department of Education and Labor. This is the project referred to earlier this month in the State of the Union, which is aimed at helping community colleges develop worker-training programs for nearby companies with jobs they cannot fill because the potential employee pool lacks critical skills.

The Education budget also proposes a freeze on interest rates for federal Stafford Loans. The rate is scheduled to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent in July. Obama includes a long-term plan to expand the Perkins Loan program from $1 billion to $8 billion, raising the interest rate on those loans from 5 percent to 6.8 percent and restructuring the program to prevent colleges and universities from increasing tuition costs.

Obama includes $824.4 million for Department of Labor youth activities under the Workforce Investment Act, $80 million for YouthBuild programs, and another $80 million for reintegration of ex-offenders, which is down from $109 million in 2011. The budget would fund the Workforce Innovation Fund at $50 million, down from $125 million in 2012.

Other notable items from the Department of Education:

-$850 million for Race to the Top and $100 million for Promise Neighborhoods in the Education budget.

-Level funding of $1.15 billion for after-school programs through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

-The budget would maintain the maximum Pell Grant award at $4,860, but raise it to $5,635 for the 2014-2015 school years.

Health and Family Services

The president’s budget for HHS does not reflect many changes to funding for the Administration for Children and Families, which oversees the majority of family, foster care and adoption services. It does propose $350 million for the Community Services Block Grant, which was funded at $677 million in 2012, but this is not the first budget proposal in which Obama has expressed an interest in cutting back the program.

The expansion of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs was included in the controversial Affordable Care Act, and is slated for an increase from $350 million this year to $400 million in 2013.

The Department of Agriculture budget includes $19.7 billion for Child Nutrition Programs, which is $1.5 billion over the 2012 appropriation. The Women, Infants & Children Program would receive $7 billion, a $400 million increase from 2012.

The Agriculture budget also includes an increase from $264 million to $325 million for theAgriculture and Food Research Initiative, which offers competitive grants for number of potential subjects, including childhood obesity.

Other notable items:

-Within the level-funding proposal of $2.3 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the president includes $1 million for toll-free hotline and website that parents can use to access local child care services.

-Funds Head Start at $8.1 billion, slightly more than it received in 2012 and significantly more than Obama has requested in the past. The proposal also “supports the implementation of new regulations to strengthen Head Start by requiring low-performing grantees to compete for continued funding,” a process that is actually already underway.

-In the endnotes of the HHS budget appendix, there is mention of a program to reduce pregnancy among youth in foster care. It would consist of competitive grants or contracts, made available in September of 2013, and would be funded by the certain unspent funds from previous fiscal years.

-Within the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, there is $20 million proposed for a drug prevention media program and $88.6 million for the Drug-Free Communities Support Program, which provides small grants to seed local community drug-free coalitions.

Service Learning

Obama proposes $760.5 million for the Corporation for National and Community Service. This includes more or less level funding for AmeriCorps grants ($345 million), the trust that pays out AmeriCorps education stipends ($208.7 million), and the National Civilian Community Corps ($30.1 million).

The budget includes $53.2 million for the Social Innovation Fund. It does not address CNCS’ Foster Grandparents program, which was appropriated about $110 million by Congress in 2011 and 2012.

To see federal spending figures on youth services in 2012, click here. To access the agency-level details for the president's 2013 budget, click here.

Photo by Flickr | rachaelvoorhees

Congress Makes Further Cuts to Juvenile Justice Funding

House and Senate appropriations leaders finalized a “minibus” spending package that further reduces the relevance of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and possibly jeopardizes the office’s connection with state governments.

The bill - which funds the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, and Housing and Urban Development – trims the allocation from an already-reduced $275 million in fiscal 2011 to $262.5 million for fiscal 2012.

The minibus package contains another continuing resolution allowing the government to operate through December 16.

The structure of the juvenile justice funding comes from the Senate Appropriations Committee’s bill, which drastically reduced funding but kept some for each program of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

Under the agreement reached by appropriations confereees, the funding levels for OJJDP’s biggest programs, which include state formula grants, mentoring and missing and exploited children, more closely mirror what was proposed by the House appropriators.

These are the funding levels, by fiscal year, for the office's major programs:

Title II Formula Grants to States
2012: $40 million
2011: $62 million
2010: $75 million

Title V Grants (Delinquency Prevention)
2012: $20 million
2011: $54 million
2010: $65 million

Juvenile Accountability Block Grants (JABG)
2012: $30 million
2011: $45.65 million
2010: $55 million

Mentoring
2012: $78 million
2011: $83 million
2010: $100 million

Missing and Exploited Children
2012: $65 million
2011: $58.1 million
2010: $70 million

Victims of Child Abuse
2012: $18 million
2011: $18.68 million
2010: $22.5 million

Community-Based Violence Prevention
2012: $8 million
2011: $8.3 million
2010: $10 million

Prospects on what will happen with the formula funds are complicated. The funds are allocated to the states in exchange for their compliance with four core standards of juvenile justice operations: not detaining or incarcerating status offenders; keeping all juveniles out of adult jails, and separating them by sight and sound from adult detainees in the rare exceptions when jail is allowable; and addressing disproportionate minority contact in the system.

Title II funds are dispersed based on the under-18 population in each state, but nearly half the states receive the “minimum allocation” of $600,000. OJJDP can lower that minimum if the total amount for Title II drops below $75 million.

Last fiscal year, the department chose to keep the $600,000 allocation, and make the states with larger youth populations absorb 36 percent cuts.

If the department maintains the minimum allocation again in 2012, the more populous states would receive an even larger cut and some states have said they might consider opting out of participation in the JJDPA.

On the other hand, if they lower the minimum allocation, some juvenile justice advocates believe some of the smaller states will almost certainly opt out.

The entire Title V appropriation in the bill is consumed by tribal youth programs, Enforcement of Underage Drinking Laws (EUDL), and gang prevention, which means that no money will go to state advisory groups (SAG) to use for delinquency prevention projects.

President Barack Obama initially proposed a massive overhaul of juvenile justice spending for 2012, which would have combined the 2010 totals for formula grants and JABG, reduced it by $10 million, and created a $120 million Juvenile Justice System Incentive Grants program.

After the plan drew sharp criticism from some juvenile justice advocates and state juvenile justice leaders, the administration backed off the plan and pushed for $80 million in formula grants and $30 million for JABG, along with a new $10 million incentive grant competition.

Appropriators also provided $10 million for Attorney General Eric Holder’s Defending Childhood Initiative, which seeks to assist children who have witnessed or experienced violence. Among the other Justice appropriations that could end up going toward serving juvenile offenders:

-$63 million for the Second Chance Act, which assists adult and juvenile offenders reentering the community after incarceration, and had been zeroed out completely from the Senate’s appropriations bill.

-$20 million for sex offender management assistance under the Adam Walsh Act

-$15 million for “competitive grants to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system, to prevent or combat juvenile delinquency, and to assist victims of crime.”

The Department of Agriculture appropriations in the minibus agrement include $18.2 billion for Child Nutrition, more than a billion over the appropriation for 2010, and $6.6 billion for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a $700 million decrease from the 2010 figure.

Click here to view documents related to the minibus agreement.

Photo credit: Will Palmer/Flickr

Students Hopeful New College Loan Program Will Take the Pressure Off

Beginning in January, students who borrow to pay for college will keep more of their paycheck when it comes time to pay the loans back. Last Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced a plan that would cap monthly payments on federal student loans to 10 percent of the borrower’s discretionary income.

The change comes after a petition on the White House website asking for student loan forgiveness received 32,000 signatures. Although the focus of the plan is not on debt relief, the new proposal would forgive student loan debt after 20 years of payments.

The program is a modification of an earlier proposal approved by Congress that would have taken effect in 2014 and capped monthly payments at 15 percent of a student’s income. That proposal would have forgiven debt after 25 years. Obama accelerated the effective date of the program through executive order.

With unemployment rates still high across the country, students welcome the news.

“I’m definitely worried about paying back my loans,” said Zach Logan, 19, a freshman at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. Logan said he borrowed $500 to help pay for his first semester of college and plans to borrow similar amounts in the future.

“I like the plan,” Logan said. “It sounds like it takes the pressure and stress off students.”

Zach Logan

Senior English major Megan Roberts, also of KSU, has so far avoided taking out student loans thanks to the HOPE Scholarship program in Georgia, which pays tuition at state schools for Georgia students with at least a 3.0 GPA. But Roberts’ scholarship will run out before she graduates, she said. Now she is contemplating taking out loans for her last semester and for graduate school.

“It’s a major concern,” she said. Taking out loans is “a reality” for a lot of students but “it’s a little scary.”

According to Rich Williams, Higher Education Advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and the Student PIRG’s Higher Education Project, two-thirds of students graduate with college loan debt.

“We are delighted the president is using his executive authority to provide relief to students,” he said. “It’s a small step in the right direction but a larger change is needed to come from Congress.”

Williams said the different types of loans available confuse many students. The new program will help students to track loans and allows borrowers to consolidate loans for lower monthly payments and discounted interest rates. The program is “a little public education and a little debt relief,” he said.

“The president is creating a special opportunity for students,” he said.

Not everyone is happy with the plan, however, including Republican presidential hopefuls.

“I believe it is abuse of power from the executive to impose via an executive order a wholesale change in the student loan,” Michelle Bachmann, a Minnesota Congresswoman and Republican presidential candidate, said at The Future of American Education: A Presidential Primary Candidate Forum sponsored by the College Board and News Corp.

Newt Gingrich, also running for the GOP presidential nomination, called the program a “Ponzi scheme.”

According to Gingrich, speaking at the same education forum, the president will bankrupt “the entire country by promising to every young person you will not have to pay your student loan as a student. However you will later have to pay off the national debt as a taxpayer."

Photos by Ryan Schill / JJIE.org