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December 2012

CLASP acknowledges the support of the Open Society Foundation’s Campaign for Black Male Achievement. This periodic update for the field is a part of CLASP’s ongoing work to advance policy and practice that will dramatically improve the education, employment, and life outcomes for youth in communities of high youth distress. Stay Informed! If this email was forwarded to you, you can sign up for Keeping Connected and updates on youth policy.

Community In Focus
Resources to Check Out
Happenings to Watch
  • Preparing for Changes in the GED - In 2014, the GED test and its administration at the federal, state and local level will change – impacting some 25.7 million people between ages 18 and 64 who are without a high school diploma or equivalent. This is the largest overhaul of the GED, the most widely recognized alternative to a high school diploma, in seven decades.
  • NCES Releases College Enrollment and Completion Rates: Uphill Climb for Black Men - In recent years there has been a push to increase college enrollment and completion rates to upgrade the skills of the American workforce, to bolster the nation’s global competitiveness, and to increase access to economic opportunity for nontraditional students. 

In This Issue
Philanthropic Effort Advances Youth Jobs

At a convening earlier this month held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., Patrick McCarthy, President and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, asked a national audience of policymakers to reflect on their first job – their first pay check -- and to remember the confidence and pride those early work experiences instilled; the lessons learned on surviving in the real world; and the job and social skills, values, and expectations that were imparted. He asserted that these are values that last for a lifetime and are passed on to our own children. He reminded the audience that today, with youth employment rates at the lowest level in 60 years, so many youth, particularly youth of color, don’t have access to jobs and early work experience during the important period from age 18 to 24 – exactly when they should be building the foundation for lifelong economic success.

Today, there are 6.5 million youth who are neither in school nor working and who face the prospect of chronic unemployment or underemployment throughout their adult life. With the December launch of its 2013 KIDS COUNT Report, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has joined several other major foundations in drawing attention to this youth employment challenge. The Foundation has released the report “Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity,” which documents the dimensions of the challenge, provides state-by-state data on youth unemployment, and calls for the development of a national youth employment strategy that expands jobs and work opportunities and creates multiple pathways to reconnect these youth to employment. The Foundation has also released the video Opening Doors: Connecting America’s Youth to Opportunity to feature young people sharing their own stories. The Annie E. Casey Foundation is adding their considerable influence to the growing number of foundations and national efforts to expand opportunity for our young people. Other important initiatives include the Robert Wood Johnson Forward Promise Initiative, OSF Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Campaign for Youth, Opportunity Nation, and the White House Council for Community Solutions.

The Casey report advances several recommendations that reinforce those from these and other groups involved in the national movement to support community-based strategies that align public, private, philanthropic, and community resources to implement comprehensive programming to address the education and labor market needs of youth outside the labor market mainstream. Hopefully, this heightened attention and advocacy will generate the public support needed to sufficiently fund strategies for addressing youth disconnection at scale.

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Fiscal Cliff Watch: Why advocates need to pay attention

There are just 11 days left in 2012 and exactly 11 days before the nation’s leaders must reach a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, which would simultaneously raise taxes on low- and middle –income individuals, discontinue unemployment benefits to the millions of Americans who are still out of work, and begin the implementation of indiscriminate cuts to non-defense domestic discretionary spending (known as sequestration, which would impact programs that low-income families rely on such as job training, adult education, Head Start and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program).

Low-income people will be affected by many aspects of the fiscal cliff; however, they will be even more affected by some of the Congressional proposals to avoid the cliff. The bottom line measure of any proposal should be whether it increases poverty and inequality. The deals that have been proposed thus far by both the Administration and the House Republicans pose a threat to the economic security of families living in poverty and their ability to access vital services – such as income supports, healthcare, jobs, and education. The black community could be particularly impacted since black children are more likely to be poor or to live in extreme poverty than their white counterparts -- and impoverished black boys are less likely to work as young adults. Among all men, black or white, only one-third of persistently poor boys go on to have consistent employment in early adulthood.

While reaching an immediate budget deal is paramount, advocates will need to continue to be vigilant so Congressional leaders and the Administration ensure poor and working families and their children are not sacrificed during negotiations and left behind. Many organizations have banded together to protect the vulnerable as these debates continue: The Children’s Defense Fund has launched the Be Careful What You Cut campaign, which cautions that cutting children from the budget now will cost us later. The Save for All Campaign has coordinated a sign-on effort endorsed by more than 1,900 groups nationwide calling for a federal budget that protects low-income people, creates jobs and funds services responsibly. These are two worthwhile efforts that advocates should join to stay informed and to contribute to the fight for a responsive and fair federal budget.

Read CLASP’s commentary on the fiscal cliff and what is at stake for low-income individuals and families >>

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Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline

On December 10th, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights held its first ever hearing on the connection between schools, discipline policies, and the juvenile justice system. Led by Chairman Durbin and Ranking Member Graham, a group of over 400 advocates, students, parents, lawyers, and educators from across the nation attended this forum to express to national policymakers what African American and Latino communities have long endured. Data show that harsh school discipline policies disproportionately impact African American and Latino males –in many cases, minor infractions result in expulsion and in some cases arrest. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “across all districts, African-American students are over 3½ times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers.” Read Testimony submitted by NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and The Advancement Project. Read more about the hearing >>>

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