The Official Blog of the Youth Transition Funders Group

Hosted by Chris Sturgis, Strategic Advisor to YTFG

Friday, December 3, 2010

Keep Kids in School

Jack Wuest of the Alternative Schools Network is one of the best advocates in our field.  Those of us with gray hair can slow down a bit, tiring of the same endless grind to get "our kids", those that slip, trip or are pushed through the cracks of public services, on the agenda or stop one more cutback. But not Jack. He never gives up.

It can be a little scary if he gets your cell phone number.  I've never learned to write my notes fast enough to keep up with the words flowing from his mouth. But when Jack calls I listen.

Way back when I was a newbie program officer with the responsibility of creating a strategy for vulnerable youth,  he was one of the people who convinced me that the second-chance system was primarily about getting students back into school with a diploma in their hand.  Of course we need a youth employment system, especially for young people of color who face horrifying bias in the job market.  However, the second-chance system needs to be primarily under the auspices the education system. It's civil rights issue -- students that have grown up in low-performing schools have a right to the full state per pupil dollars, not the measly $2400 under the Workforce Investment Act.  Equally important, the Total Quality Management efforts of the 1980's taught business a basic lesson that education leaders are still learning.  Systems need feedback loops so that they can improve.

I keep a eye on how Jack is positioning his advocacy as he is often the first to frame a new way to focus attention constructively on helping more young people get their diploma.  He and his allies have a great track record over the  years in getting access to education funding through charter schools and state funding.

The focus of the next advocacy event on December 6th is keep students in school. The event is co-sponsored with the Chicago Urban League,  the Illinois Association of Regional School Superintendents and others.   The flyer reads:

Keeping Truant, Suspended and Expelled Students in School
Re-Enrolling Students Who Have Dropped Out of School
It's an easy mantra for everyone to remember, whether you are a teacher, principal or judge -- do what it takes to Keep Kids in School. 

Just Keep Kids in School.