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You're welcome, Janet.  And thank you for this great comment.  It's a wonderful description of the problems in large segments of the working poor, struggling and marginally poor areas.  I don't know if this is how it's like where you are, but in some of the inner-city areas, just completing high-school is becoming more and more difficult.

Between the drug war, tough on crime, and zero tolerance policies, a lot of kids are getting pushed out entirely.  I had a black friend whose brother was terrified when California enacted the Three Strikes laws.  See, he already had two felony convictions.  He'd been tried as an adult at age 16 for carrying a concealed weapon and being in posession of a controlled substance.

The crime?  His grandma was sick and he had to go out after dark to pick up her perscription.  His area had a lot of gang activity after dark, he was scared and took a butter knife with him.

Now normal, sane people say that that just can't happen.  That surely somewhere in the system from the police to the prosecutor to the judge and jurors someone would come to their senses and say, hey!  He was a scared kid doing a favor for his grandma -- there's nothing really illegal about that!

But technically it is illegal.  We do have laws on the books that make it so.  And it happens all the time.  This was quite a few years ago and things have only gotten worse.

Later in life when I volunteered in an elementary school in a marginal neighborhood I realized where so much of the educational budget goes -- to social, health, and police work.  Our education system is broken because they're the last bastion of a safety net that doesn't exist.  

We were a magnet school, so we had the best and brightest kids from all over the area and we'd gotten a million dollar grant from the Feds.  It was hoped that we could do great things with matching these kids with computers, new textbooks, smaller classes.  I was very much involved in the budget and goals process.  

And we succeeded to some extent because of the windfall.  But most of the "normal" budget was spent on social services.  Free lunches, uniforms, health screenings, vaccinations, counseling, all sorts of things that should be provided by some other entity.

 We did end up getting some good equipment for the kids, but we also hired an extra social worker who could do community outreach to help parents obtain any services such as foodstamps which might be available to them.  We also used part of it to add free breakfasts.  These are things that are being left out of media reports and political rhetoric -- you can't shred the safety net without hobbling the services left.  You can't teach kids when they're hungry and sick.  Our schools are on the front lines.  In some places, they're the only line.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 05:03:33 PM EST
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