High-quality education, from pre-kindergarten through college and beyond, provides children with the best opportunity for long-term life success. All children need affordable, high-quality early education to prepare them for school success; safe, connected, well-funded, and diverse public schools; and the opportunity to access the resources and support needed to graduate high school and move on to a career or higher education.
NC Child believes school funding should be increased to achieve the following outcomes:
• Teacher to student ratios are small enough to ensure a high-quality learning environment;
• Students have adequate textbooks, electronic learning materials, and instructional supplies;
• Teachers are high quality and receive competitive salaries;
• Appropriate ratios of school social workers and psychologists to students; and
• Safe and sufficient school facilities.
NC Child leads an effort that has resulted in the banning of corporal punishment in 101 school districts and the passage of a state law that allows parents to opt their children out of the practice.
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Studies have shown a link between juvenile and adult criminal system involvement and dropouts. A student arrested in high school is twice as likely to leave school early or to be pushed out, and a court-involved high school student is four times as likely to drop out of school as his or her peers. Although juvenile delinquency has declined across the nation and the state, the percentage of complaints filed against juveniles that originate in North Carolina public schools continues to rise.
The funneling of students from schools to jail or prison is a national phenomenon that has come to be called the school-to-prison pipeline.
North Carolina’s pipeline differs from that in most other states, because it deposits 16- and 17-year-old students directly into the adult criminal system, regardless of the severity of their alleged offenses. Juveniles who are prosecuted in the adult system are more likely to reoffend, and to commit more serious crimes when they do, than youth who receive age-appropriate treatment and rehabilitation through the juvenile justice system. The stigma of an adult criminal record erects barriers that, in many cases, prevent young people from reintegrating into society, successfully transitioning into the workforce, or pursuing advanced education or training.
The school-to-prison pipeline leaks talent and potential from North Carolina’s future workforce while limiting the trajectory of many of our students’ lives. Investing in dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline is good policy because it ensures that students become productive and contributing members of society. At a time when businesses face an increasingly competitive global marketplace, it is imperative that every student in North Carolina graduates from high school prepared to pursue college and career success.
NC Child recommends the following steps to begin dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline:
1. Raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 16 to 18 for youth who commit misdemeanor offenses;
2. Implement evidence based reforms to ensure equitable treatment for all students in North Carolina;
3. Improve data collection and reporting requirements to better inform school administrators, parents, and policymakers; and
4. Establish a legislative task force on school discipline policies.
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