California Gov. Gavin Newsom listens to a question during an interview in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. Newsom said President Donald Trump should be removed from office by Congress, but with Republicans in control of the U.S. Senate the best way to boot Trump from office is at the ballot box. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
The public school-to-prison pipeline is often talked about in political circles. It is both a genuine issue and popular talking point for politicians looking to feed at the taxpayer trough.
There are real problems to be discussed on the matter and real solutions to be discovered, but in California “reality” is little more than another type of Hollywood production. In Sacramento, the political class has taken to producing their own form of “reality” creation by choosing to address the most basic surface issues rather than actually effecting change.
Proof positive? Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed legislation changing the state’s official language on disadvantaged youth from “at-risk youth” to “at-promise youth.” Los Angeles Assemblyman Reginald Jones Sawyer was the legislation’s first influencer. Sawyer claims that he recently came to believe that once a child was labeled “at-risk” that child was nearly always thrown directly into the public school-to-prison pipeline.
“Children can hear the term ‘at-risk’ used in reference to them and can misinterpret and internalize its meaning — this can have a weighting affect rather than uplifting the potential they each have in working towards a brighter future through persistence in the classroom,” he said in a statement. “At-risk has been used for years to describe predominantly students of color and their plight with social and economic difficulties. The term also promotes the stereotype of a student unable to achieve academic success because of where they live or the minimal amount of resources available.”
He added that it was the state’s duty to make sure students deemed disadvantaged economically or with special needs be able to count on California for a “free quality education that supports them every step of the way and into either a career of their choosing or onto higher learning without labeling that follows them like a scarlet letter.”
There is concern that the official change could affect federal and private funding that depends on “at-risk” as a uniform and legitimate description of services provided.
That doesn’t matter to California, of course. Changing how government refers to children in need does literally nothing to erase that need. They are not in need because the state has been referring to them inappropriately for fifty years. They are in need because the state and the community have failed them for fifty years.
But in a land that just outlawed gig workers and allows the homeless to die in the streets from addiction and medieval diseases, that hardly matters to the powers that be…as long as the cameras keep rolling and the taxes keep flowing.