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Helping the Forgotten Children

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Monday, December 31, 2012   

JEFFERSONTOWN, Ky. - A leading youth advocate says the low-hanging fruit for improving education in Kentucky is alternative programs. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, says that while the state has some "absolutely wonderful" alternative programs, others are "little more than holding tanks."

"I think one of the most hidden opportunities to improve schools in Kentucky is around alternative programs. It's sort of the forgotten children across the Commonwealth."

Recommendations for improvements are part of the opening essay in the 2012 County Data Book from Kentucky KIDS COUNT. It's an annual report on the well-being of Kentucky children.

Brooks says alternative programs are scattered among so many state agencies, from Justice to Education to Health and Family Services, that consolidation is needed.

"And it's one of those, where when you belong to everybody, you belong to no one."

There are more than 55,000 Kentucky children in alternative programs. If they were in a stand-alone school district, it would be the second-largest in the state.

Kentucky Youth Advocates, which Brooks leads, is calling for a more rigorous curriculum, increased professional support for the teachers, and a more focused, efficient use of the money spent on alternative education.

"So, this is not simply 'Let's make sure that these kids are taken care of until they're 18 and then breathe a sigh of relief.' We've got to understand that we can invest in these young people now or we're going to pay for them, we're going to pay for our failure, for the rest of their life."

Brooks says the state's education department has increased the accountability when it comes to school districts meeting the needs of alternative pupils. He also applauds lawmakers for passing legislation last session that prohibits a school superintendent from assigning a teacher to an alternative program as punishment.

The report is at KYYouth.org.





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