A Return to Debtors’ Prisons

Image result for debtors prison in america

A return to debtors’ prisons: Jeff Sessions’ war on the poor

One day after President Donald Trump invited Republican lawmakers to the White House to celebrate the historic tax cuts they passed for corporations and wealthy business leaders, his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, quietly reinstated a draconian policy that effectively serves as a regressive tax on America’s poorest people.  The Supreme Court has affirmed the unconstitutionality of jailing those too poor to pay debts on three different occasions in the last century, finding that the 14th Amendment prohibits incarceration for non-payment of exorbitant court-imposed fines or fees without an assessment of a person’s ability to pay and alternatives for those who cannot. “Punishing a person for his poverty” is illegal, the Court said. Yet in recent years the modern-day equivalent of debtors’ prisons have returned, as cities have grown to rely on a punishing regime of fines and fees imposed on their own residents as a major stream of revenue.  Read more here and here and here.

With Integrated Schools Out Of Reach, Segregated Options Gain Favor

Imperfect Choices: With Integrated Schools Out Of Reach, Segregated Options Gain Favor

Connecticut’s network of regional magnet schools, long hailed as a national model for voluntary integration, still serve only a fraction of Hartford students a generation after their racial isolation was deemed unconstitutional. And those magnets, slipping in their effort to meet racial quotas after the 1996 Sheff v. O’Neill ruling, are now quietly tilting admission preferences to favor white suburbanites, even as thousands of black and Latino students are left out.

That leaves two public-school options for families desperate for a way out: Open Choice, a $35 million-a-year Sheff program that buses Hartford students to predominantly white suburban schools, and taxpayer-funded charters that are the most segregated schools in the state.

Neither option meets the ideals of integrated education, where robust numbers of blacks, whites and Latinos learn side-by-side. But in a world of imperfect solutions, Hartford families are flocking to choices where integration is absent — or actively spurned.  Read more here.

 

WHEN POVERTY PERMEATES THE CLASSROOM

TROUBLED SCHOOLS ON TRIAL: FIRST OF SEVEN STORIES

WHEN POVERTY PERMEATES THE CLASSROOM

Struggling to cope with past sexual abuse and a mother who works long hours at a low-wage job, Alex regularly breaks down while at school.

The screaming, crawling and crying of this 5-year-old at North Windham Elementary School – and the arrival of an ambulance when he sometimes begins to hurt himself – are disruptions that make it hard to keep other students focused.

“It’s a continued struggle to survive emotionally,” said Catina Cabán-Owen, the only social worker at her school of 466 students. “This child does not have the support, because the mother cannot provide it.”

Alex, whose name has been changed to protect his privacy, is watched by a neighbor while his mother works. His father is not around.

A student walks by one of the many boarded up houses in an impoverished neighborhood in Hartford on the way to school.

While Alex’s struggle is extreme, his basic story – a student living in poverty who needs help coping with trauma – is common. He is among many students for whom poverty creates or exacerbates obstacles to learning. Read more here.