By Gloria Romero and Rishawn Biddle / Sacramento Bee

As the nation focuses on the state of the union and how we make ourselves a better nation, one fact is inexplicably never addressed: If we are to get people back to work, we need to not only have jobs available but trained workers available to take those jobs.

Unfortunately, too many policymakers have failed to draw the incontrovertible link education plays in fostering the school-to-prison and welfare pipeline. The United States spends $228 billion on criminal justice because we badly spend $595 billion on our abysmal schools. In California, 70 percent of prison inmates do not have a high school diploma.

We need to alter the discourse and directly address how both our public education and criminal justice systems affect poor and minority youths.

This is the fifth National School Choice Week. With more than 11,000 events across the country, it provides parents and supporters a chance to highlight how all forms of choice – charter schools, online learning, home schools, private schools, and others – improve a child’s education and ultimately their future.

Too many traditional public schools funnel too many children into our criminal justice system, accounting for 3 of every 10 cases referred to juvenile courts in 2011 – the second-highest source of referrals after law enforcement. Yet juvenile court judges are ill-equipped to deal with matters that should be handled by schools.

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About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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