The New York Inspector General: Address Educational Needs of Incarcerated Children

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New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang has urged Governor Kathy Hochul and state education leaders to prioritize the educational needs of incarcerated students amidst upcoming education reforms. Lang emphasized the importance of remaining vigilant on this issue, highlighting the tragedy of neglecting the educational well-being of students in state custody. While Lang’s office focuses on accountability, it does not possess authority over the state Education Department, which is under the jurisdiction of the Board of Regents and the governor.

Lang’s diverse career experiences as a prosecutor, educator in correctional facilities, and now inspector general have provided her with a profound insight into the pathways that lead children into juvenile detention. She has uncovered connections between learning disparities, classroom frustration, aggressive behavior, and the subsequent likelihood of incarceration for these young individuals.

Governor Hochul’s Back to Basics initiative, aimed at enhancing students’ reading proficiency, was hinted at in her state budget preview. This plan will allocate $10 million to customize reading instruction based on scientifically proven methods that optimize children’s reading acquisition.

The “science of reading” instructional approach emphasizes phonetic skills and encourages students to decode words as they progress in building their vocabulary and comprehension. Governor Hochul has additionally endorsed a task force aimed at assisting students in overcoming dyslexia.

Lang recognizes the state’s obligation to address the educational needs of a marginalized student population. Drawing from personal experiences, she, along with leaders from two Buffalo-area organizations, depicts a juvenile detention system with significant barriers. Despite persistent efforts by prison educators and re-entry case workers, the academic setbacks faced by students charged with crimes are often insurmountable.

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