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Democrats are failing to educate our kids, and now they are putting their lives in danger, too.
As blue state and city legislators around the nation race to pass laws that lessen penalties faced by young people for committing criminal acts, they should beware of the surging violence in and around schools that has followed New York’s passage in 2017 of the Raise the Age Act.
New York’s deadly legislation raised the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old; a sixteen or seventeen-year old offender would no longer be prosecuted as an adult, but rather referred to Family Court or to judges with “special training”, as the New York City Office of Criminal Justice explains.
The change was meant to promote “fairness”; “Justice outcomes for 16- and 17-year-olds should improve following the implementation of Raise the Age, not worsen,” declares the mayor’s office website.
That has not been the case. Raise the Age has led to more, not less, teen violence. That is the view of New York City Mayor Adams and also of New York’s Criminal Justice Agency. Not only have arrests of 15 and 16-year olds soared, but so has recidivism. Why? Because young criminals face minimal punishment, and so are more likely to misbehave again.
Criminal gangs took swift advantage of the new law, recruiting teens to help carry out their dirty work. If a kid is caught holding the gun used in a robbery, no one goes to jail.
So far this school year, three young people have died and at least 18 others have been shot or stabbed in gang-related incidents in and around city schools, an exponential rise from last year.
It’s not just at school that this mayhem is occurring. According to one police source quoted by the New York Post, “some 10 percent of shooting victims in the city are now juveniles… and the number of gun arrests among those 18 and under has jumped to 448 in 2022, a 64 percent increase from 2017.”
The District Attorney of Staten Island recently blamed the “chaos” on “bad laws and young people who are disconnected from responsible behavior.” Bingo.
New York is not unique. In Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts and many other states, legislators have moved to lessen penalties imposed on juvenile offenders, even as crime surges. In Chicago, in 2022, school violence rose and more than 60 school-aged children were fatally shot, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Illinois passed Raised the Age legislation in 2014; some violent offenses were omitted from the legislation, but the overall fallout was to restrict penalties for young criminals.
In Washington, D.C. authorities are poised to enact laws which would make it tougher to prosecute youths as adults, no matter the crime. Local cops, dealing with an explosion of gun violence, including 16 murders carried out by juveniles, oppose the proposed changes, for good reason.
It used to be that schools were “safe spaces” for children; these days, kids have no safe spaces.
A decades-long drop in juvenile crime reversed in 2020. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, “In the U.S., homicides committed by juveniles acting alone rose 30 percent in 2020 from a year earlier, while those committed by multiple juveniles increased 66 percent. The number of killings committed by children under 14 was the highest in two decades…”
School groups and local officials were quick to blame the disruptions caused by COVID-19, but the increase in youth crime has continued even as the pandemic has abated. Another answer is that fewer cities and states are holding teens accountable for breaking the law.
That means schools are more dangerous. They are also inexcusably inadequate, penalizing, in particular, black and brown kids that fail to learn the tools necessary for them to climb the ladder of opportunity.
The recent headlines about Baltimore, where in 23 schools (including 10 high schools) not one child tested proficient in math, are disgusting but not shocking. I wrote a column in 2019 citing similar statistics about Maryland’s biggest city. Nobody cared. Nothing changed.
In 2021, parents in Queens, a minority neighborhood, protested: “There are a lot of black middle-class homeowners here,” said local activist Michael Duncan. “These are successful people, successful families. The results in our schools are not reflective of the community. Something is wrong here.”
Something indeed is wrong, and it is not just in Baltimore and New York. American public education, for which taxpayers pay more per student than almost any other country, has suffered a steady decline for decades. The latest PISA tests (Program for International Student Assessment) which evaluate 15-year-old students globally, ranked the U.S. 30th in math; combined scores for reading, math and science put the U.S. 25th, behind Slovenia and Poland. China ranked number one.
Does anybody care? Do Democrats have any shame at all for perpetuating a broken system?
Governor J.B. Pritzker reportedly wants to take on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and especially on schools. The Illinois Democrat is rumored to be considering a White House run, and views himself as an excellent foil for conservative DeSantis. Good luck with that.
By one measure, Florida ranks third-best in the nation in education, while Illinois comes in at number 11, even though the Prairie State spends 23% more per pupil. Another group gives Florida’s schools a B+, while Illinois rates a C+.
Pritzker cannot compete on the quality of his state’s education; instead, he’ll blast DeSantis’ rejection of “woke” materials. Someone should tell Illinois’ governor that parents will likely place their kids’ ability to read above their comprehension of gender studies.
Pritzker promises to increase spending on Illinois’ schools, because that’s all that Democrats, deep in the pocket of the teachers’ unions, can offer. Spending more money without reforming a dysfunctional system will accomplish nothing.
Democrats say they care about kids. The evidence says they do not care – either about their education or their safety.