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300-minute proposal for Juvenile Justice Center sent to Finance and Budget Committee

GENEVA – A proposal to adequately staff 300-minute school days for students in juvenile custody programs was discussed during the Kane County Judicial and Public Safety Committee meeting Friday and passed on to the Finance and Budget Committee, with only one vote against it.

The meeting's proposal included a presentation from Lisa Aust, executive director of Kane County court services for the 16th Judicial Circuit; Judith Brawka, chief judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit; and two members of the Kane County Regional Office of Education: Pat Dal Santo, regional superintendent, and Shirley LeClere, director of professional development.

Aust oversees parts of the proposal that apply to youth counselors, while Dal Santo and LeClere are in charge of the juvenile custody program teachers. The next Finance and Budget Committee meeting is scheduled June 25.

"Ever since the 1970s, there have been a lot of studies that show a direct correlation between more education and committing less crime," Aust said.

Three-hundred-minute school days are the required state minimum for nonincarcerated students, while incarcerated students currently have either 120- or 160-minute school days. LeClere said a 300-minute school day for incarcerated students will include language arts, math, science, social studies and health classes, in addition to a 60-minute lunch. Aust said time students spend on homework will not count toward the 300 minutes.

LeClere said there is enough teaching staff for 300-minute school days, but there aren't enough youth counselors, which have to be present during juvenile custody classes. That is what prompted Friday's proposal.

Aust said the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts gave $600,000 to Kane County to be used for probation purposes. At the Finance and Budget Committee meeting, Aust will ask to use $323,430 of the AOIC money for securing the needed amount of youth counselors to offer 300-minute school days for those in juvenile custody programs.

"We researched and found that we consistently pay lower wages than the surrounding counties," Aust said. "We're losing very talented people to other counties."

If approved, Aust said the rest of the $600,000 will be given back to the county. The longer school days don't require a change in teacher wages.

LeClere said 300-minute school days will start the week of July 6 and will only be offered to a limited amount of incarcerated juvenile students. Friday's proposal has to pass during the July 8 County Board meeting before the longer school day can be offered to all students.

"We've been saying no child left behind – no incarcerated child left behind either," Dal Santo said.

Brawka introduced the proposal during the meeting, saying that she wants to see it succeed.

"We are holding [individuals in juvenile custody]," Brawka said. "So you and I are their in-local parents, and we are responsible for them."

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