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Proposal To Increase Education Funding For Incarcerated Youth Advances

A proposal that would increase the state funding for educating incarcerated youth in Arizona passed out of the House Education Committee today Monday.

Supporters of Senate Bill 1104, include Dana Gallardo, the education director at the Santa Cruz County Juvenile Detention Center. And, “I’m the teacher and I’m the intake person and the registrar and I do everything there now because our funds have been cut so drastically,” said Gallardo.

Gallardo says she’s the only one left from a previous staff of six people. The program’s budget for fiscal year 2019 was $46,903.08, according to House research.

“The kids come in they’re scared, they’re lost, they’re crying,” Gallardo said of her students. “It’s really hard to see them in the situation that they’re in and to not  be able to do a whole lot for them.”

The bill would increase the base funding juvenile detention education programs get from $20,000 to $100,000 per year. Per student funding would increase from $15 to $25 per day. Cochise, Mojave, Pinal, Santa Cruz, Yavapai, Yuma and La Paz counties all receive this type of funding to operate their juvenile detention education programs.

“They deserve no less than any other student in this state,” said Marvy McNeese, the principal of the Yavapai County juvenile detention school. “These are children who have been traumatized, they need a lot of extra support and often times when they’re with us it’s the most consistent exposure to education they’ve ever had.”

McNeese said their lessons go beyond academics.

“We also teach them employability skills, how to be a productive member of society,” McNeese said.

The bill, which has already passed through the Senate, is now scheduled for a vote in the House Appropriations Committee.

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Mariana Dale rustles up stories as a senior field correspondent based out of KJZZ’s East Valley Bureau in Tempe. She’s followed a microphone onto cattle ranches, to the Dominican Republic and many places in between. Dale believes in a story’s strength to introduce us to diverse perspectives, inspire curiosity and hold public leaders accountable for their actions. She started at KJZZ on the digital team in 2016 and still spends a lot of time thinking about how to engage with our community online. Dale has learned from stints at Arizona Public Media, The Arizona Daily Star, The Arizona Republic and as an intern at NPR’s Morning Edition in Culver City. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Dale is grateful for the mentoring of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, the Chips Quinn Scholars program and AIR’s New Voices Scholars. A desert native, she loves spending time outside hiking, tending to her cactus and reading.