UP Partnership releases recommendations for American Rescue Plan Act spending

UP Partnership releases recommendations for American Rescue Plan Act spending

Cross-sector partners develop guide to ensure an equitable recovery in youth outcomes

SAN ANTONIO—In an effort to guide equitable American Rescue Plan Act spending commitments made by the city, county, school districts and institutions of higher education, UP Partnership today released recommendations informed by youth-serving leaders and young people themselves.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) infuses $350 billion to state and local governments, $122 billion to K-12 schools, and $40 billion to higher education institutions. San Antonio received an estimated $1.6 billion in funding.

Leveraging American Rescue Plan Act Funds for Youth Outcomes is a guide developed by UP Partnership, in conjunction with PFM and the Children’s Funding Project, to aid local partners in making transformative ARPA investments to support young people. UP Partnership is a network of 175 cross-sector partners, including young people, who work together to align funding, strategies, data architecture and communication across youth-serving sectors. More than 60 partners, including high school students, participated in a funding alignment taskforce in 2020 to develop recommendations for an equitable recovery post-pandemic.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to invest in the future of San Antonio,” said Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, UP Partnership Executive Director. “By coordinating our efforts, we’ll ensure our young people are not held back in the wake of the pandemic.”

Recommendations for spending are grouped by three outcomes areas: “Safe and Stable,” “Mental Health and Wellbeing,” and “Connected/Academically Prepared.” Ideas include reinvesting funds into front-end prevention and positive youth development opportunities to improve public safety, funding full-time employees to coordinate mental and behavioral health resources, and expanding summer learning and enrichment access, and others.

“From a national perspective, we see San Antonio as a model for how to do this alignment work across sectors,” said Olivia Allen, Strategy Director for the Children’s Funding Project. “More than 60 partners in San Antonio committed to having these tough conversations during a really hard year to lay the groundwork for the impact these federal relief dollars can have on kids and families.”

The recommendations align with UP Partnership’s racial equity goals of ‘disconnection to access,’ ‘punishment to healing, and ‘isolation to voice.’

“The pandemic has impacted our youth, but this process works to counteract that – We co-created a strategy with our youth,” said Myron Anderson, Vice President for Inclusive Excellence at The University of Texas at San Antonio.

All recommendations target inequities that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was definitely a humbling experience to be part of this process, especially hearing perspectives from different sectors,” said Marisa Perez-Diaz, State Board of Education member. “The beauty in the work we did was that adults in different sectors all made a commitment to center the voices of youth. So many times, pathways are drawn for them without their voice. These recommendations ensure their voices are heard.”

—Marissa Villa, Director of Communications
(210) 535-6525 | marissa@uppartnership.org

About UP Partnership

UP Partnership’s mission is to ensure all young people across Bexar County are ready for the future. UP Partnership provides a space for leaders to share vision, strategies and metrics to unlock the potential of San Antonio and its surrounding communities. UP Partnership’s institutional partners serve more than 320,000 students in Bexar County, 63 percent who are economically disadvantaged. By bringing change-makers together while empowering youth to have a voice through its four networks (Diplomás, My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, Excel Beyond the Bell, Our Tomorrow), UP Partnership strives to achieve extraordinary gains in future readiness through a shared commitment. Learn more at https://uppartnership.org.

Restorative Justice pilot initiative proves successful despite shortened academic year

Restorative Justice pilot initiative proves successful despite shortened academic year

The University of Texas at San Antonio releases evaluation of My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio’s pilot restorative justice program

After one academic year, eight out of nine campuses that participated in My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio’s (MBKSA) pilot restorative justice initiative have shown progress on first-year implementation indicators, according to an evaluation by The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). Restorative justice is a whole school approach to building a positive school climate and addressing harm.

 

“Though the year was cut short due to COVID-19, what we see in this report is promising. The passionate and clearly committed school teams can expect to see continued results if they follow the recommendations we made in the report. Having a clear vision grounded in social justice, using best practices and committing to removing barriers at the individual, school and district levels will be necessary for significant systemic change with long term impact for our community,” said Jelena Todic, principal investigator and assistant professor in the UTSA College for Health, Community and Policy.  

MBKSA launched whole school restorative justice models at nine campuses in the San Antonio, Judson and Harlandale school districts during the 2019-2020 academic year with support from UTSA restorative justice researchers and practitioners, Robert Rico and Todic.

 

MBKSA, a network of community-based organizations, school districts, UTSA, and city and county government, formed the Rethinking Discipline Community of Practice (RDCP), which met monthly to discuss best practices and implementation strategies. The RDCP is one strategy MBKSA uses to tackle inequities in education. Local disaggregated data shows that exclusionary discipline practices disproportionately affect young people of color, especially boys.  

 

Despite a disruption in the academic year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of schools that implemented the restorative justice model achieved increased commitment to restorative practices, changing dialogue and increased options for managing behavior. Additionally, all schools provided various elements of the practice such as professional development for staff, peace rooms and ‘circles’ to build community and resolve conflict among staff and students.

 

Restorative justice provides opportunities for my son to share his thoughts and feelings in a safe space. Circles also help him learn more about his classmates and their experiences,” said Paula Johnson, a parent and the Director of IDRA EAC-South.

 

Because they prioritize relationships and community, restorative justice practices became critical during the pandemic because social emotional learning became a high priority while working in a virtual environment. 

 

“We know that having an administration that is committed to this process is critical to success for any whole-school restorative justice model. What we saw in this academic year was that these tools we’d established in schools were actually critical during the pandemic” Todic said.

 

Because of the initiative’s infancy, especially in light of the COVID-19 interruption, it is promising that four schools decreased suspensions and one maintained low rates throughout the project. Additionally, three out of eight schools showed signs of reducing disproportionate impact of exclusionary discipline on children of color. 

 

“By shifting mindsets and creating a culture of supportive accountability in schools, we set up our boys and young men of color for greater success not only in school, but into adulthood. MBKSA has been committed to providing pathways for boys and young men of color to college success and I believe this is critical to this work,” said Derek Taylor, MBKSA Justice-involved Young People Chair and Senior Management Coordinator for Stand-Up SA at the City of San Antonio’s Metro Health District.