Question and Answers from WLD 94.9’s community affairs show “Voices,” 8/8/07

The following are Question and Answers from WLD 94.9’s community affairs show “Voices” with host Angel Garcia from Wednesday August 8, 2007 @ 12:00 PM.

Angel Garcia: What are the most significant needs and issues that face the community at this time?

Janine Lee:

Oakland has the highest violent crime rate among the nine largest cities in California. Serious and violent crime disproportionately impacts young people ages 14-30.  Ex-offenders typically face a choice between low-wage, low-skill jobs and a return to criminal activity.  We need to spend time with our kids before they spend time in jail.

There’s also the issue of low-income assistance. One in five Oakland residents live below the poverty line and nearly one in three young people under 18 are living in poverty based on the 2000 U.S. Census. This is perpetuated by the low level of education and high unemployment. Less than half of Oakland public high schools’ freshmen graduate, according to a 2005 California study published in the San Francisco Chronicle. The study, conducted by Harvard University Civil Rights Project and the Urban Institute Education Policy Center in Washington, D.C., also showed Oakland’s graduation rate to be considerably lower than eight other large Bay Area districts. These discouraging findings were no better than previous studies had shown the past, as Oakland Unified had the highest dropout rate in the region according to a 1997-2000 Bay Area Performance Profile.

Another challenge that needs to be addressed is the birth of children to at-risk teen mothers, which impedes financial, academic, and social success amongst this group. These young women are too young to drive, too young to work, and too young for the responsibility of parenthood.

Lastly, a significant issue facing our community is a lack of after school programs. Everyday, an estimated 15 million children nationwide, between the ages of 9 and 14, lack a supervised place to go after school between the hours of 3pm and 8pm.  During these peak hours, juvenile crimes triple and youth are susceptible to other risky and dangerous activities such as youth violence, teenage sex, gang-related activities, and drug/alcohol use. In addition, children with juvenile delinquencies are at high risk for becoming criminals as adults, while many others will become victims. After school programs keep young people off the streets and out of trouble, and have been proven to improve academic success. Schools are increasingly forced to cut these types of programs due to federal budget limitations on the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) initiative.  Currently, after school programs exist in only 30% of US schools.