Youths from five counties who log time at Kane County's juvenile detention center often receive less than half the amount of classroom instruction required by the state. Kane County officials are on the verge of committing about $377,000 to fix the problem.
Chief Judge Judith Brawka recently informed county board members youths at the juvenile detention center sometimes receive as little as two hours of school time per day. State law requires them to receive a minimum of five hours per day, but a persistent problem with staff-to-youth ratios at the detention center has resulted in more time in lockdown than with a teacher in recent years. Many of the students at the facility are awaiting trial and have not actually been convicted of any offense.
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Brawka pushed a budget change through the county board's finance committee Wednesday that will provide 3.7 percent raises for each of the next four years to more than 150 union employees involved with the education of the county's juvenile inmates. The raises will, in part, account for an increase in the number of work hours. The rest of the raises are an effort to reverse a nearly 20 percent staff turnover rate. The facility houses juveniles from Kane, DuPage, DeKalb, Kendall and McHenry counties.
Brawka told county board members at a recent meeting that there is a problem with mandatory staff to student/inmate ratios that results in students sitting in their cells rather than in classrooms. Security staff members are spending time transporting the youths to and from courtroom appearances, leaving the detention center without the minimum amount of supervisors needed for the remaining youths to be in classrooms.
"There's teachers there, and they are sitting there, and the kids are locked in their rooms," Brawka said at the recent meeting. "I made a commitment that that was going to change."
The finance committee approved the union raises Wednesday. The full county board must take a vote before the funding is released. The cash will come from the county's general fund, though the judiciary's court services department will replenish the extra dollars via an expected increase in state funding.
The funding resolution indicates Brawka also plans to address raises for nonunion staff.