June 19 2015

I had the privilege of addressing the National Association of Attorneys General this past Tuesday at the organization’s annual summer meeting near San Diego. The gathering brought together Attorneys General from around the nation—a bi-partisan and ideologically diverse group.

With less than a week until Fathers’ Day, I spoke to them from the heart, as an African American father myself. I shared some of The California Endowment’s work on our Boys and Young Men of Color initiative and talked about our campaigns to break the school-to-prison pipeline.

I believe the American people are ready to try new approaches to keep our streets and our families safe and healthy. Three decades of “lock ‘em up” policies haven’t worked. Prison budgets have soared, and incarceration rates for all Americans have skyrocketed—especially in communities of color. But it hasn’t made our neighborhoods safer or our homes more secure. Achieving those results requires new thinking.

Research shows there are three sentinel milestones for children on the path to a healthy and successful life. Children at-risk of missing these milestones need our help to get back on track.

The three milestones are:

  • Reading at grade-level by age 3,
  • Attending school regularly and avoiding chronic absence and truancy, and
  • Avoiding suspension or expulsion from school.

The Attorneys General gathered were very interested in what we were doing. Many approached me after my remarks and asked how they could get more involved. Their excitement confirmed my belief that our nation is ready to chart a new path that supports our kids and focuses on what really keeps our communities safe and healthy.