Washington state may open what’s being called Toughlove High, a military-style boarding school for potential dropouts. The governor is asking for $6 million for two five-month sessions a year of 150 kids each.
California started a military-style school for juvenile offenders — specifically students expelled for bringing a gun to school — in 2001. With such narrow criteria for admissions, Turning Point Academy turned out to be an expensive flop.
When it opened in March 2001, the Turning Point Academy expected to enroll 360 students in its first year for the six-month program. Instead, it drew just one. He was the sole object of attention for 45 staff members and teachers.
Critics dubbed the 16-year-old from Shasta County “the $9 million kid.” That’s what the California National Guard had spent up to that point to hire staff and build barracks, a school campus and dining hall, intended for 160 students at a time.
Short-term, intensive “boot camps” for juvenile offenders fell out of favor when it turned out there’s no evidence the programs make a difference. Perhaps dropouts will like Washington Youth Academy’s structure and sense of purpose, but it’s a very expensive strategy for a very large problem.