Children’s advocates were at the statehouse Thursday asking lawmakers not to cut early-education or juvenile justice programs. With a projected state budget shortfall close to 400-million dollars, program directors hope to head off cuts by lobbying for continued funding. Harlan Middle-school principal Teresa Coenen wants lawmakers to know what kind of kids she deals with in the classroom. She sees more kids now with significant mental-health needs, or such problems in their families, and she says teachers see more violence, abuse, and drug use — and the effects on kids’ behavior. Coenen says prevention before school or when they get to school, may head off some of the adult crime rate or at least the rate of juveniles returning to crime. Coenen says a student with strong needs is “a sad thing” when there’s no treatment or placement available for them, and students who slip through the cracks just become adult offenders. She says then it costs the state more money to lock them up in prison.
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