Legislation introduced by the top Democrat in the House of Representatives on education would direct $5.5 billion in competitive and formula grants to provide more educational and career opportunities for young people who are not in school and not working.
Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott’s bill, the Opening Doors for Youth Act, would authorize $2 billion in competitive federal money for “local community partnerships” in which school districts, local governments, and others would support alternative pathways for young people to obtain a high school diploma, as well as dropout-prevention programs. These grants would also support workforce training, employment counseling services, apprenticeships, and other programs focused on individuals age 14 to 24.
Partnerships would have to use at least 50 percent of their grants for youth to obtain a diploma. They would also have to take advantage of existing data systems to help identify those who could benefit from these services.
In addition, the Opening Doors legislation would authorize $1.5 billion in formula money to provide subsidies for summer jobs for young people age 14-24, as well as $2 billion in formula money for year-round jobs for youth age 16-24.
As justification for his legislation, Scott cited a 2015 report that found these “disconnected” teenagers and adults incur $26.8 billion in public costs because of expenses related to incarceration, health, and public assistance.
“Disconnected young people are also commonly referred to as ‘opportunity youth’ because of the tremendous potential they possess. Young people from high-poverty, low-opportunity communities may need a range of supports to overcome barriers to reengaging in school or training and stay on the path to a good job,” a fact sheet distributed by Scott’s office said regarding the bill.
Scott’s bill has 52 cosponsors in the House.
The chances for this bill to become law could be relatively small. President Donald Trump has given clear indications that he wants less and not more spending on education, and on non-defense domestic programs in general. Trump’s proposed cuts to the U.S. Department of Education total $9 billion, or about 13 percent of the department’s total discretionary budget.