Workforce Reauthorization Bill Eliminates Youth Employment Programs

On June 7, the House Education and Workforce Committee held a mark-up for the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 (H.R. 4297), which would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. This was the most significant movement around WIA reauthorization in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2003.  Last month, the Campaign for Youth, a national coalition co-chaired by CLASP and the National Youth Employment Coalition, issued a sign-on letter with nearly 300 organizations nationwide in opposition to H.R. 4297, citing its detrimental effects to youth education and training programs if enacted. CLASP also released an analysis of the bill's impact on youth programming. Of particular concern is the consolidation of youth funding into an adult focused  Workforce Investment Fund with no requirements that youth be served and the elimination of the national Job Corps and Youth Build programs.  

At mark-up, several amendments were offered to H.R. 4297, most of which failed. H.R. 4297, as amended, passed out of committee on a party-line vote, 23 to 15. Some of the amendments and changes include, a substitute amendment to HR 4297 offered by Congresswoman Foxx which, among other things, reinstates the National Job Corps program, requires state and local workforce boards to explain how they will plan for and implement strategies on behalf of out-of- school and at-risk youth, and eliminates the Statewide Youth Challenge Fund that was previously in the original majority's bill.

A number of amendments that would have strengthened WIA services to youth were defeated and not included in the bill, including:

  • Ranking Member Miller (CA) and Congressman Hinojosa (TX) offered several amendments in line with CLASP priorities, such as, reinstating the priority of service provision for low-income individuals currently in WIA law and stripped out of H.R. 4297.
  • Congressman "Bobby" Scott (VA) offered two amendments that would ensure low-income disadvantaged and disconnected youth would be served in WIA: a summer and year-round jobs amendment that builds off the Pathways Back to Work Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and the establishment of a separate funding stream for youth services. In his remarks, he stated that "it is imperative that we invest in our young people on the front end. Those who don't finish high school and go on to continue their education or get a job have a greater likelihood of becoming embroiled in the juvenile justice or criminal justice system. The correlation between employment opportunity and crime is not tenuous. The two systems are very much intertwined; approximately two-thirds of all prisoners are high school dropouts. My amendment would have ensured that funding provided by this bill was targeted to disadvantaged young people so they would not be left behind." Congressman Platts (PA) also offered an amendment to restore the YouthBuild program, which was defeated 17-21.

In spite of the eventual defeat of these significant amendments, CLASP and the Campaign for Youth are deeply appreciative of Congressman Scotts' efforts to tackle one of the most pressing issues of our time - youth unemployment - and to formally insert it into this debate.  

Nevertheless, at a time when there are 3.4 million unemployed young people ages 16 to 24, eliminating employment and training services targeting this  population is deeply misguided. Instead, Congress should reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act to facilitate youth engagement through multiple education and employment pathways, promote innovation and best practices, and encourage states and localities to strengthen workforce investment system accountability. 

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