|Posted:||December 5, 2016 12:49 PM|
|From:||Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf and Sen. Randy Vulakovich|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||National Guard Youth Challenge Program|
|We are reintroducing Senate Bill 56, directing the Pennsylvania Department of Military & Veterans Affairs (DMVA) to establish the National Guard Youth Challenge Program to the extent that funds are appropriated for such a program.
During the 2015-16 legislative session, the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee held a public hearing on SB 56 and approved the measure with an amendment. The bill we are reintroducing is nearly identical to SB 56 as amended by the committee except that a provision requiring school district payment for a resident student attending the program is removed.
The youth challenge program began in 1993 by an act of Congress as a ten-state pilot program. In 1998, following a comprehensive evaluation, Congress approved the youth challenge program as a permanent program. SB 56 provides that the program be consistent with federal provisions relating to the National Guard Youth Challenge Program such as improving the life skills and employment potential of at-risk youths between 16 and 18 years of age by providing structured military-based training and supervised work experience. In addition, the program’s core components must be aimed at assisting participants in earning a high school diploma or its equivalent, facilitating leadership development, promoting fellowship and community service, developing life-coping skills and job skills, and improving physical fitness and health and hygiene.
The bill also states that the length of the program and participants shall conform to the federal provisions. The youth challenge program includes at least a 22-week residential program and a 12-month post-residential mentoring period. A program participant must be a resident of Pennsylvania and not be attending secondary school. The participant shall not have a felony conviction or be on parole or probation, and shall be subject to drug-testing. Participation is voluntarily and the program is free of charge to its participants.
In addition, the measure provides that all academic course credits earned by a program participant shall be recognized by any school entity in which the participant enrolls following completion of the program. The DMVA shall, in consultation with the Department of Education, ensure that the program complies with all laws and regulations as necessary to facilitate the transfer of course credit earned in the program to a school entity.
The bill also requires that an Advisory Council be established for the program comprised of 10 members (Adjutant General and 3 members appointed by the Governor, Senate and House). The Advisory Council shall advise the Adjutant General and the DMVA concerning the operation of the program. Finally, the measure requires DMVA to submit to the appropriate legislative standing committees an annual report and audit about the program.
Administered by the National Guard Bureau in the Department of Defense, there are now 36 youth challenge programs in 27 states and the territory of Puerto Rico. New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia are among the nearby states with programs. In FY 2010-11 the federal government provided 75% of the costs of operating a state’s program. Under the bill, the DMVA shall apply for federal funding to operate the program and may supplement funding with other resources, including gifts, made available to the department for the program.
The program is directed at high school dropouts. In 2011, nationwide, the National Guard Bureau reported graduating 4,411 students, with over 54% of those graduates earning a high school diploma or GED; 47% joining the work force; 9% joining the military; and nearly 44% continuing their education. The program is considerably less expensive than the cost of private military-style programs or for incarceration. This program would save Pennsylvania money. For every dollar invested, there is a $2.66 return. In the long term, the public will save money on juvenile detention programs and adult incarceration. This legislation is supported by the Pennsylvania National Guard Association.
Introduced as SB52