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Kline Statement: Markup of H.R. 5963, the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act

Every child deserves the opportunity to achieve a lifetime of success. That’s why we worked together to empower parents and restore local control to K-12 education with the Every Student Succeeds Act. It’s why we advanced five bipartisan bills that will help more Americans pursue a higher education. And it’s why we advanced the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, a bill that will help students acquire the knowledge, skills, and experience they need to compete in the workforce.

The reforms are different, but the goal is the same: putting people on a pathway to success. And that’s the reason we are here today.

Since 1974, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act has coordinated federal resources to improve state juvenile justice systems. By focusing on education and rehabilitation, the law supports state efforts to put some of the most vulnerable kids across the country on the right path. That includes both keeping at-risk youth out of the juvenile justice system and giving kids who are already in the system a second chance to turn their lives around.

Over the years, these programs have made a real difference in the lives of many children—children like Sloane Baxter. As Sloane explained to us at a hearing last year, he was on the wrong path as a teenager and eventually ended up in the District of Columbia’s juvenile justice system. Sloane was detained in a youth detention center and later participated in a community-based alternative program called Boys Town.

Ranking Member Scott and I recently visited that same program, and it was easy to see how it helps kids like Sloane grow into productive, responsible, and healthy individuals. Today, Sloane is a high school graduate, works as a coffee barista, and runs his own home improvement business. He is on the right path, and he described that experience to us, saying:

“I easily could have become a statistic ... Instead, I’m a tax-paying, contributing member of society. There is that same possibility in every other young person as long as you, me, all of us are willing to not give up on them before they even really get to start.”

That possibility—that potential—is the reason we are considering this bill today. Introduced by Representative Curbelo and Ranking Member Scott, it reauthorizes and improves current law to help state and local leaders explore and implement better ways to serve at-risk youth and juvenile offenders in their communities. The bill will deliver state and local leaders flexibility to meet the needs of vulnerable children; support prevention services for at-risk youth; and focus on proven strategies that will produce results. It will also improve accountability and oversight to protect taxpayer dollars and help ensure the system is working.

Mr. Curbelo will discuss in greater detail the positive reforms in the bill. These reforms will deliver a collaborative and comprehensive system that brings parents, teachers, and community members together to help kids reject a life of crime and seize opportunities to achieve a lifetime of success. I urge my colleagues to help us put more children on the right path by advancing the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act.

In closing, I would like to note that this has long been a priority for Ranking Member Scott. I thank him for his leadership in championing this effort, and I commend both him and Representative Curbelo for working together to deliver bipartisan reforms that will make a real difference in the lives of a lot of children. I will now recognize Ranking Member Scott for his opening remarks.

 

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