“Education is the key that unlocks the golden door to freedom.”
— George Washington Carver
House Bill 939 has been filed by Representative Berny Jacques, which would establish Florida Scholars Academy, which mission will be to provide a free and appropriate high-quality education for eligible students within the juvenile justice system.
The Academy shall provide students with greater access to secondary and post-secondary educational opportunities than is presently available, including pathways to earn a high school diploma, including the career and technical education pathway option, a high school equivalency diploma, enroll in a degree program at a state college or university, and earn an industry recognized credential of value from the Master Credentials List, to prepare students for gainful employment as productive citizens upon their exit from the juvenile justice system. A five-member board of trustees will also be created to manage the academies daily operations and request $12 million in annual funding to support the program.
Providing these incarcerated juveniles with a quality education is a good idea. If the opportunity is provided and the individual is allowed to choose to participate, it allows them to take their future into their own hands. This opportunity could potentially provide each student with a goal to focus on while serving their time and potentially providing direction for when they are released.
There have been many examples of people who have been successful once given a carrot to chase in life. From celebrities to some of our neighbors, we can probably think of at least one example of a person who served time for crime but took the opportunity given to them to become better when they were released. Many of those with that testimony never went back to their old lifestyle or way of thinking.
If these juveniles are provided with quality schooling, their young minds could be opened and exposed to many career paths they may not have known were possible or had access too. Once these youth are released, it would be up to the rest of us to employ them and give them a hand up on a new way to provide for themselves and those that depend on them.
If nothing else, House Bill 939, deserves a chance. Florida should at minimum pilot the program, set measurable goals, and follow these youth over a set amount of years to determine success.