Opinion | Proven program brings new hope, opportunity to young people


Schools across the nation are facing some of the most daunting issues in public education in the nation’s history. The impacts stemming from the pandemic are numerous and pervasive: massive learning loss, student disengagement, and – particularly concerning – mental health issues for far too many of our students and staff. Further, the schools are shorthanded in almost every category, from the mass exodus of teachers (some 800,000 having left the profession in the past 12 months alone) to a similar percentage of losses of administrators, counselors, bus drivers and support staff.

Although these impacts have affected everyone in some way, they have been even harder for our most challenged students in special populations. As the nation contemplates how to respond to these deeply concerning issues, we wanted to highlight a story of remarkable and consistent success for even the most challenged students across the nation over 40+ years and its impact in our own state and territory: Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG).

We represent two very different regions of America. Our schools and Departments of Education have worked hard to find solutions to counteract issues facing these students and support our special populations. The statistics tell the story: across the 39 states that have the JAG Model in place – despite the challenges facing our special populations – as of May 31, 2022 when JAG’s post-graduation support for students concluded, the following outcomes for the Class of 2021 were:

  • The JAG Class of 2021 Graduation rate was one of the highest ever at almost 96 percent –compared to the average national graduate rate of 87 percent (2018-2019).
  • The Jobs rate was nearly 65 percent – the highest in JAG’s history, and the Full-Time Jobs rate was nearly 83 percent, another all-time high.
  • The Unemployment rate for JAG youth was only 6.25 percent while the rate for all 18–19-year-olds was 10.4 percent. JAG was about 40 percent lower.
  • Our JAG Post-Secondary Education rate for the Class of 2021 has increased from last year to a remarkable 46.55 percent – also one of the highest post-secondary enrollment rates in JAG history.

We have seen those same results – and in some cases, even better – in the JAG Affiliates in Alabama and the Virgin Islands. In fact, Jobs for Alabama Graduates and JAG-VI have both been recognized by Jobs for American Graduates as high performers.

JAG is now in its 43rd year, suggesting that we really do know what to do for even our most challenged populations, and we are working to apply the critical lessons learned to a much broader range of schools and young people. In the policy making positions we both hold, there is a simple rule we both try to follow: “find out what works – and then do much more of it.” That is precisely the plan that we, our Governors, and other state policy makers are committed to supporting.

Let us underline another compelling fact about Jobs for America’s Graduates and our own positions: 10 Governors serve on JAG’s National Board of Directors – more than on any other board in the country. These Governors have put aside their politics to demonstrate the bipartisanship that has characterized the JAG program from the beginning: the shared cause of seeing all the young people in our nation graduate and successfully move on in life to great careers and post-secondary education. Not only can we all agree on this, but we have joined forces to “do much more of it.”

A recent article in Forbes reported that JAG has become “the nation’s premier education and job preparation/placement program for challenged adolescents.” Forbes is exactly right. Now is the time to “do much more” of JAG and to do it at far greater scale. We are committed to working with other policy makers, school districts, workforce systems, and the private sector to find the resources to bring this remarkable success story to that far greater scale in the months and years ahead.

We appeal to all who read this to reach out to their state and local policymakers including Governors, legislators, school leaders, and school boards, and urge them to expand the JAG Program in their state if it is in place – and, where it isn’t in place, to implement JAG or bring other proven models to much greater scale as we work together to address these issues and support our students in special populations – and for the future of our nation.

Original Publication: Alabama Political Reporter