Measure Would Create Office to Focus on Dropout Prevention, Help Reengage Out-of-School Youth
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Ronald L. Rice and Shirley K. Turner which would improve the state focus on reducing the student dropout rate and helping to make it easier for out-of-school minors to reengage with school was approved today by the Assembly, sending it to the governor’s desk.
“In the state’s urban areas, the dropout rate among public school students – particularly minority students – is a problem of epidemic proportions,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex). “In order to solve this problem, we have to look at it as more than just a numbers game. We have to develop solutions to the underlying socio-economic factors that contribute to this problem. This measure will ensure a state focus on analyzing all of the issues that lead to students leaving our education system, developing a plan for addressing these issues and for making it easier for children to return.”
The bill, S-134, would establish the Office of Dropout Prevention and Reengagement of Out-of-School Youth within the Department of Education, along with the Student Dropout Prevention Task Force. The two agencies would be tasked with creating a comprehensive statewide plan to identify and address the underlying factors which lead to students dropping out of school, the issues they face after they drop out, and the challenges they encounter when they attempt to reenroll and continue their education. The Task Force would be required to issue its recommendations for action to the Governor and the Legislature no later than nine months following its organization.
The bill sponsors noted that, while New Jersey currently has the highest high school graduation rate in the country at 87 percent, there is still room for improvement, particularly in poorer urban areas and among minority students, where the dropout rates are much higher that the State average.
“While the dropout problem is most prevalent in our urban communities, it is an issue that touches every region of our state,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer and Hunterdon. “Addressing it head-on is the only way to ensure that we reverse the trend, which is critical. We know that students who drop out earn significantly less, have far fewer employment options and higher unemployment than high school graduates. Ensuring our children graduate will not only help put them on a path to getting good-paying jobs, but it will mean more tax dollars contributed to our communities and a more robust economy overall for our state.”
“As chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, I have made addressing this issue a top priority. The fact is that we have promised families in our state the chance for their children to get a quality education that gives them the ability to obtain success. Unless we look at this issue comprehensively and find methods of addressing the underlying factors that exacerbate the dropout problem, we are failing to live up to that promise and shortchanging the kids who are the future of our state,” added Senator Rice.
The bill was approved by the Senate in February. The Assembly approved it 72-5-2.