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Ruiz, Burgess Bill Creating Ombudsman & Task Force Addressing Disconnected Youth Passes Senate

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Trenton – Legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Renee Burgess, which would create a new ombudsperson position within the Department of Education and a task force charged with creating a statewide strategic plan of action to reengage disconnected youth (ages 16 to 24), was passed by the Senate today.


“New Jersey saw more than 100,000 teens and young adults disconnect from school or employment in 2021. This growing and disturbing trend was exacerbated by the pandemic and today stands to create an enduring negative economic and social impact on the state,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “By designating an ombudsperson and creating a task force solely focused on developing an effective strategy to address the underlying factors contributing to disengagement, we can take a significant step towards ensuring our youth have a fair shot at a great future.”


The bill, S-3080, would create an executive level position within the Department of Education charged with collaborating with all school districts and other state agencies including higher education, labor and workforce development, human services, children and families, corrections, and the Juvenile Justice Commission. Along with the 25-member task force, the ombudsperson would help create and implement a comprehensive statewide strategy on how to connect disengaged youth to educational and postsecondary opportunities.


“It is incredibly important that students not only finish high school, but continue to progress in their careers after graduation,” said Senator Burgess (D-Essex). “This legislation will place a greater focus on teens and young adults in the pivotal years from 16 to 24, to ensure they are finishing school and either going on for further education or getting a job. Too many young adults simply don’t know what comes next; by facilitating these partnerships across state agencies we can reengage these individuals and put them on a pathway towards a promising career.”


Under the bill, the task force would be required to issue its recommendations for action to the Commissioner of Education, Secretary of Higher Education, Governor, and the Legislature no later than nine months following its organization.


The bill was released from the Senate by a vote of 37-0.