TRENTON – The Senate Budget Committee released bill S134, which would establish the Office of Dropout Prevention and Reengagement of Out-of-School Youth in the state Department of Education.
Besides Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-12) of Red Bank, all the Republicans abstained, largely because they didn’t want to create another bureaucracy. Beck joined the Democrats and voted yes.
The bill requires the Office of Dropout Prevention and Reengagement of Out-of-School Youth to collaborate with school districts in the development of a Statewide strategic plan to address the problem of student dropouts; recommend and develop programs to prevent students from dropping out of school; and address issues associated with the re-enrollment of students who have left school prior to graduation.
Sen. Ron Rice, (D-27), Newark, said the bill “goes directly to the causation.” Unless we get to the real issues…we’re not going to address this problem.”
He said the problem won’t be solved by “playing games” of pitting schools against one another and having outside money coming in to support experimental schools.
Rice said some 7,000 students a day drop out.
The New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association and the N.J. Education Association support the bill. The bill would create a 15-member Student Dropout Prevention Task Force that would be charged with analyzing the causes of students leaving school prior to graduation, and would recommend best practices to school districts to reduce the student dropout rate.
Among the tasks it will be assigned include:
a. examining current data, research, programs, and initiatives concerning student dropouts;
b. examining the reasons why students leave school;
c. identify effective ways for school districts to reduce the number of students who leave school before graduating;
d. develop recommendations on the most effective ways for school districts to support students in order to prevent them from leaving school.
The task force will be comprised of one senator; one member of the General Assembly; three superintendents of schools, one each from an urban, suburban, and rural school district; two presidents of New Jersey county colleges; two teachers with demonstrated expertise in issues relating to the work of the task force; two workers from an urban school district with a high student dropout rate, one of whom will be a principal and one of whom will be a guidance counselor; and two teachers, one of whom will be employed in an urban school district with a high student dropout rate.
The task force will issue a final report to the Governor and to the Legislature containing its findings and recommendations, including any recommendations for legislation that it deems appropriate, no later than nine months after the task force organizes, according to the bill.
The committee amended the bill to add two teachers as members of the task force, one of whom is employed in an urban school district with a high student dropout rate.