New Jersey moves to keep kids in school until 18

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New Jersey lawmakers area considering raising the compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 18.

The student dropout rate in certain areas of the state is extraordinary, said Sen. Teresa Ruiz, chairwoman of  the Senate Education Committee Chair.

“The goal here is to get every child in a high school setting with a high school degree at least — or its equivalency — because we recognize that without that, you will never get employed in this state,” said Ruiz, D-Essex.

Debra Bradley with the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association said raising the age for mandatory attendance may not solve the dropout problem.

Instead, she suggested, lawmakers should focus on why kids leave school.

“They need to support their families, they get jobs, but there are other reasons as well,” Bradley said Tuesday during a hearing on the proposal. “Students may be disaffected. They may not be succeeding in a traditional program, so alternative settings may be appropriate, but we have a scarcity of alternative programs in our state.”

Melanie Schultz with the New Jersey Association of School Administrators agreed that kids need options that will entice them to stay in school.

“We would like to point to things that help — like the community schools that bring in services for the entire family — and would hope to build on that to keep students in school until they graduate high school,” Schultz said. “If we can be successful in finding strategies to keep them in school, the attendance age would not matter.”

The legislation includes $100 fines for parents who fail to have their child attend school.

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