NJ Education Committee Passes Bill to Raise Dropout Age

Students in New Jersey would be required to stay in school until they graduate or turn 18 according to a bill passed by the Senate education committee.

The proposed law that would require a boost the mandatory attendance age from 16 to 18 passed the Assembly education committee earlier in the week, and now, after President Obama's support for such legislation, it may serve as a broader precedent.

Supporters argue that requiring more schooling would help young people get the skills they need to thrive in a harsh, high-tech economy, writes Leslie Brody at the North Jersey.

"Keeping more teens in school would be expensive, however, especially because many experts say raising the school departure age works only if there's a comprehensive network of alternative programs and social services to keep them engaged."

Proponents of the bill cite studies that show dropouts are more likely to impose costs on taxpayers through crime, jail and welfare dependency, proving that is may, in the long term, be cheaper to keep students in school.

Sen. Teresa Ruiz heads the education committee. She believes that this bill will be a catalyst for public discussion across the country about how best to manage and prevent dropouts.

With more teens getting diplomas, "We would have a better base of people who have the ability to work," Ruiz said.

Critics say that the bill would force disaffected and non-academic teens in school for too long. While New Jersey has one of the nation's highest graduation rates, in some poorer districts, like Paterson, only about half the students who start high school finish four years later.

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