Gov. Lynch Urges Senate Education Committee to Support Bill to Lower Dropout Rate

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CONCORD - Gov. John Lynch today urged the Senate Education Committee to support legislation, SB 268, to increase New Hampshire's compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18, as part of an overall statewide effort to lower New Hampshire's high school dropout rate.

"For our state to compete and our children to succeed, more of them must graduate from high school. Last year an estimated 2,300 of our students dropped out of high school. We must make it clear to our young people that we are not going to give up on them, or let them give up on themselves," Gov. Lynch said.

"That is why I ask you to support this legislation and change the law to require our children to stay in school until age 18. We make our state's goal a high school diploma for every child," he said.

New Hampshire's compulsory attendance age was set at 16 in 1903.

"We must recognize the educational laws of the early 20th century don't meet the demands of the 21st century," Gov. Lynch said.

The state pays a high cost for high school dropouts, and so do dropouts. Nearly 80 percent of prisoners in America are high school dropouts. Dropouts are twice as likely to be on welfare. Rates of teen pregnancy, substance abuse and crime are significantly higher among dropouts. Adults between the ages of 25 and 34 who dropped out of high school earn significantly less than high school graduates of the same age.

"Increasing the compulsory attendance age to 18 is a critical first step in an overall strategy to cut our dropout rate," Gov. Lynch said. "First, it sends an important message to our students that it is not okay for them to drop out. Second, changing the law issues a challenge to parents, schools, communities to work together to make sure our young people not only go to school, but also want to stay in school," Gov. Lynch said.

In addition to the bipartisan sponsors of the bill, many people and organizations have offered their support for this initiative, including business leaders, law enforcement and educators.

Changing the law is only one part of the effort, Gov. Lynch said. Gov. Lynch is working with the Department of Education to host a statewide summit to develop strategies to keep young people in school.

"We must think creatively about ways to keep young people in school and to motivate them to learn. And we must be flexible with the options with offer young people. A traditional classroom setting may not work for every at-risk student," Gov. Lynch said.

There are school districts across the state that already have or are developing successful initiatives to reduce high school dropouts. Gov. Lynch's visits to a number of these programs this past spring led to the development of this legislation.

As a state, New Hampshire is making targeted investments in local dropout prevention programs through grants from the Workforce Opportunity Council and the Department of Education, federal grants, and the state's New Dropout Recovery and Oversight Council.

If approved by the legislature, the compulsory attendance age would be increased effective the 2008-2009 school year.

That will allow the legislature, Gov. Lynch said, to consider during the next cycle whether New Hampshire needs to re-target its dropout prevention investments, or make some additional targeted investments.

The sponsors of the legislation are Sen. Dick Green, Sen. Iris Estabrook, Sen. John Gallus, Sen. Sylvia Larsen, Sen. Maggie Hassan, Sen. Bob Odell, Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, Sen. Andy Martel, Sen. Joe Foster, Sen. David Gottesman, and Representatives Ken Weyler, Rep. Jim Craig, Rep. Steve L'Heureux and Rep. Clare Synder.