Gov. Urges House Education Committee to Support Legislation to Increase High School Graduations

From The Office of Governor John Lynch

CONCORD - Gov. John Lynch today urged the House 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 New Hampshire young people must graduate from high school. As a state, we should not, and cannot, continue to send a false message to New Hampshire's children that they will have the opportunities they deserve if they leave school at 16, " Gov. Lynch said. " 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. "

The state pays a high cost for high school dropouts, and so do dropouts. High school dropouts will have fewer jobs open to them, and will earn significantly less throughout their lives then people with high school diplomas. 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. A recent study by Polecon Research of Dover concluded that the cost of dropouts to New Hampshire's Medicaid program alone is nearly $45 million a year.

" 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. " We should make our state's goal a high school diploma for every student. "

If given the right encouragement and opportunities, many young people who currently drop out would stay in school and graduate, Gov. Lynch said, pointing to a recent Gates Foundation survey.

The Gates Foundation surveyed 470 high school dropouts nationwide and found that 62
percent had grades of C or better when they left school and 70 percent were confident they could have met their school's graduation requirements. The authors of the Gates Foundation study have praised SB 268 as a crucial step in the effort to increase the high school graduation rates.

" 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.

Gov. Lynch recently held a statewide summit bringing together 250 educators, business and community leaders, parents, students and members of law enforcement, to discuss strategies for implementing the legislation.

" We need to think creatively about how to make young people want to go to school - considering alternative programs, internships, vocational technical education and night programs. This legislation will give us the flexibility necessary to expand these options, " Gov. Lynch said.

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 budget cycle whether New Hampshire needs to re-target its dropout prevention investments, or make some additional targeted investments.

" It's time we stop just discussing the problem and commiserating about the problem. It's time that we take action to address the problem, " Gov. Lynch said. " We can make sure more of our children graduate from high school. We just have to make it our priority as a state, and that is what we are going to do. That is why I ask you to support this legislation.

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.