S-647

Raises the requirement for compulsory school attendance from 16 to 18 years of age.

The New Jersey Education Association supports S-647 sponsored by Senators Pou and Ruiz.  This legislation raises the requirement for compulsory school attendance from 16 to 18 years of age.  Students who graduate from high school prior to their eighteenth birthday would be exempt from this requirement.  Recently NJEA has put forth a package of education reform programs and raising the age to 18 is part of that package.  We thank the sponsors for their support on this issue.

Currently, only 21 states have compulsory attendance to the age of 18.  In his recent State of the Union Address, President Obama announced he would support efforts to require it in every state.  The purpose of raising the compulsory age of attendance is to curb the dropout rate by giving some students additional time to meet the requirements needed for them to graduate.  This is important because: 

  • High school completion is the most significant requirement for entering college.
  • Studies show that the typical high school graduate will obtain higher employment and earnings – an astonishing 50 percent to 100 percent increase in lifetime income.  The typical graduate, therefore, will likely contribute more in tax revenues over his lifetime than if he’d dropped out.
  • Further, studies indicate that high school graduates are less likely to draw on public money for health care and welfare, and less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system.

While this legislation is an important start, NJEA believes that to achieve the desired result, raising the age of compulsory attendance must be coupled with the supports that at-risk students need to graduate.  These supports might include:

  • Targeting resources to middle level and high schools with high student-mobility rates and significant proportions of low-income students, English language learners, students with disabilities, and low-achieving students to help all students meet high expectations.
  • Providing funds and technical assistance to help schools address the educational and social needs of students who would otherwise be tempted to drop out.
  • Providing at-risk students with nonmonetary incentives for staying in school.
  • Providing ongoing and targeted professional development to teachers and school leaders to increase their capacity to engage students in their own education.
  • Ensuring that students have access to academic supports that will help them stay on track toward graduation.

NJEA urges you to vote “yes” on S-647.