• New Hampshire
• Gov. John Lynch
Raising the compulsory-school-attendance age from 16 to 18 should be a legislative priority, Gov. John Lynch said last week.
“Last year an estimated 2,300 of our students dropped out of high school,” the Democrat said in his Jan. 18 State of the State Address to New Hampshire lawmakers. “We must make it clear to young people that we are not going to give up on them; or let them give up on themselves.”
Dropout Prevention: The state Senate was scheduled to hold a hearing this week on the proposal to raise the age for compulsory attendance. Under current law, students are permitted to leave school at age 16 with their parents’ written consent. If the bill becomes law, New Hampshire will join a growing number of states in which required attendance ends at age 18—or a total of 17 states nationwide, according to the latest count by the Denver-based Education Commission of the States.
But Gov. Lynch said last week that the state was exploring other ways to reduce the state’s four-year dropout rate, which is around 13 percent. He said he would hold a summit this spring to discuss alternative high school programs, vocational high schools, internships, night school, and other strategies for keeping young people in school longer.
School Funding: For the second year in a row, Mr. Lynch called on lawmakers to eliminate “once and for all” the state’s controversial statewide property tax, which helps pay for schools. The legislature reduced the tax last year when it overhauled the school funding formula, but it stopped short of ending the tax altogether.
Child Protection: The governor added that he wants to toughen the penalties and restrictions that the state imposes on people convicted of sex offenses against children. His proposal would limit how close those offenders could live to parks, schools, and children’s centers, and would require them to wear monitoring devices after they are released from prison.
Mr. Lynch also proposed measures to reduce tuition at state colleges and universities for disadvantaged students and to ensure that all students are covered by health insurance while they attend college.
The education proposals were part of a speech that stressed bipartisanship, especially in the face of natural disasters, such as the floods that ravaged some New Hampshire towns last fall.
But Warren Henderson, the chairman of the state’s Republican Party, said in a statement that the talk glossed over some of the problems that loom over the state, including two lawsuits by towns seeking to challenge the new school aid formula.
A version of this article appeared in the January 25, 2006 edition of Education Week