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Congressman Jerry McNerney

Representing the 9th District of California

Rep. McNerney Pushes Legislation to Keep Students in School

Jul 19, 2016
Press Release
Grant Program and Federal Task Force Would Address Indicators that Lead to Truancy and Dropping Out

Washington – Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) announced today that he has introduced legislation aimed at reducing truancy in our schools and keeping students on the track for achieving academic success. The Keep Students in School Act of 2016 (H.R. 5862) would provide local education agencies with more resources to improve student retention and engagement and provide support to families of at-risk children, and for other purposes.

“Patterns of truancy and a lack of school attendance that begin at an early age can lead students down the wrong path toward poor academic performance or dropping out of school entirely. It is crucial that our schools are able to make early investments in student engagement and my Keep Students in School Act ensures that our educators and parents have the resources needed to effectively address the different factors that contribute to students staying in school,” said Rep. Jerry McNerney. “Efforts made early in the educational journey of at-risk students will help curb the dropout rate, prepare our young people to become productive members of our communities, and have long-term benefits for society.”

Rep. McNerney’s legislation outlines a series of programs that the local education agencies (LEA) can establish or expand on to improve student retention and academic outcomes using the grant funding. This includes the following:

  • Electronic attendance programs to collect and maintain attendance data to inform intervention strategies to boost attendance.
  • After-school programs and recreational activities to improve student engagement and to establish a student retention and engagement policy.
  • Student Absence policies that require schools to make phone calls to the parents of an at-risk child the same day that the child’s absence is noted. 
  • Collaborative efforts between schools, local agencies, and social workers to create programs focused on youth violence prevention to address issues facing at-risk children.
  • Resources and support for parents of at-risk children, including school counseling; collaboration with community organizations to facilitate access to resources and support, including fulfilling any needs with respect to at-risk children created by budget deficits.
  • Establish or expand a mentoring program under which a community volunteer is paired with an at-risk child who attends an elementary school to provide homework assistance and encourage attendance.
  • Provide at least one licensed social worker for elementary schools and one licensed social worker for high schools served by the LEA.

The legislation also allows LEAs to use the grant establish a teacher training and development program that focuses on issues relating to racial inequality and poverty.

National data shows that students from low-income families are 2.4 times more likely to drop out of school than students from middle-income families and 10.5 times more likely than those that come from a higher-income family. 

African Americans and Hispanics are at a greater risk of dropping out than whites.  Nearly 40 percent of all Hispanics students who dropout will do so before the 8th grade.

Studies point to clear indicators for whether a student will drop out of school. Some of these include: grade retention; poor academic performance; high absenteeism; behavior problems; a lack of supportive adult figures at home or school; among other indicators.

The Keep Students in School Act would also establish a federal task force to better address the hardships facing disadvantaged youth in our country. The task force would look at a series of factors that contribute to truancy and poor academic performance.

This would include home environment factors like exposure to domestic violence and alcohol or drug abuse; economic factors including poverty, single-parent homes, frequent housing mobility, parents who work multiple jobs, lack of adequate transportation to school, lack of affordable childcare, and working students; and school environment factors, like hardships within the academic environment, including overcrowded classrooms, discriminatory attitudes of teachers and administrators, hostility from other students, lack of flexibility regarding the cultural or learning needs of the student, and inconsistent procedures for dealing with truancy.

The task force would coordinate interagency efforts to address the hardships mentioned above and develop a comprehensive work plan that identifies and implements improvements to the federal programs by eliminating ineffective programs, redirecting resources; consolidating efforts of successful programs and incorporating positive youth development practices.

San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools James Mousalimas voiced support for the legislation.

“Student success begins with student attendance and engagement. The grant program described in Congressman McNerney’s bill would help support our schools’ efforts to engage students, support families, and reduce truancy. Students who attend school regularly have more academic success and are able to pursue their college and career goals,” said Mousalimas.

Rep. McNerney’s legislation is also supported by Give Every Child a Chance, a non-profit organization that provides afterschool programs to over 40 locations in San Joaquin County.

“We are proud to support The Keeping Students in School Act introduced by Congressman McNerney. We support programs and funding opportunities that will positively impact the education of our youth and will assist them in becoming productive adults. This proposal will provide resources to better monitor student attendance and partner with outreach programs that improve student retention. This proposal will also support reaching out to at-risk children, teacher development, after school programs, collaboration with community based organizations and encourage parent participation in the education of their children,” said Carol Davis, CEO of Give Every Child A Chance. 

H.R. 5862 has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

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Rep. Jerry McNerney proudly serves the constituents of California’s 9th Congressional District that includes portions of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Sacramento Counties. For more information on Rep. McNerney’s work, follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @RepMcNerney.