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Brockton board proposes new delay

BROCKTON – The Brockton School Committee has unanimously voted to join the Massachusetts Association of School Committees in proposing new legislation to raise the state’s legal high school dropout age from 16 to 18.

During the May 21 meeting, committee members approved a resolution that will be sent to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees for a vote that proposes that Massachusetts change the age at which students can leave school. Currently, that age is set at 16 under Massachusetts law, and Brockton's goal is to raise it to 18.

“This is unique for Brockton because we will be taking the lead on this,” said Tony Rodrigues, vice chairman of the school board and representative of the Fourth District, who first proposed the idea about a year and a half ago.

“I have always been careful about our school dropout age,” Rodrigues said. “We don't have the authority to change that.”

Members of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees will vote on the resolution at their mid-June meeting and then present the proposal along with members of the Brockton School Committee at the association's conference in November. If the bill passes at the conference, it will be sent to the Massachusetts Legislature, which will decide whether to change the law.

“I think it's great,” said Robert Sullivan, Brockton's mayor and school board chairman. “I support it wholeheartedly.”

Rodrigues and committee members Jorge Vega and Tim Sullivan recently met with the Massachusetts Association of School Committees' Resolutions Subcommittee, where Rodrigues proposed to the association's board members the idea of ​​changing the high school dropout age.

“When the vice chairman presented this idea, the reaction was unanimously positive,” Vega said. “We immediately saw people reaching out to support in any way they could to get this in front of the people who need to see it and vote on it.”

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What is the proposed law?

If passed by state legislatures, the bill will raise the state's compulsory education age, which is the minimum and maximum age at which children must enroll and attend school, or an equivalent set by Massachusetts General Law.

On May 15, the committee voted to draft a resolution to raise the dropout age in the state. The resolution will be presented to the incoming president of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, who will present the proposal to the association's general meeting next month.

Last Tuesday, Brockton approved the resolution, which states: “Raising the compulsory school age reflects the realities of the 21st century, with the increased need for higher levels of education,” said Rodrigues.

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According to the proposal, children's lifelong “economic and social mobility” improves when they stay in school longer and complete high school. Raising the school age can also reduce child poverty.

According to the resolution Rodrigues read on Tuesday, “a growing body of research suggests that raising the minimum age to leave school to 18 not only increases secondary school graduation rates, but also significantly improves the life chances of students who would otherwise have dropped out of school,” he said.

Rodrigues said that raising the dropout age would “reduce racial and class differences in educational attainment” and that “dropouts are more likely than high school graduates to be poor, unemployed, or in prison.”

“The idea that Brockton could be at the forefront of what could be an incredibly impactful transition is very exciting,” Vega said at the meeting. “I think it underscores what's going on here in Brockton and the kind of thinking and commitment we have to social justice.”

Anna Harden

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