SENATE BUDGET AND APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
SENATE, No. 447
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
DATED: JUNE 1, 2017
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee reports favorably Senate Bill No. 447 (1R).
This bill requires that, in the event that 10 percent or more of the students enrolled in a public school are chronically absent, the school must develop a corrective action plan to improve absenteeism rates. The plan must include, but need not be limited to: (1) identifying problems and barriers to school attendance; (2) developing recommendations to address those problems and barriers; (3) outlining communication strategies to educate parents on the importance of school attendance; (4) establishing protocols on informing and engaging parents when a child begins to show a pattern of absences; and (5) reviewing school policies to ensure that they support improved school attendance. The bill requires that in developing the corrective action plan, the school must solicit input from parents through multiple means, including through the administration of a survey, engaging with the school’s parent organization, and, if the school does not have a parent organization, holding a public meeting to provide parents with the opportunity to provide input. The school would be required to present its corrective action plan to the board of education. The school would annually review and revise the plan, and present the revisions to the board, until the percent of students who are chronically absent is less than 10 percent.
The bill also requires the Commissioner of Education to include on School Report Cards data on the number and percentage of students who were chronically absent and the number and percentage of students who received a disciplinary suspension. The commissioner must annually review the chronic absenteeism rates of each school and school district and report on the rates to the State Board of Education.
The term “chronically absent,” as used in the bill, will be defined pursuant to rules and regulations promulgated by the Commissioner of Education within 90 days after enactment.
The Office of Legislative Services estimates that this bill will not lead to a change in State expenditures. The current School Performance Report already includes data related to student suspensions and chronic absenteeism.
This bill may result in an indeterminate increase in a school district’s expenditures if, in at least one school in the district, 10 percent or more of the students are considered chronically absent, thereby triggering the development of a corrective action plan. This potential cost would be contingent on the strategy implemented by the school, such as less costly options (e.g., increased communication and outreach) to potentially more expensive options (e.g., hiring additional attendance officers). Based on data included in the School Performance Report for the 2015-16 school year, nearly one-third of schools had at least 10 percent of students who were classified as chronically absent (meaning, absent for at least 10 percent of the days that a student is enrolled in a the school).