Juneau and Education Leaders Ask Legislature to Prioritize Reducing Dropout Rate

Wednesday, January 12, 2011
By Allyson Hagen

Helena, MT – Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau and education leaders in Montana gathered to support a statewide policy change to address Montana's graduation rate. Today, the Senate Education committee will hear Senate Bill 44. Sponsored by Sen. Taylor Brown (R-Huntley), SB 44 would raise Montana's legal dropout age from "age 16" to "age 18 or upon graduation." Superintendent Juneau was joined by Alex Apostle, Superintendent of Missoula Public Schools and Shannon Sullivan, a member of Supt. Juneau's first-ever Student Advisory Board from Butte.


“Passing this bill will set a statewide expectation that all Montana students will graduate from high school," said Supt. Juneau. "In today’s economic climate, it is imperative that a student earn a diploma or certificate so they have an opportunity for a good job and secure future.”


Based on early results of a community initiative, Graduation Matters Missoula, Superintendent Juneau launched a statewide initiative, Graduation Matters Montana, to address Montana's dropout rate. Graduation Matters Montana is a multi-pronged approach to increase the number of students who graduate from high school college- and career-ready. SB 44 is one part of the Graduation Matters Montana initiative.


Stated Supt. Apostle, “Senate Bill 44 supports Graduation Matters Missoula, an initiative that was launched in our district a year ago to increase graduation rates and reduce dropout rates in our schools. Raising the legal drop out age from 16 to 18 will help keep at-risk students in school who need additional support at a critical time in their lives. We look forward to helping these students connect with classes and programs that will keep them engaged and meet their unique needs.”


Every year, more than 2,000 Montana students in grades 7-12 drop out of school. The legal dropout age has not been changed in 90 years, however, our economic climate and job skill demands have changed much over that period of time. Montana is one of a shrinking number of states that allow students to drop out of school at age 16.


Stated Supt. Juneau, "This bill provides parents and schools with additional support to keep kids in school and prepare them for a successful future. We need to come together as policymakers, parents and educators to confront our challenges and find workable solutions. I refuse to accept the status quo when the consequences of students dropping out have such negative impacts."

Senate Bill 44 will be heard in the Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee at 3 pm today in Room 303.


For more information about Graduation Matters Montana, please visit: http://www.opi.mt.gov/Programs/SchoolPrograms/Graduation_Matters/index.html


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