May 17, 2023
AUGUSTA – A majority of the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee voted Tuesday to advance two pieces of legislation sponsored by Rep. Tiffany Roberts, D-South Berwick, that would provide proactive and strategic approaches to addressing chronic absenteeism and ensuring that students who have experienced educational disruptions have stability and support.
The first measure, LD 1769, would support youth experiencing frequent educational disruptions resulting from situations such as foster care placement, long-term health treatment or economic relocation. The second measure, LD 1861, as amended, would support youth who are chronically absent. These measures would work together to ensure students have the support they need to be successful in school.
The bills include recommendations from a study carried out by the Truancy, Dropout and Alternative Education Advisory Committee (TDAE) that was directed by legislation sponsored by Roberts in the 130th Legislature.
“Regular school attendance results in better outcomes for students,” said Roberts. “However, for many, attending school is a lot more complicated than hopping on the bus. We need to ensure students experiencing disruptions in their education have the support they need for academic and socioemotional success.”
Students experiencing educational disruptions are often involved with multiple systems, yet individual departments, school districts and agencies too frequently work in isolation. To address this issue, LD 1769 would reestablish the Keeping Maine Children Connected Program Manager within the Department of Education to facilitate interagency communication and provide teachers with the resources they need to effectively and efficiently advocate for their students.
Chronic absenteeism and truancy have also been on the rise in Maine. Since 2019, Maine has seen a 25% increase in chronic absenteeism and a 117% increase in truancy. To address this issue, LD 1861 would require a school with a 15% or higher chronic absenteeism rate or a district with an absentee rate of 10% to establish an attendance review team. A team may consist of, but would not be limited to, school administrators, guidance counselors, school counselors, school social workers and teachers. Teams would work to develop individual recommendations and referrals for chronically absent students to improve their attendance.
The bills face votes in the House and Senate in the coming weeks.
Roberts is serving her third term representing House District 149, which includes portions of North and South Berwick. She serves as House chair of the Innovation, Development, Economics Advancement and Business Committee.
Brian Lee [Roberts], c. 305-965-2744