Sen. Libby bill to help students who experience disruption to their education attain their diplomas heads to governor’s desk

Posted: July 06, 2021 | Senator Libby

AUGUSTA – On Thursday, the Maine Senate enacted and funded a bill from Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, to improve education outcomes and graduation rates for vulnerable students. LD 1318, “An Act To Increase High School Graduation Rates for Students Experiencing Education Disruption,” would make it easier for students that have experienced a disruption in their education to attain their high school diploma.

“During my time in the Legislature, I have often sat down with the folks who work at the youth homeless shelters in our state to identify some of their most pressing concerns that we needed to address at the state level. When talking to the folks at New Beginnings youth shelter, they stressed how big a barrier education disruption can be for our homeless youth and youth in foster care as they try to finish high school,” said Sen. Libby. “The latest data shows that homeless youth experience around a 30 percent drop in graduation rates compared with the regular state average for high school students. I am confident that this bill will curb that trend and am grateful to my fellow lawmakers for their support.”

LD 1318 would amend existing law to give young students who have experienced education disruption the tools to build a portfolio for high school graduation. Students who experience frequent disruptions to their schooling include those who are relocating schools, living in foster care, experiencing homelessness, children of migrant workers and more.

The Maine Department of Education testified in support of the bill at the public hearing, and provided the committee with data on the number of potentially impacted Maine pre-K through 12 students, including 1,335 homeless youth, 1,021 youth in foster care, 5,339 English Language Learners, and 1,194 immigrants.

Chris Bicknell, Executive Director of New Beginnings in Lewiston, also testified in favor of LD 1318 during the public hearing.

“Many youth in our programs struggle with educational disruption throughout their childhood due to extreme housing instability and homelessness. As a result, they face multiple barriers to high school completion that other students do not,” Bicknell said. “By changing the language in this existing law all Maine youth who experience educational disruptions because of homelessness, involvement in the child welfare system, juvenile justice involvement, tribal youth and children of migrant and immigrant families will have a pathway to graduation that does not exist for them now.”

The bill now goes to Gov. Janet Mills, who has 10 days to sign the bill into law, veto it or allow it to become law without her signature.