By Jennifer HsuFor nearly a decade, the school system in New Jersey has been grappling with the same dilemma that nearly every other school system faces: a steep decline in enrollment.
New Jersey’s public school enrollment declined by about 3,000 students from 2005 to 2014.
At the same time, the number of students in the system increased by 3,300 students, according to the latest data.
At Liberty High School in Edison, students in 2016 had an average SAT score of 1680, which was the second-highest among the state’s public high schools.
By contrast, the average SAT scores for students in New Brunswick, New Jersey, which has a population of about 7.5 million, were 1329.
Those numbers were the lowest of any public school system.
In 2017, the Princeton Review, a public policy think tank, released a study that found New Jersey schools have a long-term problem with student dropouts.
The report found that nearly three-quarters of students who enrolled in New Jerseys public schools between 2007 and 2015 didn’t finish high school, with the remainder of the students either graduating from high school or going on to college or other educational programs.
It’s unclear why the dropout rate for New Jersey students has remained stubbornly high, according of the study, which found that the state has one of the highest dropout rates in the country.
The dropout problem has become so pronounced that Princeton Review concluded that the dropouts in New NJ schools should be required to complete a course on the state of the nation before being allowed to return to school.
The state of New Jersey did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The dropout numbers were a major focus of Governor Chris Christie’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which he presented to the state Legislature in early May.
The budget proposal included a provision that would have required students in public schools to complete three-credit courses on the nation’s “Great Recession,” which began in 2007 and was the worst economic downturn in decades.
The $4 billion budget proposal would have reduced the number from 7.8 percent to 5.6 percent of the budget.
But the proposal was shot down by Republican lawmakers, who argued that it would force public schools, especially those with low-income students, to spend millions of dollars on courses that might not be relevant to students with higher incomes.
The state’s school system also is grappling with how to accommodate the increasing numbers of students, especially at Liberty High, which had about 40 percent of students with disabilities in 2016, according the New Jersey Department of Education.
In the past, Liberty High was one of New York’s few publicly funded high schools that didn’t provide financial aid to students who couldn’t afford the cost of attendance.
The new governor, Democrat Phil Murphy, who was elected last November, has proposed eliminating some of the state-funded programs for low- and moderate-income and minority students.
He also wants to create a school choice program for students who don’t attend school in NewJersey.
The program would be modeled after the programs that students in Florida and other states have used to lower the drop-out rates of their schools.
The school system’s problems have also been a major issue in a state where it has struggled to recruit and retain high school graduates.
At Liberty High last year, students were enrolling at a rate of 1.5 percent, the state Department of Community Development data show.
In June, the New York Times reported that the school had dropped the number at Liberty from 10 percent of its students to 8.3 percent.
The New Jersey school district has been unable to keep up with enrollment.