11/09/09 — State legislators start committee work

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State legislators start committee work

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 9, 2009 1:46 PM

After a short break after adjourning in early August, state legislators are getting back to work this month as appointments for various study commissions and task forces are being made.

Locally, Sen. Don Davis, D-Greene, has been appointed as the co-chairman of the Joint Legislative Commission on Dropout Prevention and High School Graduation.

"I'm extremely grateful for the leadership for allowing me the opportunity to lead this committee," Davis said. "What I see is us really looking at and assessing the dropout situation and what dropouts really look like and really map out some solid plans for dropout prevention.

"I'm coming to this committee with an open mind to really step back and evaluate how we're approaching dropouts. My goal would be to work toward legislation that would more accurately reflect what the problem with dropouts is and put some solid measures in place for prevention. We need to look at ways to engage students in non-traditional ways."

That likely will mean some travel to various school systems to see what's being used now and how well it's working.

He also anticipates the committee taking a close look at how dropouts are measured -- a common concern of local education officials, who say the current measurement doesn't accurately capture those who leave Wayne County high schools, whether by moving out of county or by completing their education at the community college.

He does not, however, expect much legislation to be generated for consideration during the short session, which will begin in May.

"This is a problem nationwide. I don't know that there's going to be one or two quick fixes. It's a real dynamic social phenomenon that's taking place," he said. "This is something that's really going to take time to get right."

Not to mention that most of the bills considered during the short session, which is a continuation of the long session, are holdovers.

But, he added, "If there is something we can honestly take on ... there are ways to get bills out there."

Davis also was appointed to the Legislative Task Force on childhood obesity and the Senate Select Committee on Energy, Science and Technology. Neither though has begun to meet yet.

Also appointed to interim committees were Sen. David Rouzer, R-Johnston, to the Senate Select Committee on Energy, Science and Technology, Rep. Larry Bell, D-Sampson, to the Joint Legislative Study Committee on State Funded Student Financial Aid, which has not met yet, and Rep. Van Braxton, D-Lenoir, to the Joint Legislative Study Joining Our Businesses and School Study Commission.

That last one, which Braxton said has held an initial meeting, is focused on finding ways to connect students with businesses, through both academic and practical methods.

It's an effort that he thinks will benefit both parties -- the schools by improving education and combating dropouts and the businesses because such students are their future employees.