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124D.32 Learn and earn graduation achievement program.

Subdivision 1. Grant program established. A learn and earn graduation achievement grant program is established under the administration of the commissioner of children, families, and learning. The purpose of the program is to aid local communities in their efforts to decrease youth crime by improving the secondary educational success and increasing the post-secondary educational opportunities of low-income high school students who reside in and attend schools in communities that have a high level of poverty and juvenile crime. The commissioner shall make grants under this section to applicants to establish local learn and earn programs that are school-centered and that use a community-based approach that provides eligible youth in grades 9 through 12 with individually tailored opportunities for academic enrichment, community service, and personal development that lead to a high school diploma and post-secondary education.

Subd. 2. Program outcome measures. The goals of the learn and earn graduation achievement program are to:

(1) increase school attendance;

(2) decrease school suspensions and dropouts;

(3) increase youth academic achievement, measured by graduation rates and post-secondary enrollment; and

(4) decrease juvenile crime.

Subd. 3. Local programs; application procedure; grant awards. The commissioner shall make grants to eligible applicants to establish local learn and earn programs. Each program shall operate for at least a four-year period. A local program shall select its participants from among eligible students who are entering or are in the ninth grade at the inception of the program. A program may not refill a program slot with another student if a student drops out of the program. Students selected to participate in the program shall be considered part of the program class and students who drop out may return to the program at any time prior to graduation.

The commissioner shall establish the application procedure for awarding grants under this section. The commissioner shall begin awarding grants by May 1, 1998.

Subd. 4. Grant eligibility. An applicant for a grant must be a public secondary school, a nonprofit community-based agency cooperating with a secondary school, area learning center, or alternative learning program approved by the commissioner. Grant applicants must meet all of the following criteria:

(1) at least 20 percent of the students at the participating school or program are eligible to receive a free school lunch;

(2) the area which the participating school or program serves has a high juvenile crime rate or has experienced a significant increase in juvenile crime over the past three school years;

(3) the applicant has a designated program coordinator who will coordinate school and community resources to provide students with sufficient support and continuity to realize program goals; and

(4) the applicant has established an advisory committee that includes representatives of the students and families served by the program and community organizations serving youth and families. The applicant may use an existing advisory committee that includes this representation.

At least 80 percent of a local learn and earn program's participating students at the inception of the program must reside in households with incomes at or below the federal poverty level adjusted for family size.

The commissioner shall give priority to funding local learn and earn programs that serve those communities that have the highest juvenile crime rates and the largest concentrations of economically disadvantaged youth.

Subd. 5. Student eligibility. A student is eligible to participate in a local learn and earn program if the student:

(1) is enrolled in the participating school;

(2) is entering or is in the ninth grade at the inception of the program; and

(3) resides in a household whose income is at or below the federal poverty level adjusted for family size, has been recommended for the program by a teacher or other community member, has requested to participate, or whose participation has been requested by a family member, according to a procedure to be developed by the applicant.

Subd. 6. Program components. Each learn and earn graduation achievement program must provide the opportunity for participating students to complete:

(1) 250 hours each year, not including regular required classroom hours, in basic education competency skills;

(2) 250 hours each year of service to the community; and

(3) 250 hours each year of cultural enrichment and personal development, including but not limited to adult mentoring; participating in community cultural events; developing life skills for use in the home, workplace, and community; and learning to set goals, manage time, and make appropriate behavior choices for varying social situations.

Subd. 7. Program incentives. (a) Each participating student shall receive a monetary stipend for each hour spent in a program component activity, plus a bonus upon completion of each component during each year of the program.

(b) An additional amount equal to or greater than each student's earned stipends and bonuses must be deposited for the student in a post-secondary opportunities account, established by the commissioner through the higher education services office. A student may, upon graduation from high school, use the funds accumulated for the student toward the costs, including tuition, books, and lab fees, of attending a Minnesota post-secondary institution or in a career training program. Funds accumulated for a student shall be available to the student from the time the student graduates from high school until ten years after the date the student entered the learn and earn graduation achievement program. After ten years, the commissioner shall close the student's account and any remaining money in the account shall revert to the general fund.

The commissioner shall establish a procedure for providing the monetary stipends and bonuses to students. The commissioner may delegate this authority to grantees.

Subd. 8. Program coordinator. The local learn and earn program coordinator must maintain contact with all participating students and their families; work with the school to link students with the resources needed to improve their educational skills; arrange for service to the community and cultural enrichment opportunities for students; maintain records regarding student completion of program component hours; and perform other administrative duties as necessary. A program coordinator must, to the extent possible, agree to remain with the program for four years to provide continuity of adult contact to the participating students.

Subd. 9. Evaluation and reports. The commissioner shall collect information about participating students and a demographically similar control group and shall evaluate the short-term and long-term benefits participating students receive from the learn and earn graduation achievement program, based on the outcome measures specified in subdivision 2, and any other criteria established by the commissioner as part of the grant application process. The evaluation must include a statistical comparison of students participating in the program and the control group. The commissioner shall follow participating students and the control group for a minimum of six years from the start of the program. The commissioner shall submit a preliminary report to the governor and the chairs of the senate and house committees having jurisdiction over education and crime prevention by December 15, 2001, regarding continuation of the learn and earn graduation achievement program for participating schools and expansion of the program to additional schools. The commissioner shall submit a final report by December 15, 2003.

HIST: 1Sp1997 c 4 art 2 s 38; 1998 c 397 art 3 s 103; 1998 c 398 art 3 s 4-8