House votes to raise dropout age

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Students would no longer be allowed to
drop out of school at 16 under a measure that cleared the House on
Wednesday, despite objections from opponents who worry that the
move will lead to disruptions in classrooms.
The House voted 87-13 to pass the measure, sending it to the
Senate where it faces a dim future.
"The real purpose of this bill is, I think, to change the
expectations of our children," said Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway,
chairman of the House Education Committee. "We need to send a
clear message that we're not going to let you get out of school
before you get a diploma."
The bill would change a generations-old law allowing minors to
drop out of school. The legislation would raise the dropout age to
17 in 2015 and to 18 in 2016, giving both students and school
districts time to prepare for the change. Some 6,000 teens dropped
out in Kentucky during the last school year.
First lady Jane Beshear has made the issue a priority and has
been pressing the legislation for the past two years. It has
cleared the Democratic-controlled House each time only to die in
the Republican-controlled Senate.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Ken Winters, R-Murray, said
Wednesday that the measure sends an unfunded mandate to local
school districts that would have to beef up alternative education
programs for teens who are unable to do regular classroom work.
Winters estimated that the state's school districts cumulatively
might have to spend as much as $100 million a year to accommodate
the teens who would be forced to stay in school.
Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear included the dropout issue on the
agenda for the current special legislation session that was called
primarily to balance the state's Medicaid budget.
Beshear said he included the dropout measure in the special
session in hopes it would receive more public attention, thereby
forcing Senate Republicans to act.
Beshear praised the House for passing the dropout bill for the
third time and called on the Senate to do the same.
"When students drop out, they tend to earn thousands of dollars
less annually than high school graduates, and tend to rely on more
social services," he said in a statement. "This bill will not
only help students thrive, but it will also help build a better
educated work force. It is time for the Senate to give this bill a
fair hearing, and an up or down vote."
Supporters include Education Commissioner Terry Holliday who
said allowing teens to quit school carries both social and economic
costs. Dropouts, he said, are more likely to end up on public
assistance and to go to prison.
The legislation is House Bill 2.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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