House Education Committee passes bill raising dropout age

Students would have to stay in school until they are 18 years old under a bill approved by the House Education Committee this morning. 

House Bill 189 sponsored by Rep. Brent Yonts would raise the mandatory attendance age to 17 in the 2010-2011 school year and to 18 the following school year if it is signed into law. 

This is the 11th time Yonts, a Greenville Democrat, has offered the proposal, and since he first offered it many states have moved to raise the mandatory attendance age to 18. 

“This is not a new notion,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, as he spoke in favor of the bill. “What has changed is the national landscape.”

Among the reasons cited by those that drop out are that classes were not interesting, they saw little chance of success or they had missed too many school days, Yonts said. Those that drop out often end up incarcerated or as single parents, which puts further financial burden on the state, Yonts said. 

“That would save us on those issues,” Yonts said of House Bill 189. “All of these things are positive things of raising the dropout age.”

Yonts said raising the age would cost an additional $15 million annually, but would save about $50 million in other state costs including the cost of incarceration. 

“We’ve got to show these children that we’re interested in them staying in school rather than incarcerating them,” said Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington, a Ft. Wright Republican and former member of the Kentucky State Police. 

Several lawmakers voiced concerns that House Bill 189 might keep disruptive children in the classroom and keep those interested in learning from doing so.

Rep. Linda Belcher, a Shepherdsville Democrat, was one of several legislators who voted against the measure, saying that she supported the idea, but that it should follow additional investment in classroom programming and addressing the other issues that prompt students to drop out.

“My concern is that we’re going about this backwards,” Belcher said. “I don’t disagree that we have to have something for these children, but I think we need to do that first.”

Yonts and others explained that this is not meant to be a “silver bullet,” and should be coupled with additional efforts to engage students. 

“We as a legislature have to put more money into programs that interest these people,” Yonts said. “Not everybody’s interested in reading Chaucer. That’s why they’re bored.”

Read more about House Bill 189 in Wednesday’s Messenger-Inquirer.

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One Response

  1. The House Education Committee this morning passed a bill that would raise the age at which students are permitted to drop out of school from 16 to 18 by 2011.

    House Bill 189, sponsored by Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, cleared the committee 22-3 with two legislators passing.

    Democratic Reps. Linda Belcher, of Shepherdsville, Hubert Collins, of Paintsville, and Ted Edmonds, of Jackson, voted against the bill.

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