Bill would mean fewer dropouts, backers say

Requiring Minnesota students to stay in school until age 18 would help more graduate from high school, said supporters of a bill introduced Monday that would raise the state's compulsory attendance age.

Minnesota is one of several states looking at raising the age from 16 to 18 to reduce the number of high school dropouts.

Dropping out is costly to the individual," said Sen. Charles Wiger, Senate Education Committee chairman and bill sponsor, "but it's also costly to the state in terms of lost productivity."

The committee approved the bill and passed it on to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but not before some cautioned about the significance of the change.

Tom Dooher, president of the teachers' union Education Minnesota, was skeptical that the bill would help reduce dropout numbers without providing more vocational programs and alternative learning centers to encourage kids to continue their education.

"We don't need any more unfunded mandates to make it look like we're doing something," Dooher said.

More than a dozen states require students to stay in school until age 18, including California and Texas. New Hampshire and South Dakota last year passed laws to join them.



4 a.m. bar-closing time will be considered

The Republican National Convention will offer the chance to party harder -- and perhaps a couple of hours later in Minnesota. State legislation that gets its first hearing today would temporarily push bar-closing time to 4 a.m. from the mandatory close of 2 a.m. at all other times. The later bar hours would apply in the seven-county Twin Cities area from Aug. 29 to Sept. 8.

Sen. Linda Schied, DFL-Brooklyn Park, is sponsoring the bill. She says she's acting at the request of convention planners. The GOP convention will be held the first four days of September and the main activity will be at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center. Some party officials will be in town earlier to conduct business prior to the convention.