Bill moves ahead: No dropping out before 18

  • Article by: NORMAN DRAPER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 6, 2008 - 8:44 PM

Legislators finalized a measure to raise the high school dropout age. But would kids pay attention to such a law?

House and Senate education policy committee members agreed late Monday on raising the Minnesota high school dropout age from 16 to 18.

A final Senate and House vote on the measure could come as early as this week.

The dropout age measure, given little chance of passing a month ago, is part of a larger education policy bill. That bill also contains provisions for adding criteria to the report cards the state issues for schools every year. New criteria would include: numbers of students taking Advanced Placement and other rigorous courses, numbers of students taking courses required for college admission, and measures of how safe and connected students feel in their schools.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty's office did not return calls inquiring whether he would sign the bill if it passes the Senate and House.

The proposal represents an effort to keep in school at least a few of the thousands of Minnesota high school kids who drop out each year. If passed, it would bring Minnesota in synch with many other states that have set the age at 18.

What's uncertain is how many kids would pay attention. Many of the 16- and 17-year olds who leave school without graduating do so without following state requirements to get their parents' permission. Critics wonder how many of them would heed a new law raising the dropout age. But proponents say it's time for Minnesota to signal how important it is to stay in school. They cite figures showing that Minnesota high school dropouts forfeit millions of dollars in earnings, and that a significant lowering of the dropout rate would, among other things, save millions of dollars in public safety and health care costs.

If passed, the measure as written would go into effect in the 2011-2012 school year. There is no pricetag attached to the measure. The cost could be significant if it results in many more students staying in school. That's because school funding from the state is allocated on a per-pupil basis.

Norman Draper • 612-673-4547

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