Compromise version of student dropout bill passes both chambers -- heads to governor

03/11/2013 03:59 PM

After five years of trying, lawmakers finally agreed on a way to raise the dropout age for high school students as a compromise came together quickly Monday.

The Kentucky House of Representatives gave their nod of approval with an 88-10 vote Monday afternoon in favor of raising the age a student can drop out of high school until the age of 18. And the Senate agreed to the changes with a 33-5 vote two hours later.

The measure will now go to Gov. Steve Beshear for his signature.

Senate Bill 97 was amended by the House and worked upon between education leaders in the two chambers with the help of Beshear, who has made the issu a priority of his.

A student currently can’t drop out on his or her own until 18 but could drop out at 16 with parental permission.

The legislation would allow the 174 school districts to choose to raise the dropout age to 18. It will be required statewide four years after 55 percent of school districts adopt the requirement. That would give districts a chance to prepare for the changes, including setting up or improving alternative schools that are meant to help students most at risk of dropping out.

Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Bradenburg, carried the bill on the House side and has sponsored similar legislation in the past several sessions. In the House, some debated whether the bill went far enough — as Rep. Reginald Meeks,D-Louisville wanted — or too far like several House Republicans said it did.

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In the two hours the House debated the bill, members heard passionate discussion on the merits of extending the drop out age, and those who said it won’t help.

“Those children who are not children anymore, who are for the most part violent offenders, beating up other students and beating up teachers,” Rep. Ben Waide, R-Madisonville, said to boos from other members. “Of the 15 states who have tried this almost none of them have seen improvements in graduation rates.”

The statement from Waide brought several legislators to their feet to contradict his speech, including Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, an attorney who asked Waide to back up his claim.

Watch the video below for the full interaction between the two:


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