Dropout bill 'may have' potential in Senate, Education chairman says

02/10/2011 07:20 PM

The Senate Republican majority came close to drafting its own version of a bill to raise the school dropout age but decided to wait for the House bill, said Sen. Ken Winters, R-Murray and the Senate Education Chairman.

Winters said the bill raising the dropout age from 16 to 18 “may have” potential to pass this year after it stalled last year. However, he quickly added that some Senators still have concerns.

“There are a number of people who feel that moving to (have) a 17, 18 year old student still in those classes could be disruptive, if they don’t want to be there to start with,” he said on Pure Politics Thursday night.

The House passed the legislation Thursday afternoon, 91-8. It is one of Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s two main legislative priorities.

The current version of the bill includes a provision to add oversight of alternative programs meant to divert students who are struggling in the traditional classrooms into other education paths. About 60,000 students currently are in such programs across Kentucky.

“There are some wonderful alternative programs out there,” Winters said. “And there are some other ones we wouldn’t brag about. The alternative school enhancement is something I think we can all be supportive of.”

Winters also discussed his bill, Senate Bill 13, that would provide bonuses of up to $7,500 a year for math and science teachers who help students score well enough on Advanced Placement exams in math and science to earn college credit.

The bill is based on the AdvanceKentucky program, which Pure Politics featured earlier in the week.

Rep. Carl Rollins, a Midway Democrat who chairs the House Education Committee, said on Pure Politics last week he didn’t like that Winters’ bill only provides bonuses for math and science AP teachers but could support applying the added pay to all AP teachers.

“The reason this bill — or my bill — restricts it to those is right now our production of Advanced Placement graduates and, in fact, math and science students is so low,” Winters said.

His bill would cost the state $1.2 million just for the extra pay and training for math and science AP teachers. He said he didn’t know how much it would cost to apply it teachers of AP courses in other subjects.

He said if the state can find the money, “I would be delighted to expand the program.”

- Ryan Alessi

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