House Education panel approves bills to raise drop out age, study university funds

02/12/2013 08:13 AM

FRANKFORT — A bill that would gradually raise the age in which any student could drop out school to 18 by 2018 passed the House Education Committee 24-2 Tuesday morning, marking the fifth straight session such a measure made it to the House.

Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, again sponsored the measure, HB 220, that would raise the age from 16 to 17 by 2017 and to 18 by 2018. Currently a student can’t legally drop out on his or her own until 18 but can leave school as young as 16 with a parent’s permission.

“I just hope that this is our year,” Greer said, noting the legislation has stalled in the Republican-led Senate the previous four sessions.

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said the education department will set standards for alternative schools to help those students most at risk of dropping out.

Two Republicans opposed the bill. Rep. Ben Waide, R-Madisonville, said while 15 states have raised the age, only five have seen an appreciable drop in the drop-out rate. And he said requiring districts to have proper alternative schools amounts to an unfunded mandate. Otherwise, he said, Kentucky ends up with alternative schools that merely warehouse troubled students.

“Making them sit in an alternative school watching television does not a high school graduate make,” Waide said.

Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge, said he was going back and forth on the legislation but decided to vote no. He said he might vote for it when it reaches the House floor.

Task force to crack the code

Far less controversial was a resolution Rollins sponsored that would create a task force to study public universities’ budgeting and how they handle financial aid.

The group would include legislators, university presidents (or their designees), the president of the Council on Postsecondary Education and the head of the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority. And it would make recommendations about university budgeting, whether the state should implement performance-based funding and changes to financial aid by Nov. 29, 2013.

HC13 passed 24-0.

“We would all like to learn more about that whole process,” Rollins said. “It’s not clear to me or anyone in the world that I know of.”

Rollins said he had talked with university presidents about it.

“While they’re scared, they’re not openly opposed,” he said.


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