Rep. Greer will again file bill to raise the drop-out age in Kentucky to 18

01/04/2011 07:11 PM

State Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, said he’ll try again to get his colleagues to raise the age in which Kentuckians must remain in school from 16 to 18, which also is the top agenda item for Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

“We need to take the next step. Our kids need this,” Greer said on Pure Politics Tuesday. He said he will file the measure this week as the 2011 General Assembly begins its work.

The legislation would be phased in with freshman class of the fall of 2011, who would have to stay in school until they are 17, Greer said. And starting with the following class — those who are on pace to graduate in 2016 — students would be required to stay in school until age 18.

“We want to let kids know that this is what we expect you to do,” he said.

Some statistics, however, show that raising the age is more symbolic than a sure-fire way of reducing the drop-out rate. In Kentucky’s neighboring states, for instance, three states — Ohio, Indiana and Virginia — require students to stay in school until they are 18.

The most recent statistics recorded by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics show the drop rates in those states are all over the board. Virginia and Indiana in the 2006-2007 school year had relatively low rates of 2.6% and 2.7%, respectively. Ohio’s was 4.5%, which put it at the 20th highest rate in the country that year.

Kentucky’s drop-out rate was 3%. But a 2006 review by state Auditor Crit Luallen said Kentucky school systems were ill-equipped to accurately keep track of how many students dropped out of public schools.

Last year, Greer’s bill, which was emphatically backed by first lady Jane Beshear, passed the House by a 98-2 vote and cleared the Senate’s education panel before stalling.

Greer said he’s been lobbying senators in recent months to approve it.

“They’ve been very supportive,” he said, adding that he has urged Senate Education Committee Chairman Ken Winters of Murray to support the bill. “I hope that he will hear the bill again and certainly will make a push with Senate leadership and try to get it on the floor.”

He said he was confident enough senators would have voted for the bill last year if it had been called up on the floor for a vote.

Last month, Beshear said on Pure Politics that raising the drop-out age was his main objective for the 2011 General Assembly.

- Ryan Alessi


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