Senate panel backs leaving drop-out age up to school districts; passes career pathways bill again

02/02/2012 07:12 PM

Retiring Republican Senator Jack Westwood said the best way to prevent students from dropping out of school is to make sure that school districts have alternative programs to engage at-risk students before raising the drop-out age.

A Senate committee on Thursday unanimously approved Westwood’s Senate Bill 109 that would allow districts the opportunity to raise to 18 the age in which students must stay in school. That’s different from the proposal pushed by Gov. Steve Beshear that would change the law to require all students stay in school until 18.

Westwood told legislators that the trick is to find programs that will engage students, and not just make kids sit in a classroom disengaged, something he criticized the Governor’s drop out bill of doing.

Westwood told his colleagues that leaving it at the discretion of the districts is important to make sure those districts have programs in place to serve students who are most at-risk of dropping out.

Westwood told reporters Thursday that his main goal is to curb the drop out rate. “Age is just a symbolic thing,” he said.

Another bill also passed committee Thursday that Westwood says is vital in keeping those students most at-risk for dropping out in school.

Westwood has been pushing for four years to pass a bill to make it easier for high school students to get a specific technical education through career and technical college programs.

In past years, the bill has received support in both chambers. But it has often been held hostage at the end of the session as House and Senate leaders battled over other competing education proposals. And ultimately it has remained stuck in legislative limbo.

The Kentucky Manufacturing Association is putting its weight behind the bill because they want the industries to have better-prepared workers here in Kentucky. And this is one way to do it, said the association’s president, Greg Higdon.

Both bills now make there way to the senate floor.


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