FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear and first lady Jane Beshear praised the House on Thursday shortly after it overwhelmingly approved a bill to raise the school dropout age to 18.
"I applaud our legislators for working together to pass this important bill — one that puts education first," said the Democratic governor. "Reducing our dropout rate is tied to educational achievement and to economic development."
House Bill 301, which was sent to the Senate on a 94-6 vote, requires students to attend school until at least age 17, beginning July 1, 2013, unless the student has completed high school.
Beginning July 1, 2014, students must complete high school or stay in school until at least 18. The bill requires the state high school graduation rate to be at least 90 percent by July 1, 2015.
The measure expresses the General Assembly's intent to provide money in future budgets to help districts with programs and services due to increasing compulsory attendance.
The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, said the current policy of allowing a student to drop out at age 16 has been in effect since 1920.
There was strong debate on the bill.
Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, said educators in his district oppose it because they think it will produce more discipline problems from students who don't want to be in school.
But Rep. Harry Moberly Jr., D-Richmond, said the measure is one of the most important bills of this year's legislative session.
"There are no throw-away kids," Moberly said.