Politics & Government

House approves bill to raise dropout age to 18

FRANKFORT — The Democratic-controlled House approved legislation Thursday that would raise the high school dropout age from 16 to 18.

The House voted 87-10 in favor of House Bill 216, which would increase the dropout age to 17 in July 2016 and 18 in July 2017.

Opposition came from House Republicans, who said it would cost too much to keep children in school who don't want to learn. This is the fourth time in three years the measure has passed the Democratic-led House.

The legislation now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, which has not granted the measure a hearing in the past two years. The Senate approved its own dropout prevention bill Feb. 8. That proposal would allow local school boards to decide their own dropout ages.

The Senate proposal is not acceptable, said Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, the primary sponsor of HB 216. Only wealthier districts would raise the dropout age, he said.

"Poorer districts won't require it, and they will only get poorer," Greer said.

Only 19 states allow children to drop out of school at age 16.

Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, said he dropped out of high school when he was 16. He quickly realized it was a mistake, he said.

Thankfully, his commanding officers in the Navy encouraged him to get his GED and he later graduated from college, Burch said. He finally got a high school diploma three years ago from Manual High School in Louisville.

"I wanted that so bad," Burch said.

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