April 5, 2012

House votes to increase public school dropout age to 17

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By Justin Snow
Justin@MarylandReporter.com

The House of Delegates voted to increase the mandatory age Maryland children are required to attend public school to 17 years old after a lengthy debate on Thursday.

School buses (photo by Twix)

School buses (photo by Twix)

Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, public school students would be required to attend high school until the age of 16. That age would increase to 17 beginning with the 2016-2017 school year.

Currently, public school students may drop out at the age of 15. About 9,500 students drop out each year.

Supportive message

Supporters argued that the age increase would send a supportive message to children who might otherwise go astray. Del. Anne Kaiser, D-Montgomery, said it was the state’s “moral obligation” to ensure every student utilizes his or her opportunity to a free education.

Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery, referenced his own experiences as a teacher as he stood in support of the bill.

“There is no such thing as a child who does not want to succeed,” Luedtke said, adding that the bill would send a message to every child “that we believe in them.”

Many delegates admitted that the intentions of the bill were genuine, but opponents questioned the payoff for the increased costs. Due to increased enrollment, the measure would cost the state an additional $35 million in fiscal 2016. When the age requirement rises to 17, that would cost about $54 million.

Better spent other ways

Opponents said that money could be better spent educating children and their parents about the consequences of dropping out instead of applying a one-age-fits-all mold.

“Really it’s parents that are responsible for their children and the choices their children make,” said Del. Justin Ready, R-Carroll. “At a certain point the state cannot force people to make good decisions.”

The financial argument was also made by Del. Herbert McMillan, R-Anne Arundel, who said a green vote would only increase the state deficit.

“I don’t think you’re going to have anything to show for it except an enrollment count with no guarantee that there will be a student in the seat that’s being counted,” said McMillan.

Opponents also voiced concerns that students who would have otherwise dropped out would become more disruptive if forced by law to stay in school. Supporters said by increasing the age requirement the state would create an expectation for future generations.

The House approved the bill 88-49, to applause from the delegates. A number rose to explain their vote, including Del. Melvin Stukes. The Baltimore City Democrat, who rarely speaks on the House floor, said education was the “most important gift man can give to man.”

  • “Many delegates admitted that the intentions of the bill
    were genuine, but opponents questioned the payoff for the increased
    costs. Due to increased enrollment, the measure would cost the state an
    additional $35 million in fiscal 2016. When the age requirement rises to
    17, that would cost about $54 million.”

    Will the state be collecting data on how many students are actually graduating instead of dropping out because of the change in policy?

    • Big Jules

      The reason kids are forced to go to school is beacuse thats the way the school system makes money, so basically the government are pimps. Children by the age of 13 are morw then aware of whats right or wrong the reason dropouts go downhill is beacusw no one offers them a way to survive without depending the system or the streets and honestly i pick the streets more dangerous but at the same time you can at least say for the most part your free

  • Higher_Ed_Advocate

    I love Delegate Stukes’s quote.  I heard Rep. Cummings a few weeks ago say that those who serve in Congress “must synchronize our conduct with our convictions.”  That sentiment should apply to all people — elected, appointed, or otherwise.  If we are to be competitive in this knowledge-driven global economy, graduating from HS is the absolute minimum that we should expect, because having some form of postsecondary credential (note that I did not say that it had to be a degree) is what is now required to be successful.  I applaud the House for moving in the right direction and hope that we will have the adequate support and interventions in place to assist those students who need more help in progressing to completion.  We know that Maryland is #1 (3 times running!) according to Education Week but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do better.  In fact, we have to…

  • Gome17

    So I guess Maryland now wants to force a child to attend a drug infested school that they hate

  • abby_adams

    Will this increase in drop out age insure that current high school graduates are actually prepared for higher education? Helping teens stay in school is a noble idea. But many of today’s graduates are woefully unprepared for higher level courses & must attend remedial classes despite MD’s #1 school ranking & millions of $$ spent on education.  IMHO insuring that students are adequately prepared for higher education is as important, if not more important, than demanding kids stay in schools with ineffectual teaching that started long before they reached age 16 or 17. We also cannot overlook the values instilled at home & the government, at any level, cannot dismiss that basic fact.

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  • Godzillar33

    Why force kids that don’t want to be in a class to be there? I’m a sophmore in highschool and I want to drop out asap if my parents would let me. I don’t find a point being there because i flunked this year. I plan on getting my G.E.D and the difference between me and all those kids that are in high school is I know what I want to do and I plan on achieving it because I wont stop. The fact is you don’t need to have a college degree to be successful.