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Bill would raise legal high school dropout age from 16 to 18

By   /   January 13, 2011  /   1 Comment

BY MICHAEL NOYES

HELENA – A bill that would raise the legal school dropout age to 18 received both support and opposition during a Wednesday afternoon hearing.

     About a dozen people testified on both sides of the issue in regard to the bill introduced by Republican Senator Taylor Brown, of Huntley.

     Supporters said they are concerned with the dropout rate and that the current requirement that children must attend school through age 16 is no longer enough to be successful in today’s society. Opponents said parents should make that decision and that forcing students who don’t want to attend would only make it harder for teachers to teach and students to learn.

     Brown addressed a senate hearing on Education and Cultural Resources, and urged lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 44. Brown said the law hasn’t been changed since it was adopted in 1921.

     “The current requirement is simply not enough in this society,” he said.

     Brown said home schools, “are not impacted by this bill.”

     A number of state residents with ties to home schools later testified against the bill.

     Steve White, representing the Montana Coalition of Home Educators, said “this does effect home schoolers in Montana.”

     White said the bill could be construed to put home schools under the same academic requirements as public schools.

     “That’s very significant to us,” he said.

     Opponents also pointed to the fiscal note of $1 million attached to the bill.

     Brown said it will cost more money but that arguing about the cost is like saying the state could save money by talking more kids into dropping out of school.

     Denise Juneau, the superintendent of public instruction, said the bill was introduced by Brown at the request of her office. She said more than 2,000 students drop out of school each year in Montana.

     “There are no throw away kids,” Juneau said. “In today’s economic climate it is imperative that a student have a diploma or certificate.”

     One person who testified identified herself as a retired teacher and said keeping students in school would not necessarily result in them learning but could detract from teaching other students.

     After the hearing, Republican Senator Eric Moore, of Miles City, said he is not certain how he plans to vote on the bill.

     “It’s a complex issue,” said Moore. “I think the question arises in terms of efficacy.”

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  • Cathy Nordhagen

    Just because you raise the drop-out age to 18, wouldn’t necessarily result in that student getting their diploma. I am a substitute teacher and there are some kids who have no interest in school, no matter what or how you present learning material. In fact, they develop a resentment to being forced to stay in school. I do not agree with raising the drop-out age. It is costly, diminishes a teacher’s time with those students who want to learn, and usually causes a teacher to become a cop because the non-achieving student tries to break rules, cheat, or are truant. I have seen this time and again. There are some students who might benefit with more learning time, however I feel they would benefit far more getting job training so they can support themselves, rather then end up on the welfare roll or end up getting in trouble with law enforcement.

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