Seat time or hard time

Here’s an idea to curb the dropout problem: Make it illegal. Heretofore, the legal school-leaving age in many states was 16, two years younger, typically, than that of a graduating senior. But now states are amending their statutes to raise that bar to 18, meaning that nonattendance prior to that age would be truancy--and against the law. In Massachusetts, for example, where this measure is currently being considered, students can currently choose to leave school at 16 and--with the superintendent’s permission for medical reasons or to complete non-wage work at home--as early as age 14. In real terms, that’s like dropping out after eighth grade--and with the district’s blessing. Of course, this kind of measure, which has already been adopted in nineteen other states--many of which only recently--is certainly no cure-all. And it might not have the personal touch of going door-to-door (as they’re doing in LA) or the tough-love feel of urging businesses to not hire high school dropouts (thank you, Texas), but it seems like such common sense that we can only wonder what took so long--and why those 31 other states haven’t done the same.

Law urged to make teens stay in school,” by James Vaznis, Boston Globe, October 21, 2009

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