Kentucky education experts say 6,000 to 7,000 students a year drop out of high school in the state.
Since 1920, it has been legal to drop out at age 16 with parental permission.
First Lady Jane Beshear has for several years been pushing lawmakers to raise the age to 18, as it is in 15 other states.
Gov. Steve Beshear, during his State of the Commonwealth speech last week, said a bill to gradually raise the dropout age will be a priority during the current legislative session.
“We must keep our teenagers in school,” he said.
Local educators agree with Beshear, saying students should stay in school, graduate and become productive members of society.
“I am in favor of the state raising the compulsory age to 18 because I feel that we have an obligation to our students to keep them in school and give them the best education possible,” explained Dr. Rita C. Cook, superintendent of the Middlesboro Independent Schools. “Kentucky has made significant improvements in the education system and for us to continue to do what’s best for our youth, we need to take this next step.”
Dr. Terry Holliday, Kentucky’s education commissioner, said in a letter of support to Beshear that the legislation to raise the dropout age is “a key component of a comprehensive approach to improving the economy of Kentucky and the future of the children in this state.”
“When we allow students to drop out at 16, we are limiting their opportunity to be successful and productive citizens,” said Cook. “It doesn’t benefit Kentucky when we have a group of adults who cannot find worthwhile jobs.”
“It will certainly put more emphasis on the value of education and put more high school graduates into the work force,” adds Terry Hayes, superintendent of the Pineville Independent School District.