Gov. Steve Beshear has signed a bill into law that will allow school boards to increase the mandatory school age in their districts from 16 to 18.
If more than 55 percent of districts raise the dropout age to 18, then all of Kentucky’s remaining districts must follow suit within four years, according to the law.
Proponents say the law — if enacted statewide — would prevent some 6,000 Kentucky teens from quitting school early each year. Fifteen other states require students to stay in school until they’re legal adults.
“We all know the statistics: High school graduates are more likely to be employed, earn higher wages, live longer and raise healthier, better-educated children,” Beshear said before he signed the bill this week. “They’re also less likely to be teen parents, commit crimes or rely on government health care and other assistance.”
The law is a compromise engineered by Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, after years of heated debate among lawmakers. Givens took a proposal that gave individual school districts complete discretion over the dropout age and added a twist that made it acceptable to Beshear and many Democrats who wanted the dropout age to rise statewide. That twist called for the dropout age to rise statewide after 55 percent of school districts sign on.
First Lady Jane Beshear, a major proponent of the bill, said school districts are prepared for the change. (AP)