On average, a high school graduate will earn $7,000 to $10,000 more per year than a high school dropout.
By itself, this statistic provides ample reason for the General Assembly to pass House Bill 301, which would boost Kentucky’s dropout age from 16 to 18 by the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.
In addition to providing that high school graduate with a better lifestyle than the dropout can expect, that extra $7,000 to $10,000 also contributes to an improved economy for the state.
But earnings and their contributions to the economy do not fully explain the benefits society reaps when students stay the course in school.
Dropouts are more likely to find themselves in need of public assistance at some point in their lives. They are also more likely to commit crimes that land them in prison.
About 75 percent of prison inmates do not have a high school diploma, House Speaker Greg Stumbo told the House Education Committee as he testified for HB 301. …
And there is another excellent argument for changing a policy that has allowed 16-year-olds to drop out of Kentucky schools since 1920.
During that era, jobs were available for those with strong backs but little education, said Rep. Jeff Greer, the primary sponsor of the bill.
But that is not the case today. In the early years of the 21st century, a high school diploma represents just the first rung of the educational ladder that allows someone to compete in a high-tech, global economy.
Under those circumstances, Kentucky lawmakers would be doing a disservice to the youth of the state if they fail to change a law that makes it easy for students to bail out of school before reaching that first step.
HB 301 sailed out of the House Education Committee with 21 ayes, no nays and one pass. It deserves equally strong support on the floor of the House and in the Senate.
The future of Kentucky youth depends on it.
— The Lexington Herald-Leader