While a law enacted by the 2013 Kentucky General Assembly gives the state’s 174 public school districts the option of raising their mandatory school attendance age from 16 to 18, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is offering school districts an added incentive to raise their dropout age he hopes will soon make the higher dropout age mandatory throughout the state.
Holliday said the first 57 school districts that raise their dropout age from 16 to 18 will be given a $10,000 state grant. Just before Holliday announced the incentive at last week’s meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education in Frankfort, board members voted unanimously to adopt a resolution urging all school districts to raise the dropout age as soon as possible.
The state school board has for years been urging state legislators to raise Kentucky’s legal dropout age to 18, but board’s efforts fell on deaf ears until this year when the Kentucky General Assembly approved a compromise bill giving school districts an option of raising their dropout age. However, when — and if — 55 percent of the state’s school districts individually raise their mandatory school attendance age to 18, the change will be made statewide within four years.
Hoping to set an example by becoming one of the first districts — if not the first — to raise their dropout age to 18, the Madison County Board of Education will vote this week on whether to raise the dropout age. Holliday, a stong proponent of raising the school attendance age, hopes districts throughout the state will quickly do the same, not just because it is the right thing to do, but also because it will send the right message that school districts throughout Kentucky are committed to lower their dropout rates.
We are still not convinced dozens of school districts will rush to take advantage of the incentive offered by Holliday and rush to raise their dropout ages. We hope we are proven wrong because this state already has far too many adults who lack a high school education. We don’t need more.