Mass. considers raising school dropout age to 18

Arada Adobe, a 17-year-old Amherst high school dropout, talks about why she 
supports the bill to raise the Massachusetts high school dropout age from 16 to 18.

If you drop out of high school, you are more likely to depend on welfare, get divorced and possibly end up in jail, according to researchers from Northeastern University.

But state officials are trying to prevent that by making sure Massachusetts students stay in their classroom seats.

On Thursday, the legislature’s Joint Committee on Education voted in favor of a Dropout Prevention bill that would raise the age to voluntarily leave high school from 16 to 18, in phases, while putting prevention measures in place to help motivate students.

“If anyone can solve the problem of student dropouts, it’s us here in Massachusetts,” said Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, the bill’s lead sponsor.

Chang-Diaz said the comprehensive bill would place graduation coaches in schools with steep dropout rates and study why kids ditch class.

In Massachusetts, roughly 8,000 students dropout every year, imposing a net fiscal burden of $118,000 to taxpayers for each individual, according to reports.

“We have a responsibility to make sure successes are meeting all our students. … The economy depends on the next generation of skilled workers,” said Chang-Diaz.

The bill will move forward to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, who will determine how much it could cost the state to add the proposed dropout prevention methods in schools.

From there, the bill will head to the House and Senate floor for a vote.

Members of the education committee said they had concerns about the potential costs, but still voted in favor of the bill.

“I have concerns about the funding mechanisms, and I hope [Ways and Means] can address those concerns,” said Rep. David Vieira during Thursday’s hearing.

Keeping it classy in Massachusetts

Voters favorably reacted to the dropout bill Thursday. Here are some challenges the legislation hopes to curb:
   
8,000 students drop out of Mass. schools each year.
   
Average dropout creates a $118,000 fiscal burden on taxpayers.
   
Dropouts make up 70 percent of the state’s jail population.
   
The average cost to house a prisoner is $46,000 per year.
   
The dropout age has been raised to 18 in 21 states.

Follow Steve Annear on Twitter @steveannear


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