New Drop out age law gets mixed reviews from local educators


Reporter - Briana Conner
Photographer - Barry Stevenson

MARSHALL COUNTY, Ky. - Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear signed a bill into law Monday afternoon that allows school districts to change the mandatory drop out age from 16 to 18. In a statement, he said, "Today is a very good day for our schools, for our students and for the future workforce of our Commonwealth."

Individual school districts will be able to choose whether or not to enforce the age requirement. If more than 55 percent of districts opt in, then all Kentucky high schools will have to change the drop out age to 18 within four years. Local educators have mixed feelings about the lesson behind the law.

Since the beginning of the school year, there are 36 less feet flocking the halls of Marshall County High School. That means there are 18 less students filling desks so far, and six of them are under 18. "Well I'd like to get down to 15, or below, with 1,300 going through. That'd be awesome," said Marshall County High School Director of Pupil Personnel.

Though Marshall County High School's board hasn't made an official decision on changing the drop out age, Williamson says they already have programs in place that would make it an easy transition. She said, "We already have them, so the fact is we will retain the student with us and obtain funding for that student. So, that won't affect us in that way." Those programs are part of the reason the Marshals have a relatively low drop out rate.

Marshall County Adult Education Director Vicki Bloodworth said she's seen 17 students under 18 enroll for a GED so far this year. "It's not usually a large percentage," she said. "Obviously, students that are withdrawing from school have some kind of an issue. It may be environmental,scholastic, or medical. There are many different reasons," Bloodworth added.

No matter what the reason, Bloodworth and Williamson both agree the most important thing is finishing. "We need to try to do everything we can to keep students in school and get a high school diploma," said Williamson. If the law does eventually pass state wide, it has the potential to keep about 6,000 teens from quitting school early every year.

Lawmakers who were against changing the drop out age said keeping students in school who don't want to be there won't work.