Kentucky school districts move toward higher dropout age


Reporter - Mychaela Bruner
Photographer - Chad Darnall

MARSHALL COUNTY, Ky. - Raising the school dropout age can not only help students in one state, but also earn some serious cash for school systems.  That is why the board of education in Marshall County, Kentucky is holding a special meeting tonight, just one minute after midnight.
The district wants to be one of the first in the state to raise its dropout age from 16 to 18.  The board heard the first reading of a new policy last week, and will have a second reading after midnight and make a decision.  There is also a slight incentive for districts to adopt this policy - a $10,000 incentive. The first 57 schools to adopt this policy will receive $10,000 in grants.
However, that is not the only reason superintendent of Marshall County Trent Lovett is pushing for this change.  Lovett says there is more to it than just money.
Lovett said, "The $10,000 incentive is not that big of a deal, $10,000 is $10,000 obviously. We want to show that we feel that is the right direction to move in."
Lovett said he feels strongly about the policy and wants Marshall County to be one of the first districts on board.

"Sixteen is a little bit young to be making a decision to drop out of high school and that's a decision that's going to affect the rest of your life," said Lovett.
A worker at Marshall County School District feels the same way. Christy Johnston, mother of one, said she would not let her child drop out at the age of 16.

Johnston said, "At the age of 18, they're more mature than 16. At 16 they're just starting to drive, learning responsibilities. But at 18, then they can make their decisions."

Marshall County strives to fulfill their mission statement and by raising the dropout age, Lovett said it will benefit students in the long run.

Lovett said, "What I think it does for students, it sets the light at the end of the tunnel. It will be an important meeting, for what the meeting stands for. It's a big change, it'll be a big change for the students of Marshall County."
Spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez for the Kentucky Department of Education said if a district agrees on changing the dropout age to 18, then an application will be sent to the district. After the district uploads the application on June 26th, it will then be considered for the $10,000 grant. Rodriguez said she has heard from several schools showing interest in the new policy. For the higher dropout age to go statewide, 97 school districts have to adopt the policy.
The Kentucky Department of Education plans to award the grant money to the first 57 schools after July 1.  The new dropout age will go into effect in the 2014-2015 school year.