Planning on dropping out?

Recently, the Iowa Legislature has been hard at work to help education in Iowa. Bills have been proposed to raise average teacher pay, extend school infrastructure sales tax statewide, and reimburse students for A.P. exam registration fees. Already, bills have been passed that increase school funding next year and prohibit school bullying. Of all the school related proposals, one of the most controversial bills is House Study Bill 13, which aims to raise the compulsory school age from age 16 to age 18. According to figures collected by the Department of Education, Iowa schools reported about 1,100 dropouts in 2005-2006. Supporters of the HSB 13 bill claim that raising the compulsory school age would make this number drop drastically. The bill is sponsored by Ames representative, Lisa Heddens (D). “We want to find ways to keep kids engaged in school,” Heddens said. The proposed bill has met a great deal of criticism, especially from families who choose to home-school their children. Justin LaVan, a lawyer representing the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, insists the change would put more reporting burdens on home-school parents. Currently, parents who home-school their children are required to file reports on their children’s progress until the children reach the age of 16. Additionally, statistics do not seem to support this bill. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) claims that raising the compulsory school age will ultimately hurt students. Their claims include statistics that show no significant correlation between compulsory school age and graduation rates. The state with the highest percentage of high school graduates is New Jersey with about 89 percent. New Jersey’s compulsory school age is 16. The state with the lowest graduation rate is Florida at 59 percent. The compulsory school age of Florida is 18 years old. The HSLDA also claims that raising the compulsory attendance age will unnecessarily cost the public more money as new facilities will be made for students who planned on dropping out. There are mixed feelings about this new proposal at Ames High. “I don’t have anything against kids dropping out,” sophomore James Fang said. “But since we do already have laws that make kids stay in school, we might as well make the age be 18. Then we can just say that everyone must be schooled until they are a legal adult.” Other students are not very supportive of the bill. “It doesn’t affect me but I still don’t think raising the age is a good idea,” junior Martha Garasky said. “Raising the age would not have a positive effect. If a student is planning on dropping out, how will a year or two make a difference? It will just prolong their pain.”