Mar. 8, 2012
BOSTON — In his State of the Union address in January, President Barack Obama said all states should require students to stay in school until they are 18. Now some lawmakers in Massachusetts are preparing to heed his call.
State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, the co-chairwoman of the Joint Education Committee, said the committee is preparing a bill to raise the dropout age to 18.
Diaz said kids who stay in school are less likely to commit crimes or draw on public assistance and more likely to land jobs and participate in their communities.
“The impacts on a person's life, on a student's life and on the community around them are grave if they are deciding to drop out before they graduate — and they are wonderful if they are making the case to continue their education through completion of high school and beyond,” she said.
The bill would provide funding to local public schools for programming. It would also fund so-called “graduation coaches” to work with students to keep them going to class. And it would require schools to use the state’s early indicator system to track students at risk of dropping out as early as kindergarten.
Diaz did not put a price tag on the bill but acknowledged funding could be a problem.
"I think everyone agrees with the goals that we’re pursuing. There are lots of questions about implementation, and how this would be rolled out and what the financing is going to be," she said.
Currently, 21 states require students to attend school until they are 18 or earn a diploma.
After a formal vote by the Joint Education Committee, the bill still has a number of votes to get through before it reaches the full Legislature.