A proposal to raise Kentucky’s dropout age to 18 years old has passed a major hurdle. The state Senate has approved a bill that allows individual school districts to decide whether to raise the dropout age and requires participating schools to have alternative education programs.
The bill passed overwhelming, 35-2 Wednesday, with two Democratic senators voting against because of the local option. Republican Senator Julie Denton also didn’t like the local option, but she voted in favor of the measure.
“I think it is a good thing, I’m hopeful that we can go further later in the session,” Denton said. “And if not this session, then sessions to come so that we have uniformity across the state.”
A version of the bill in the House does not have the local option or alternative education provisions. Senator David Williams, once an opponent of the higher dropout age, defended the Senate version in chamber.
“If it’s important and they think they have the facilities let them do that,” Williams said. “But to say we don’t want to let local people decide, we know what’s best for them, let’s tell them how to spend their money and not send money to them, which is a typical big government argument. Let’s mandate them to do it and not pay them for it. I’m for this bill. I think it’s a reasonable offer.
Raising the dropout age has been a major goal of Governor Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear. It’s unclear if Beshear completely supports the Senate bill, though he has said it’s encouraging.