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House Bill 45: Raises Compulsory School Attendance Age
Representative Bryan P. Stevenson
Raises the compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 18.
This bill is now dead as the legislature has adjourned for the year.
Raising the compulsory attendance age will not reduce the dropout rate. In fact, the two states with the highest high school completion rates (Maryland, 94.5% and North Dakota, 94.7%) compel attendance only to age 16, but the state with the lowest completion rate (Oregon, 75.4%) compels attendance to age 18. (Figures are three year averages, 1996 through 1998.)
Most states (29) only require attendance to age 16. Older children who are unwilling to learn can cause classroom disruptions and even violence, making learning harder for their classmates who truly want to learn.
When California raised the age of compulsory attendance, unwilling students were so disruptive that new schools had to be built just to handle them and their behavior problems, all at the expense of the taxpayer.
House Bill 45 would require homeschool families to submit to additional governmental red tape and threat of legal action in the event of an alleged violation.
It would restrict parents' freedom to decide if their older teenager is ready for college or the workforce. Some 17 year olds who are not academically inclined benefit more from valuable work experience than from being forced to sit in a classroom.
In an apparent effort to appease people with religious convictions, H.B. 45 creates a new exception to the compulsory attendance law. Children whose parents object to public school attendance because of religious beliefs would be excused from compulsory attendance, but it would require the family to submit a written notice. This would be tantamount to registration .
A religious exemption would be desirable as a stand-alone provision. It is not, however, worth subjecting thousands of 16 and 17 year olds whose parents do not have religious objections to one or two years more of government control. Our freedom is not a bargaining chip that we will trade away for the hope of some other benefit.
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