House Bill 1964: An Act Relative to Dropout Prevention


Last Updated: May 30, 2012
House Bill 1964: An Act Relative to Dropout Prevention
Representative Martha Walz

Senate Bill 1964 will raise the age of compulsory school attendance from 16 to 18. This would subject homeschool families in Massachusetts to two additional years of government regulation. The bill also requires the registrar to suspend or revoke a student's learner's permit or driver's license if the student withdrawals from school or misses more than 10 consecutive days of school without excuse.

HSLDA's Position:


This bill would impose increased government control over children and further restrict parents’ rights to direct the upbringing and education of their children. These are rights that have been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as fundamental constitutional rights.

This bill would subject students (including homeschool students) to compulsory attendance laws for two more years. Many children are ready to leave school at 16 and are able to do just fine by getting a GED, starting an apprenticeship program, or enrolling in college early. Today, parents have the authority to determine whether their children continue in formal secondary education after they reach the age of 16—this right must be preserved.

Action Requested:
None at this time

01/20/2011     (House)     Filed
01/24/2011     (House)     Referred to Joint Committee on Education (Senate concurred)
09/27/2011     Public Hearing: 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. in Gardner Auditorium


Here are five more reasons to oppose raising the compulsory school attendance age:

1. According to an October 2011 study released by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), raising the compulsory attendance age will not reduce the dropout rate. In the 2008–2009 school year, the most recent date for which statistics are available, five of the top six states with the highest high school completion rates—Vermont (89.6%), Minnesota (87.4%), North Dakota (87.4%), Iowa (85.7%), and New Jersey (85.3%)—compel attendance only to age 16. Conversely, the state with the lowest completion rate—Nevada, at 56.3%—compels attendance to age 18. In fact, the five states with the lowest graduation rates in the country all compel attendance to either age 17—Mississippi (62.0%) and South Carolina (66.0%)—or age 18—Nevada (56.3%), New Mexico (64.8%), and Louisiana (67.3%). Complete state-by-state results are available on page 25 of NCES’s October 2011 report.

2. Older children unwilling to learn can cause classroom disruptions and even violence, making learning harder for their classmates who truly want to learn.

3. Passing this bill would restrict parents’ freedom to decide if their 16-year-old is ready for college or the workforce. (Some 16-year-olds benefit more from valuable work experience than from being forced to sit in a classroom).

4. Another significant impact of expanding the compulsory attendance age is an inevitable tax burden to pay for more classroom space and teachers to accommodate the additional students compelled to attend public schools. 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.

5. A study by Cornell University on raising the age of compulsory attendance found that there was no correlation between passing a law to raise the age of compulsory attendance and high school completion rates. The study shows that specific programs targeting at risk youth can help improve completion rates, but a law raising the age of attendance does not. To view the report click here .

For more information, please see our Issues Library page on compulsory attendance age legislation.

 Other Resources

Bill Text

Bill History