Senate File 96: Raises Compulsory School Attendance Age to 18

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Last Updated: January 22, 2013
Senate File 96: Raises Compulsory School Attendance Age to 18
Sponsors:
Senator Rothfuss, Senator J.D. Anderson, Senator Barnard, Senator Coe, Representative Connolly, Representative Patton, Representative Throne
Summary:

SF 96 raises the compulsory school attendance requirement from 16 years old (or 10th grade completion) to 18 years old (or 12th grade completion). The bill now adds section (d) requiring parents to meet with school officials in order to exempt 16-18 year olds. The bill should be opposed unless Amended as noted below.

HSLDA's Position:
Oppose.
Action Requested:
None at this time
Status:

1/08/2013     (Senate)     Introduced and assigned bill number.
1/10/2013     (Senate)     Referred to Senate Education Committee
1/14/2013     (Senate)     Senate Education Committee Recommended Do Pass
1/17/2013     (Senate)     Amendment Adopted
1/17/2013     (Senate)     Passed Committee of the Whole
1/18/2013     (Senate)     Amendment Adopted
1/18/2013     (Senate)     Passed Second Reading
1/22/2013     (Senate)     Failed Third Reading     

Background:

Homeschoolers have opposed increases in compulsory attendance for a variety of good reasons—particularly because such bills impose additional burdens and reporting requirements and take away family freedoms. Senator Nutting’s proposal would modify the current compulsory attendance law in subsection (b) of 21-4-102 to provide for simple one-time notification for Wyoming homeschoolers. This would remove unnecessary burdens for both homeschoolers and school officials (who have to file the annual paperwork)—a win-win for all. The proposal also contains language that would enable homeschooling and private school parents to exempt their children from the compulsory attendance law after age 16 with a simple notice—otherwise homeschooling and private school parents could be forced to meet with public school officials after their students turn 16. Passing SF 96 with Senator Nutting’s amendments would give the public school advocates what they want—an increase in the compulsory attendance age while protecting homeschooling families and simplifying the compulsory attendance law in Wyoming.

Senator Rothfuss, the bill sponsor, is reportedly “fussing” over the proposal. He apparently makes the argument that such changes are not permitted by Wyoming Constitution Article 3, Section 20 which states that “No law shall be passed except by bill, and no bill shall be so altered or amended on its passage through either house as to change its original purpose.” However, a fair reading of the bill’s title and purpose statement shows just the opposite. The bill’s stated purpose is “relating to compulsory school attendance; modifying compulsory school attendance requirements as specified.” All of proposed changes, both Rothfuss and Nutting, are being made to the same section and for this same purpose—to change Wyoming Statute 21-4-102 as specified. Senator Rothfuss can’t add a whole new subsection and also argue that only His proposals are constitutional—that’s disingenuous at best.

Statistics show that raising the compulsory attendance age will not reduce the dropout rate. In fact, the two states with the highest high school completion rates, Maryland at 94.5% and North Dakota at 94.7%, compel attendance only to age 16. The state with the lowest completion rate (Oregon: 75.4%) compels attendance to age 18. (Figures are three-year averages, 1996 through 1998.)

Even with possible exemption language, 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 who are not academically inclined benefit more from valuable work experience than from being forced to sit in a classroom.)

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.

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 targeted at at risk youth can help improve completion rates, but a law raising the age of attendance does not. To read the report click here.

 Other Resources

Bill Text

Bill History