December 15, 2010

Senate Bill 170: Raising the Age of Compulsory Attendance to 18 Years

Senators Liz Brater (primary), Irma Clark-Coleman, Tupac Hunter, Michael Prusi, Deborah Cherry, Dennis Olshove, Martha Scott, Samuel Thomas, Hansen Clarke, and Gilda Jacobs

This bill raises the upper age limit of compulsory school attendance to 18 for children born after December 1, 1998. It provides an exception for a child age 16 or 17 who is regularly employed for 25 hours or more per week and the employment is necessitated by economic hardship or family need.

2/3/2009(Senate) Introduced, referred to Committee on Education
12/15/2010(Senate) Bill died when legislature adjourned

HSLDA’s Position:
HSLDA is opposed to this bill.

Action Requested:
None requested at this time.

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.)

Twenty-nine states only require school attendance to age 16. Older children unwilling to learn can cause classroom disruptions and even violence, making learning harder for their classmates who truly want to learn.

It 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 would be an inevitable tax increase to pay for more classroom space and teachers to accommodate the additional students compelled to attend public schools. When California raised the upper age limit 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.

For more information on compulsory attendance, please see our issues library entry, Compulsory Attendance Age Legislation.

 Other Resources

Bill Text

Bill History