Rhode Island
Rhode Island

May 25, 2005

House Bill 5744: An Act Raising the Compulsory Attendance Age

Representatives Diaz, Almeida, Slater, Pacheco and Melo.

This bill would have raised the compulsory attendance age to 17 from the current age of 16. Currently, children between 16 and 18 who are "enrolled in school" need written permission from their parents before they can be exempted from compulsory attendance. This bill would have required children to stay in school until age 17 before their parents could authorize the exemption. Instead of passing the bill, the Health, Education and Welfare Committee recommended passage of Substitute A. Substitute A creates a special legislative commission to study the feasibility of raising the compulsory attendance age to 17. The commission shall report findings before March 1, 2006, and will be dissolved on May 1, 2006.

02/17/2005(House): Introduced, referred to Health, Education and Welfare Committee.
03/23/2005(House): Health, Education, and Welfare Committee Hearing, Room 135, State House, at the Rise of the House. The Committee continued the bill.
04/06/2005(House): Scheduled for consideration. Committee recommended passage of Substitute A.
4/7/2005(House): Placed on House Calendar for consideration.
4/26/2005(House): Sub A passed.
04/27/2005House voted to reconsider.
04/27/2005House passed Sub A as amended (floor amendment).

HSLDA's Position:
Neutral, since bill was amended.

Action Requested:
No more action is necessary.

- Raising the compulsory attendance age from 16 to 17 would subject Rhode Island home educators to the requirements of the homeschool statute one year later than now required. (You do not need to share this reason with your legislators.)

- Raising the compulsory attendance age will not reduce the dropout rate. In fact, the two states with the best 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. These figures are three year averages, 1996 through 1998.

- Twenty-nine states only require 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 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.

For more information on compulsory attendance, please see our memorandum at http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000000/00000028.asp

 Other Resources

Mar-22-2005 — Rhode Island--Calls Needed to Defeat Expansion of State Control Over Homeschoolers

Mandatory Kindergarten Is Unnecessary

Bill Text   (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Bill History