Senate Bill 270: An Act Amending School Attendance

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Last Updated: January 10, 2011
Senate Bill 270: An Act Amending School Attendance
Sponsors:
Senator Spilka
Summary:

If passed, this bill would raise the maximum age of compulsory attendance from 16 to 18.

HSLDA's Position:

Oppose.

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 homeschool families graduate their children from homeschool programs to enroll them in college or apprenticeship programs. Today, parents have the authority to determine whether their children continue in formal secondary education after the age of 16—this right must be preserved.

Action Requested:
None at this time
Status:

1/16/2009 (Senate) Filed in the Senate
1/16/2009 (Senate) Referred to Joint Committee on Education
1/16/2009 (House) Concurred in Committee referral
6/15/2009 Hearing Scheduled JED: 11/10/2009 at 1:00 p.m. A-1
4/5/2010 (Senate) Extension order filed until 6/4/2010
6/14/2010     New draft of bill. See HB 4753
This bill is dead.

Background:

The Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery Commission was established in August of 2008 in accordance with Massachusetts Senate Bill 2766. The commission has examined, among other things, the need to increase the age of compulsory school attendance in order to decrease school dropout rates, and has recommended expanding the compulsory attendance age.

1. Statistics show that raising the compulsory attendance age will not reduce the dropout rate. In fact, three out of the top five states with the highest high school completion rates, Iowa (86.6%), Vermont (86.5%), and North Dakota (86.3%), compel attendance only to age 16. The state with the lowest completion rate (Nevada: 55.8%) compels attendance to age 18. Further, the average dropout rate for states with compulsory attendance age of 16 is 23.4% while the rate for states with compulsory attendance age of 18 is 23.9%. (Figures are based on average freshman graduation rates: 2004-05 school year. View complete results here >> ).

2. Twenty-three states require attendance only 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.

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 who are not academically inclined 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 read the report click here.

The commission itself specifically acknowledges in its report that, “The simple act of increasing the compulsory age, taken by itself, will only retain a handful of students.” The full report can be viewed here >>.

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

 Other Resources

Bill Text

Bill History

The following similar bills would also raise compulsory attendance in Massachusetts: S.B. 245 and H.B. 355