First Lady, educators applaud long-awaited graduation bill
FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 19, 2013) – Calling it “one of my most satisfying acts as governor,” Gov. Steve Beshear on Monday signed into law the Graduation Bill (Senate Bill 97), which raises the school dropout age to 18.
Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear have joined educators and child advocates to fight for this bill’s passage for the past five legislative sessions. A late-session compromise among legislators led to the approval of SB97, which allows school districts to opt in to the higher dropout age immediately. Once 55 percent of school districts adopt the policy, all remaining districts must then adopt the standard within four years.
“Finally, we have agreed to stop jeopardizing our students’ futures by allowing them to leave school before they’re even eligible for a driver’s license. Now, we are holding them to 21st century expectations of education and training,” Gov. Beshear said. “The days of dropping out of high school and expecting a dependable, well-paying job are long gone. This bill will not only keep students on track for a high school diploma, but it will ensure we have a better-trained, better-prepared workforce, which will pay off for our state for decades to come.”
Keeping the dropout age at 16 is an antiquated practice that has hindered progress for far too long, Jane Beshear said.
“School districts now have the tools to keep these students engaged and learning throughout high school, creating stronger, self-sufficient adults who will be responsible, contributing members of their communities,” she said.
High school graduates provide both economic and social benefits to society. In addition to earning higher wages, research shows that high school graduates live longer, are less likely to be teen parents, and are more likely to raise healthier, better-educated children.
Studies also show that high school graduates are less likely to commit crimes, rely on government healthcare or use other public services such as food stamps or housing assistance.
If the high school dropouts of 2009 had graduated, Kentucky’s economy would have an additional $4.2 billion in wages over those students’ lifetimes.
“This bill is an economic win for Kentucky and an even bigger win for the students who otherwise may not have stayed in school,” said Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “I echo the governor’s appreciation for the General Assembly and others who supported this bill and thank him as well as the First Lady for their continued leadership on this issue.”
Beshear thanked the legislators who sponsored the bill in this session, as well as those who have supported the legislation for the past several years.
“Regardless of political party, this topic was something we could all agree on,” Gov. Beshear said. “The bipartisan cooperation that led to passage of this bill is a testament to our legislators’ commitment to Kentucky students and the Commonwealth’s future.”
“This bill is an example of two chambers and two parties working together to obtain good public policy. SB97 raises the standard for our students but also provides a local framework,” said Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg.