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Proposal to raise dropout age gets tabled

Rep. Jeff Dial, R-Phoenix (File photo)

Rep. Jeff Dial, R-Phoenix (File photo)

Rep. Jeff Dial met bipartisan opposition from the House Education Committee on Monday when he testified on behalf of his bill to increase the minimum school dropout age from 16 to 18.

Dial offered to amend the bill to allow students to continue to drop out at age 14 with parental permission for work purposes, as is the case now. But a bipartisan faction of the committee still said they had concerns about requiring student to stay in school until the age of 18, and Rep. Doris Goodale, a Republican from Kingman who chairs the committee, held the bill until lawmakers’ concerns had been fully addressed.

Dial characterized the measure as a parent empowerment bill, and said it is necessary because parents are liable for any legal problems the children have before age 18, though they have no say whether their 16-year-old children go to school or not.

“Your kid could be out there damaging property or doing whatever else when they’re not in school working toward their degree, and you would be liable for it, but you wouldn’t have a right to have a say in (whether the child attends school or not),” Dial said.

Rep. Eric Meyer, a Democrat from Paradise Valley, said he had concerns about students who are expelled at the age of 16. Under the bill, those students would still be required to find and attend another school, which could negatively impact the entire school district, he said.

“We have expended a lot of time and resources before we (ask for expulsion)… But there’s a point at which you say we’ve done what we can do and it’s time for them to move on,’” he said.

Rep. Paul Boyer, a Republican from Phoenix, was worried that parents wouldn’t be able to withdraw their children who are under the age of 18 for any reason, but he seemed satisfied that Dial’s amendment would alleviate his concerns.

Reps Doug Coleman and Justin Pierce had concerns about 16-year-old students who really don’t want to be in school, and the possible disruptions they could have on the classes for the final two years of their now-required schooling. Both also worried that parents would now be held accountable for truant children under the age of 18, though they might not be able to control whether their unruly late-teenagers go to school.

Miranda asked if states that don’t allow dropping out of school until age 18 have seen increased graduation rates, and Dial responded that it is hard to tell, but he believes there would be increases in graduation rates.

After the meeting, Dial said he hopes to meet individually with committee members to alleviate their concerns, either by further explaining his aim or by amending the bill.

“I’m assuming it will be back,” he said.

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