Arizona teens will remain free to drop out of school at 16. On a tie vote Monday, the House Education Committee killed a proposal that would have required students to stay in school until they reach 18 unless they graduate first, or at least make it through 11th grade. Now, teens can leave school at age 16 or if they get through the 10th grade.
Arizona teens will remain free to drop out of school at age 16. On a tie vote Monday, the House Education Committee killed a proposal that would have required students to stay in school until they reach age 18, unless they graduate first, or at least make it through 11th grade.
Now, teens can leave school at age 16 or if they get through the 10th grade.
The vote came after state schools Superintendent Tom Horne sent his chief lobbyist Art Harding to the committee to urge lawmakers to kill the bill.
Horne told Capitol Media Services that while the idea sounds good on paper, it makes no sense from a practical standpoint.
Horne said students who are being forced to stay in school would be “mixed in with other kids who do want to study where the first group of kids make it impossible for the second group of kids to learn.”
“It’s a very bad idea to force kids at that age to do something they don’t want to do, because they’ll get back at you,” he said.
Horne even poked some fun at Rep. David Schapira, D-Tempe, who is sponsoring the bill.
“I think there should be a bill that says no one can propose it unless they spend a year teaching kids who don’t want to be there,” he said.
Schapira said the bill’s language came from Jessica Woods, a student at Arizona State University, where he teaches several courses.
Woods said decreasing the dropout rate would be good for the economy. She said there would be fewer people seeking unemployment benefits, more people would have jobs and the state would need to spend less on social programs.
Harding told lawmakers that’s fine in theory. But he said the last thing a high school teacher needs is a class with some 16- and 17-year-olds who don’t want to be there and would be “a little bit more difficult to control.”
Schapira said that attitude ignores the question of what happens to those students who make the decision that, at age 16, they have had all the education they need.
“Would we rather have them in a school environment where there’s the potential that’s something’s going to jump out at them ... and maybe they’ll decide they want to do something about their future?” he asked. “Or would we rather have them at home, with idle hands? And we know what happens with those idle hands.”
Harding said it is possible that the students who drop out are, in fact, doing bad things.
“But the potential, I think, is those kids doing whatever they’re doing, whether its drugs or violence or whatever, we’re talking about bringing those kids and forcing them to be in a classroom — and forcing a teacher to then address these issues of drugs, violence, whatever, in a classroom of kids ... who are there to learn,” he said.
Complicating the decision for lawmakers was the price tag: Because every student in school is entitled to state aid, a memo prepared by legislative budget staffers put the annual price tag at up to $180 million a year. Schapira countered that estimate does not include savings to the state if students don’t drop out and don’t need government programs.
Rep. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, a former board member of Mesa Unified School District, said he could not support such a mandate. Crandall said he would, however, back any programs designed to encourage students to stay in school.