Bill to Raise Legal Dropout Age Stalls Despite Broad Support

Monday, January 17, 2011
By Allyson Hagen


Bill to Raise Legal Dropout Age Stalls Despite Broad Support


Helena, MT – On Monday, January 17, SB 44, sponsored by Sen. Taylor Brown (R-Huntley), did not receive the necessary votes in the Senate Education and Cultural Resources committee to move forward to the full Senate.  Senate Bill 44 would have raised the legal dropout age from "age 16" to "age 18 or upon graduation."


Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau stated, "I want to thank Sen. Brown for his strong advocacy on this bill and for believing that we should expect more from our students. I am extremely disappointed that this bill failed to get full support from the Senate Education Committee. The time has come to update this policy from 90 years ago, when the only expectation was that students would graduate from the 8th grade. Passing this bill would have established an expectation that every Montana student stay in school and earn a high school diploma."


More than 2,000 Montana students in grades 7-12 are dropping out of school every year. On average, high school dropouts nationwide earn $9,200 less per year than high school graduates and about one million dollars less over a lifetime than college graduates.


According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, the lost lifetime earnings in Montana from dropouts this year alone total nearly $830 million. Montana would save more than $29.8 million in health care costs over the lifetime of each class of dropouts. The economy of Montana would see a combination of crime-related savings and additional revenue of about $19.6 million each year if the male high school graduation rate increased by just five percent.


"As community leaders, educators and policymakers, we must confront this problem. The status quo is unacceptable when the consequences for both individuals and for our state are so serious. We must set our expectations for students and schools higher than 8th grade graduation," Juneau said.


Senate Bill 44 failed to pass the Senate Education Committee by a vote of 5 – 5. The following Senators voted in opposition to SB 44: Sen. Ripley (R-Wolf Creek), Sen. Essmann (R-Billings), Sen. Lake (R-Hamilton), Sen. Moore (R-Miles City) and Sen. Zinke (R-Whitefish). The following Senators voted in support of SB 44: Sen. Hawks (D-Bozeman), Sen. Branae (D-Billings), Sen. Brown (R-Huntley), Sen. Stewart-Peregoy (D-Crow Agency) and Sen. Facey (D-Missoula).



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