Obama proposal to raise dropout age falls flat

While calling the Democratic governor a good “team player” for backing the president’s proposal, she said raising the age is not realistic considering the state’s budget cuts. This week, lawmakers voted to cut $495 million from education, 3.9 percent of the state’s funding for schools.

The governor still supports raising the dropout age, spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said.

More than 18,000 Illinois high school students dropped out in the 2010-11 school year, out of a total of 636,000 students. Legislative staff said they could not reliably estimate the cost to the state if those students were kept in school until 18.

But one group has taken a stab at calculating the cost of allowing those students to drop out. The Chicago-based Alternative Schools Network estimates that each dropout costs Illinois a net lifetime average of about $70,000, while high school graduates contribute a net amount of about $236,000.

For some Illinois lawmakers, the idea of raising the dropout age isn’t even worth sending to a commission for study. Sen. David Luechtefeld, a former teacher and high school coach, said he’s never talked to a school administrator who thinks raising the age is a good idea.

“Most of the time,” Luechtefeld said, “a kid who doesn’t want to be in school is a problem for the kids who want to be there.”

The Illinois bills are SB3259 and HB4621.

For more school reform news, see:

School privatization on trial in Philadelphia

Column: It’s time to blow up the current grade-level structure

Beyond ‘Superman‘: Leading Responsible School Reform

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