Calling it "one of my most satisfying acts as Governor," Governor Steve Beshear today signed into law the Graduation Bill (Senate Bill 97), which will keep Kentucky students enrolled in school until they turn 18.
Gov. 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," said Gov. Beshear. "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."
"Allowing students to leave school at 16 is an antiquated practice that has hindered our citizens' progress for far too long," said First Lady Jane Beshear. "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."
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."
"Now, these students have a better chance to graduate from high school and be ready to succeed in postsecondary training, education and in life," said Kentucky Board of Education Chair, David Karem. "That's the Kentucky Board of Education's goal for all Kentucky students."
Gov. 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," said the Governor. "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.
"I've been proud to work on this issue over the last several years, so it means a lot to know that we now have a path forward to get the high school dropout age raised," said Rep. Jeff Greer. "I want to thank Gov. Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear for their leadership, and I appreciate the overwhelming support we saw from my House and Senate colleagues. Our goal now is to work with the school districts to help them make this a reality for all of our students."