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House Education Chair Promotes Compromise Dropout Bill

The chairman of the House Education Committee says his modifications to a dropout bill will help broker a compromise between the House and the Senate. Both chambers recently passed legislation effectively raising Kentucky’s high school dropout age, but there are key differences between the bills.Currently, students can’t drop out of high school on their own until they’re 18 years old. But with parental consent, they can drop out at age 16.For years, the General Assembly has wrestled with taking away that loophole and now both the House and Senate have passed different versions dealing with the issue. Key differences include when the measure goes into effect and whether there’s a statewide mandate.Education Chairman Carl Rollins says his compromise includes elements of both the House and Senate bills.“Allow the boards of education, the local boards to adopt a dropout age of 18 voluntarily until 2016, then after that it would be mandatory that all boards, or it would be adopted statewide. So it combined the two bills. We’ve going to try this and see if we can work out a compromise,” he says.But the so-called compromise left a lot of Rollins’s fellow House lawmakers upset. Many Democrats decided not to vote on the bill in committee because they want the measure to be mandatory sooner.And Republican balked too, saying the mandatory approach isn’t fair to individual counties without permanent funding or new programs.Republican representative Jim DeCesare says that’s not a compromise at all.“I’m just disappointed that you know this committee sub is not a compromise. It is the original bill we passed on the House floor last Thursday with your language tucked in at the beginning for the first year or whatever," he says.The modified Senate bill now goes to a vote on the House floor.