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Kentucky’s New Dropout Age Will Be 18

In four years, Kentucky students won't be able to drop out of school until they're 18.It appears that enough Kentucky school districts have, or plan to back increasing the compulsory dropout age from 16 to 18 to put the state over the threshold needed to make the change mandatory statewide.More than 20 school districts that have not yet acted on the policy are scheduled to meet this week, and WFPL has confirmed several of those districts plan to adopt the policy.Jefferson County Public Schools approved changing its dropout age to 18 on Monday.Under new state law, SB 97,local districts can voluntarily choose to increase the dropout age. Once 96 districts—or 55 percent—approve the policy, it will be mandated statewide in four years.“I’m fairly confident the 96 will be met this week,” says Kentucky School Boards Association’s Brad Hughes, who took an informal poll last night after several boards met.Hughes says five districts approved the new policy Monday, adding to the 88 that the Kentucky Department of Education reports have already approved similar measures.WFPL has confirmed that Martin County Schools, Meade County Schools, and Lee County Schools expect to vote on the measure Tuesday night and officials from those districts expect the measure to pass."Jane [his wife] and I are excited and somewhat astonished quite honestly, that within a month, or less than a month of this law becoming effective that we're almost there," says Gov. Steve Beshear. "We may be there today or tomorrow as a matter of fact."The rush to adopt the new dropout age has been partly attributed to $10,000 grants from KDE and the governor's office, both of which promised the prize to the 96 districts that helped make the policy a state mandate.“I know of a lot of speculation that it would take many months to get to this point. There are many people that are surprised that so many boards and superintendents have moved so quickly on this,” Hughes says.JCPS immediately submitted paperwork to receive one of the grants following Monday's meeting. Some districts like Meade County Schools—which will formally approve the policy tonight—rushed to be among the early adopters.(Related: Why Louisville Students Drop Out of School, Told First Hand)Meade voted to approve the policy before June 25, when the state allowed districts to begin passing the measure.Hughes says the districts that aren’t among the early adopters aren’t necessarily against the policy, but may already have a low dropout rate or have good alternative programs in place that wouldn’t require the policy.Others may want more time to implement a plan that will likely include serving more students who would have otherwise dropped out of school.“Some superintendents have told me they’re just taking their time to make certain that they can have the resources and the programs in place before they make the commitment,” Hughes says.For some, statewide implementation—which would happen in the 2016-2017 school year—seems inevitable.“There’s really no choice,” says Martin County Schools Director of Pupil Personnel Kraig Grayson, who plans to recommend the policy at tonight’s board meeting.(Image via Shutterstock)

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