Local districts to discuss raising school attendance age

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State offering financial incentive to early adopting districts

By Kelly Cantrall

Three local school districts are expected to vote this week to raise compulsory attendance age in area schools to 18, which means no one younger legally could drop out.

The Elizabethtown Independent Schools board will meet at 7:30 a.m. today to discuss and possibly vote on the issue. The LaRue County Schools board plans to meet at 1:30 p.m. today on the same issue and the Hardin County Schools board will meet at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Each of the meetings will take place in the Central Office of each district.

Senate Bill 97, signed into law by Gov. Steve Beshear in March, requires all districts to be bound by the compulsory attendance age of 18 once 55 percent of districts in the state voluntarily choose to do so. The new law goes into effect today and districts can begin choosing to raise the attendance age.

To motivate districts to make that choice, the Kentucky Department of Education is planning to award $10,000 grants to the first 57 districts that change the dropout age. KDE will send the grant application to districts Wednesday.

KDE spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said the department has a tentative commitment from Beshear’s office to provide $350,000 to the effort, which combined with KDE’s commitment would fund enough grants to cover the first 92 districts that adopt the new dropout age. With an additional $40,000 from KDE, grants would go to 96 districts, which would meet the 55 percent threshold to make the age requirement expand to all districts.

If any or all of the local boards vote to raise the attendance age, it would go into effect in the 2015-16 school year.

EIS Superintendent Gary French said dropping out of school is a decision that can be very difficult to overcome for students. He’s gathered feedback from others in the district who universally were supportive of raising the age.

“We’re all in consensus that this is the right thing to do,” he said.

LaRue County Superintendent Sam Sanders said he feels the board will support changing the attendance age.

Changing the dropout age from 16 to 18 is an issue legislators have discussed for some time. HCS Community Relations Director John Wright said educators have wanted to see the increase.

“In our opinion, it’s doing what is right for students,” he said.

Wright said the district has had a lot of success with its dropout prevention program and thinks the addition of a higher compulsory attendance age could mean even more diplomas for students.

“This may be the icing on the cake that we need,” he said.

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or kcantrall@