- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The House Education Committee has endorsed a proposal that would raise the dropout age for Wyoming public school students.

The committee voted 6-3 Friday to send House Bill 198 to the House floor where it will undergo further debate.

The legislation would require public school students to attend classes until they are 17 or have completed the 11th grade. That is an increase of one year from the current requirement that blocks them from dropping out until they are 16 or have completed the 10th grade.

The change would not apply to private school students or home-schooled students.

Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, said he decided to sponsor the bill because it is a way to convince more students to stay in school and get their diploma.

Harshman, who also is a teacher and football coach at Natrona County High School, said it at least would give educators an extra year to find help or alternative programs for potential dropouts.

“I just think a lot can happen in a year for a young person in how they grow and develop,” he told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

The proposal was supported by several education groups, including the State Board of Education, the Wyoming Education Association and the Wyoming School Boards Association.

John Lyttle, superintendent of Laramie County School District 1, also spoke in favor of the plan.

Lyttle said schools now have a lot of options, including extended school days and summer classes, to help students get enough credits to graduate. And he said having that extra year would allow the students to see “light at the end of the tunnel” in regards to being able to graduate.

“Just being able to see that light, I think, will make a difference for so many of our kids,” he said. “We really want to make the goal to get the graduation rate at an acceptable level. We don’t think we are there yet, but this will be another tool to help us.”

But Doreen Kaiser, representing parentalrights.org, opposed the bill, saying the decision to drop out of a school should be between the student and the parents.

“We oppose any attempt to expand compulsory attendance ages because it interferes with rights of parents to make the decisions on their own for what is best for their children,” she said. “I understand in Wyoming children don’t have to get parental consent at this point to drop out, but I still feel that is a decision best left between parents and their children.”

Rep. John Freeman, D-Green River, said he opposed the bill because he believes it will do little good unless law enforcement and prosecutors are willing to enforce compulsory attendance laws.

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Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, https://www.wyomingnews.com


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