Changing Florida’s Dropout Age

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9,000 Florida high school students dropped out before finishing high school last year. Parents must agree for a student to quit before they are 18.

Now Florida is one of the states looking to join 20 other states and Washington, DC in raising the drop out age.

State Senator Darren Soto says 16 is too young to leave school.

“I believe that we need to make them stay in school until 18 when they at least have enough maturity to make the decision if they want to continue,” said Soto.

More than 74% of Florida high school students graduated in 2012. Fewer than two percent dropped out. Nearly 40,000 either took an extra year, or got a certificate.

“I want to make sure our youth stay in school and that we tell them it’s not okay to leave at 16,” said Soto.

Former School Superintendent and now state Senator Bill Montford supports the higher dropout age, with reservations.

“Raising the age to 18 is good but that’s only one step and it wont work unless we have real special programs in place that these children need,” said Montford.

Program ideas include helping students during the day and after school.

Senator Montford says forcing students to stay in school two additional years won’t necessarily save taxpayers any money.

“If we do it, there’s a cost to it and we need to fund it,” said Montford.

High school dropouts earn, on average, $15,000 less than those with a diploma. Those with a college degree earn three times more than a high school graduate.

Florida’s graduation rates have increased nearly 20% over the last ten years.