MT 2011 Legislature

Jan 17, 2011 6:40 PM by Marnee Banks (Helena)

Proposal to raise dropout age fails in MT Senate

A proposal in the Montana Senate to raise the age of compulsory high school attendance failed to receive the necessary votes in committee to move forward to the full Senate.

SB 44, sponsored by MT State Senator Taylor Brown (R-Huntley) would have raised the legal dropout age from "age 16" to "age 18 or upon graduation."

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau stated, "I am extremely disappointed that this bill failed to get full support from the Senate Education Committee. The time has come to update this policy from 90 years ago, when the only expectation was that students would graduate from the 8th grade. Passing this bill would have established an expectation that every Montana student stay in school and earn a high school diploma."

It's estimated that more than 2,000 Montana students in grades 7-12 drop out of school every year.

On average, high school dropouts nationwide earn $9,200 less per year than high school graduates and about one million dollars less over a lifetime than college graduates.

"As community leaders, educators and policymakers, we must confront this problem. The status quo is unacceptable when the consequences for both individuals and for our state are so serious. We must set our expectations for students and schools higher than 8th grade graduation," Juneau said.

Senate Bill 44 failed to pass the Senate Education Committee by a vote of 5 - 5.

The following Senators voted in opposition to SB 44: Sen. Ripley (R-Wolf Creek), Sen. Essmann (R-Billings), Sen. Lake (R-Hamilton), Sen. Moore (R-Miles City) and Sen. Zinke (R-Whitefish). The following Senators voted in support of SB 44: Sen. Hawks (D-Bozeman), Sen. Branae (D-Billings), Sen. Brown (R-Huntley), Sen. Stewart-Peregoy (D-Crow Agency) and Sen. Facey (D-Missoula).