Not straight A marks to raise high school drop out age to 18

JACKSON, MO (KFVS) - President Obama is asking all states to require students to stay in high school until they graduate, or until they turn 18.

Missouri and Illinois raised their drop out age from 16 to 17 in the past seven years. Kentucky legislators have proposed a bill that would increase its age from 16 to 18.

"There are dozens of reasons why a child might drop out of school," said Nancy Jernigan with the United Way. "Many of them have to support their families, their parents, so they have to start to work, sooner than they would expect to."

She says she supports just about anything that might help kids stay in school.

"Anything that might help a handful of kids, we need to do," said Jernigan.

But knows this change might not be the answer for every student.

"There's no one silver bullet, there's no answer for everyone, every children's and every family's situation is unique in a lot of ways," said Jernigan. "But if implementing that new policy will encourage or motivate some to stay in school, than we should do it."

"You do everything you can to help them be successful," said Jackson Schools Superintendent Ron Anderson.

Anderson says the idea can be costly for schools.

"We know that those students sometimes need some special programs and attention and of course that takes additional staff and funding," said Anderson.

Money, that's already hard to come by.

"Entities have their hands full with handling the day's responsibilities, and you're going to have to find additional funds if you're going to require this," said Anderson.

Anderson says it could cost between $150,000 and $200,000 to fund alternative programs with the age increase, depending on the size of the district.

"Sometimes they are specialty kinds of people that need special training, that would help these students, so sometimes it can be a higher price tag," said Anderson.

He says it's not just money, but could also cost teach time.

"It will be difficult when you find a student who does not want to be in school, who does not want to be successful," said Anderson. "And they are already 17, and you move to 18, and they don't want to be here, that's not a good setting."

"There are dozens of strategies that we need to implement, and that are being implemented to help our kids graduate," said Jernigan.

Jernigan says one of the ways is mentoring. She says it can be an inexpensive way to help when community members volunteer.

"Families are struggling to make ends meet," said Jernigan. "They've been struggling for years just to make ends meet, now we have even more families that are struggling, that prevents them from devoting the time and energy to their child that they need."

Not everyone agrees on the means, but it does seem that everyone agrees on the end.

"We know for sure that we think it's a good idea students stay in high school and finish," said Anderson.

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