Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Opposing Georgia State Senate Bill 132

Currently working its way through our state legislature is SB 132, aka "The Dropout Deterrent Act." The purpose of this bill is to "deter dropouts" by forcing all children in Georgia to remain in a state-approved schooling situation for one more year of their lives--it will raise the compulsory attendance age from 16 to 17.

Clearly this is a ridiculous bill, and I wrote to my State Senator this afternoon. Here's the text of my letter:

Dear Mr. Wiles,

As one of your constituents, I am writing to you to ask that you oppose SB 132, which would raise the compulsory attendance age for all students in Georgia from 16 to 17. Compulsory attendance laws serve to promote one thing, and one thing only--students sitting in desks. Of course, such laws do not guarantee that a student will learn anything at all. These misguided attempts to keep kids in school increase costs, keep potentially disruptive (and certainly bored or resentful) students in classes with other students who might want to learn, and interfere with these young people making other beneficial choices for their lives (such as taking a job, or even just learning "the hard way" why education is important).

Forcing ALL children to remain in any school (public, private, or a home study program) an extra year is not necessarily going to "deter" those students who would drop out. They'll still want to drop out, and many of them will anyway. Simply keeping them in a desk for an extra year is not necessarily going to result in any extra learning (as if his mere presence in a school, under force of law, will somehow mean that reading, writing, and/or arithmetic will get accidentally absorbed by the student).

It seems ridiculous to imagine that keeping such students in high school for another year when they don't want to be there will help their lives. It seems obvious, on the other hand, to imagine that keeping students in high school an extra year will result in a need for more funding (for buildings and teachers and those desks which these students will occupy). With all of the talk of budget cuts and teacher furlough days, I can't figure out how on earth the State could possibly bear the extra cost burden this Act would create without increasing taxes. As a taxpayer, I already resent having money that I could use for the benefit of my own family taken from me in order to fund schools. It makes me even more irate to consider the likelihood that Georgia will probably expect more money from me in order to keep students in high school against their will.

As a homeschooling parent, I have another specific concern--that the language in the Act will serve as a way for the State to involve itself in cases where a homeschooling parent-teacher has determined that their sixteen-year-old has met the requirements for a high school diploma. That is a determination that rightfully belongs with the homeschooling parent and it needs to stay that way.

Thank you for listening to my concerns. I hope you share my concerns and will mount a principled opposition to this bill. There is absolutely no need to criminalize young people for not sitting in a school desk at the age of sixteen.

I have no idea if he'll do what I hope he does. Guess I'll find out. Ridiculous. I keep using that word, because it's the only word that fits the idea that making kids stay in school for one extra year is going to anything to "deter" dropouts, especially when everyone here is all up in arms about mandatory teacher furlough days (unpaid vacation days for teachers to save money).

Even more concerning to me, as I wrote to Mr. Wiles, is the language which states : " . . . the child has successfully completed all requirements for a high school diploma." We homeschoolers in Georgia are blissfully free of specific State requirements regarding curricula or diploma requirements. I'd really like us to stay that way.

If you're in Georgia and are concerned about this bill, which will affect ALL students and probably ALL taxpayers, please take a few minutes to write your State Senator. The legislative session generally ends at the end of March or beginning of April. If the bill goes no further in the process this year, we'll have time to mount a more organized opposition should this come up in 2011.

1 comment:

Jim said...

There is an alternative trend for reducing dropouts as public schools in eight states (CT, KY, ME, NH, NM, PA, RI, VT) will start to allow students to escape compulsory high school by passing exams allowing them to graduate two years early.

In other countries, such policies have demonstrated an increase in student performance as clear objectives for learning are communicated to all the students and enforced by a specific desired benefit.

The audacity of change: basing graduation upon demonstrated knowledge by an individual instead of uniform butt-in-the-seat-time.