High school students would have to stay put in the classroom, unable to drop out even with their parent’s permission until the age of 18 under a bill moving forward in the Unicameral.
Legislators have given first-round approval to LB 996 on a 29-17 vote after debating the bill for a couple of days. The bill would actually strike an exemption to Nebraska’s compulsory attendance law which allows students to drop out of high school at the age of 16 with the written permission of their parents.
Senators arguing in support of the measure said times have changed, making a high school education more important than in the past.
Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff supports the measure. He argued during floor debate that in today’s society a high school dropout won’t be able to find an adequate job.
“Can you imagine what’s going to happen to these students, young people, when they leave at the age of 16?” Harms asked fellow senators. “There is no hope for them. There is absolutely no hope for them.”
Others, though, countered that the measure won’t solve the dropout problem.
Sen. Leroy Louden of Ellsworth doubted that forcing a student to stay in high school will do much good.
“This is actually a grand experiment is what you’re trying to do,” Louden said. “You have no idea that this is going to be of any success whatsoever.”
Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln also expressed doubts about the measure’s effectiveness. Fulton said it is unlikely most students who drop out got written permission from their parents. He doesn’t the legislation will solve the dropout problems.
“It will give the impression that we’ve solved the problem, which could be a pill far worse than the cure,” Fulton stated.
Still, supporters, such as Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, said the state has a vested interest in keeping students in school, to better prepare them for a high-tech economy.
“Voting ‘No’ is saying ‘No’ to the future,” Ashford told colleagues, repeating, “Voting ‘No’ is saying ‘No’ to the future.”