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Should States Enact Compulsory Attendance Laws?

  • Posted by: Ashling Soares

Several states are currently trying to enact compulsory attendance laws, which would expand the age range for mandatory schooling. Some states have enacted laws making kindergarten mandatory, while others have raised the legal drop-out age.

The compulsory school age issue became a hot topic back in 2012 when President Obama urged states to raise the dropout age to 18 in his State of the Union Address. Advocates emphasize the importance of access to education, especially for poor, disadvantaged children. Over the past ten years, legislators across the country have pushed for laws expanding the compulsory attendance age. Recently, eleven states have considered such legislation: Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, New Jersey, South Carolina, Montana, Mississippi, and North Carolina.

A Comparison of State Laws

Currently, almost all states require free education to be offered by age 5, but about half of the states don’t require children to start school until age 6. Several states have mandated kindergarten; meanwhile Pennsylvania and Washington don’t require children to attend school until age 8. Pennsylvania and Washington don’t require attendance until age 8. Most states allow teens to drop out of school at age 16.

Different Viewpoints

Opponents of compulsory attendance argue that parents should have the authority to decide when and how their children are educated. Parents who homeschool their children claim that the classroom environment is not appropriate for every child. Moreover, some homeschooled children may simply be unregistered. Grover Whitehurst, an education policy expert from Brookings Institution’s Center on Children and Families, claims that raising the dropout age to 18 doesn’t actually increase the high school graduation rate. South Dakota has proven Mr. Whitehurst right, as the state’s graduation rate has not increased since it expanded the compulsory school age to ages 5 through 18.

However, Melody Schopp, the state’s secretary of education, has said that the law helped incentivize schools to create new career-focused programs to keep older teens engaged. Regarding the younger children, she stated, “Being fed and kept warm. School is where there is a caring adult…There’s other benefits you can’t measure on an academic scale that are really important to me.”

If your child is faced with compulsory attendance issues, call Ashling Soares Law today at 203.529.5115, or email asoares@ashlingsoareslaw.com.

Author: Ashling Soares

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