High School Dropout Bill Proposed

Monday, December 8th 2008, 8:02 pm
By: News 9

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A quarter of Oklahoma high school students failed to graduate with their class, according to the most recent numbers.

Oklahoma State Senator Kenneth Corn is trying to improve that statistic.

Corn wants to force kids under the age of 18 to stay in school. Right now, a student can drop out at 16 with permission from a parent.

The problem isn't with kids starting school; it's with getting them to stay there.

"I think it's a shame that in Oklahoma, we've gotten where we are," Senator Kenneth Corn (D) District 4 said.

According to the State Office of Accountability, in 2007, more than 14 percent of kids who started in ninth grade together did not graduate.

"The question is whether we want Oklahoma to be last or do we want Oklahoma to grow?" Corn said. "If our answer is we don't want to be last and we want Oklahoma to grow, then we've got to try something different."

Something different might be offering alternatives to traditional school by allowing students to learn a trade, instead of focusing on college prep classes.

"I think we need to be thinking outside the box," Corn said. "The idea that every child is going to go to college is just not accurate."

If students still refuse to attend, Corn calls for a statewide truancy court program. Students could face fines, lose their driver's license or do community service for skipping school. The program's price tag is $4 million.

"I think we have to hold parents accountable for making sure their kids are in school and we need to hold the students accountable for making sure they're in school," Corn said.

The Oklahoma Education Association supports Corn's efforts, pointing out, in a lifetime, dropouts earn $260,000 less than high school graduates.

"If the students are leaving school before they have graduated and learned the skills they need, there is a lifelong negative impact," Becky Felts with the Oklahoma Education Association said.

Corn said his plan is not perfect but, it's a start.

"It's not a democrat, republican view, it's a view that as Oklahomans we must do something with this crisis that we face," Corn said.

Corn takes this issue personally. His nephew recently dropped out of high school.

Corn co-authored similar legislation last session. Since it did not pass through, he'll try again this session.