The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

February 2, 2010

New bill would increase school attendance law up to age 18

CHARLESTON — Gentle persuasion often doesn’t get the job done, and there are times when the heavy hand of the law is needed, such as keeping children in school, Senate Majority Leader Truman Chafin reasons.

Applying that principle, Chafin offered a new bill Tuesday in hopes of attacking West Virginia’s staggering dropout rate by raising the compulsory attendance law to age 18.

Existing law allows a student to quit at 16, and earlier bills in this session seek to elevate that to 17.

“It’s just real simple,” Chafin, D-Mingo, explained.

“We need to change the legal limit to drop out to 18. That will make everyone follow the law.”

No matter which figures are employed, by any stretch, West Virginia’s dropout rate is high and has caught the attention of several lawmakers.

“We don’t have a lot of people graduating, and if it’s legal to drop out at 16, is there any reason why we have one in four graduating?” Chafin asked.

“We’ve got to change that rate. It’s extremely alarming.”

Chafin said he feels his legislation can attract the support of both the West Virginia Education Association and the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

Only a day earlier, a special Senate education subcommittee approved a number of recommendations intended to keep children in school and reverse the dropout rate.

A poll provided in one region of the state by the Department of Education showed students listed boredom as the No. 1 reason they quit.

“With all the colleges we have, we have the lowest college attendance,” Chafin said.

“Is it any wonder? Just look at the law. We need to change that law and make them stay in school.”

Chafin said education should be a priority in West Virginia and one place to emphasize that is to make students stay in high school until they graduate or reach age 18.

Text Only
Local News