The Bluegrass Institute is far from alone with our concerns about a bill to raise the minimum high school dropout age to 18, which now awaits Governor Steve Beshear’s signature.
Even the State Journal’s editors in Frankfort are opining:
“Dropout bill misguided” (subscription).
The Journal correctly points out that holding a kid in school for two more years won’t magically erase a teen’s strong desires to get out of a hated situation as quickly as possible.
This bill seems loaded with potential for unintended consequences, serious violence most definitely included.
However, it is more likely that this bill is going to work like the Prohibition Bill did back in the days of the Great Depression. People simply ignored that law, and schools, parents and students may ignore this new law, too.
In fact, non-observance of the law seems to be what has happened in other states that have an Age 18 rule on their books. As a recent Brookings Institution report says:
“Compulsory school attendance laws are honored much more in the breech than in the observance.”
As I have pointed out before here, here, and here, most states with an extended experience with an Age 18 law don’t have any better graduation rates than those that don’t. In fact, most of the Age 18 states are doing worse.
You see, just passing a law, like the Prohibition Law, doesn’t mean human nature is going to change. Prohibition didn’t work because the vast majority of the public wanted to be able to take a drink. Age 18 isn’t working elsewhere because schools don’t want to deal with kids who don’t want to be there and will find ways to work around this new law. That’s likely to happen in Kentucky, too.
And, we get it and so do the editors at the State Journal.