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Legislation would increase Delaware's school dropout age

Tom Byrne
Delaware Public Media

State lawmakers could raise the state’s high school dropout age.

Currently students who are 16 years old and older aren’t legally required to go to school.

State Rep. Debra Heffernan is sponsoring legislation that raises the age students can drop out of high school from age 16 to 18. The required school attendance age would go to age 17 in September 2022 and move to age 18 the following year.

Heffernan said students 16 years old and over can still drop out with their parent’s permission. But those without their parent’s permission must develop an alternate plan to get their high school diploma.

“Like through independent study, private instruction, internship, community service; like an apprenticeship or something else like that, to get their diploma or alternate credential,” she said.

Heffernan said high school graduates make more money.

“The median earnings for young adults that have a high school diploma is over 25 percent higher than someone without a high school diploma," she said. "So I mean, we really want kids to get that.”

Students can be exempted in a few ways under Heffernan’s legislation. Earning a diploma before age 18 is one. Students who have the support of their parents and a doctor would also be allowed to drop out.

Some school administrators are opposed,  saying they’re concerned about this becoming an unfunded mandate by making students who aren’t interested in getting an education stay in school.

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