FORT MITCHELL, Ky - School boards across the Commonwealth have officially adopted the new “Graduate Kentucky” standard, keeping students in school until they earn a high school diploma or turn 18.
Two weeks after they could vote to raise the compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18, 96 school districts adopted the policy and more are in the process of approving it. One of the 96 approving school districts was the Kenton County School District.
“The Kenton County School District and Board of Education fully support the increased compulsory attendance age. Our region requires a highly skilled workforce and this change will promote college and career readiness for all students,” said Dr. Terri Cox Cruey, Kenton County School District’s superintendent.
Beechwood Independent School District is also on board with the change.
“I think the new policy will be of great value to districts that have dropouts. At Beechwood we are fortunate that we do not have a dropout issue,” said Steve Hutton, Beechwood superintendent.
Senate Bill 97 (SB 97), known as the “Graduate Kentucky” bill, passed earlier this year and phases in an increase in the compulsory school attendance age to 18, amending the school attendance law created in 1934.
“After five years of hard work, I am overwhelmed by the support our school boards have shown by racing to adopt this policy,” said Gov. Steve Beshear.
“We know that keeping our students in school will not only offer them a better future, but will ensure that Kentucky has a better-trained, better-prepared workforce that will benefit the state for decades to come. Implementing this important policy shows that Kentucky puts a high value on education by putting faith in our students.”
Students who graduate from an accredited or an approved four-year high school before they turn 18, however, are exempt from the new policy.
SB 97 made adoption voluntary until 55 percent—or 96—of the state’s school districts adopt the policy. Since that percentage has been reached, the remainder of Kentucky’s 173 districts must now adopt and implement a compulsory attendance age of 18 no later than the 2017-18 school year.
Schools were given some incentive to join the effort other than lowering drop-out rates. Planning grants of $10,000 are being provided through the Kentucky Department of Education to the first 96 school districts that joined the effort to reach the 55 percent threshold. The funds are designed to be used to plan for full implementation of the policy in the 2015-16 school year.
“Although we have reached the maximum number of planning grants that we can fund, we would still encourage all districts to pass a policy this school year so that more students will stay in school and on track to college- and career-readiness at an earlier date. It is the right thing to do for our students and the right thing for Kentucky,” said Terry Holliday, Kentucky Education Commissioner.
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