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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Requiring school from 5 to 18

Compulsory education laws should be repealed argues Republican Paul Mosley, a first-year Arizona legislator and the father of seven. People used to see education as a privilege, he told the Arizona Capitol Times. “Now we basically force it down everybody’s throats. . . . the kids who don’t want to be there are a larger distraction to the kids who do want to be there.”

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“A dozen states are trying to keep children in school longer, from making kindergarten mandatory to raising the legal drop-out age,” reports Sally Ho for Associated Press. “But it’s not an easy sell.”

Nevada, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, New Jersey, South Carolina, Montana, Mississippi and North Carolina have considered requiring students to stay in school till age 18, as urged by President Obama in his 2012 State of the Union address.

Nearly all states require free education to be offered by age 5, though in half the country, children don’t have to start school until they’re 6 years old. There’s mandatory kindergarten in several states, while Pennsylvania and Washington don’t require attendance until age 8. These state laws — some more than a century old — began as a tool to fight truancy. The status quo generally has been to allow teens to drop out at age 16.

Requiring more schooling doesn’t increase the graduation rate, said Grover “Russ” Whitehurst of the Brookings Institution’s Center on Children and Families. “It’s not that it’s a bad thing to do. But if you expect to see graduation rates zooming, you’ll likely be disappointed.”

In 2006 and 2007, South Dakota legislators required five-year-olds to attend kindergarten and raised the dropout age to 18. The graduation rate didn’t change, nor are there any measurable academic improvements for children who’ve gone through mandatory kindergarten, Education Secretary Melody Schopp told Ho. However, Schopp credited the law with encouraging schools to “create new career-focused programs to keep older teens engaged.”

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