Kentucky leaders are celebrating, after almost 100 high schools in the state adopted the new "Graduate Kentucky" standard, keeping students in school until they earn a high school diploma or turn 18.
"After five years of hard work by Commissioner Holliday, the First Lady and others to implement raising the compulsory graduation age to 18, 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."
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 from 16 to 18, amending the school attendance law created in 1934.
Participation was voluntary until 96 schools adopted the measure. Now that they have, 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.
"We achieved our goal much faster than we anticipated," said Mrs. Beshear, who championed the 'Graduate Kentucky' legislation. "The effort speaks so highly of the dedicated school boards, administrators, parents, teachers and communities who have made high school graduation a top priority for our students."
Research shows that high school graduates live longer, are less likely to be teen parents, and are more likely to raise healthier, better-educated children. High school graduates are also less likely to commit crimes, rely on government healthcare or use other public services.