In an effort to lower high school dropout rates and boost student achievement, Sen. Chuck Wiger today reiterated his support for legislation requiring all Minnesota students to stay in school until they are 18, echoing a similar call made by President Obama in the State of the Union Address on Tuesday.
Current law allows students to drop out when they are 16. Sen. Wiger has introduced legislation to increase the compulsory education age in the past. Minnesota’s 18-year-old compulsory attendance requirement was repealed in 1997.
“We all know that a solid education is the key to success in life,” said Sen. Wiger. “We need students to stay in school, to take rigorous courses, and to study in order to be prepared for higher education and the world of work. This is a way to jump start Minnesota’s economic engine and help close our achievement gap. I applaud the President for making this bold statement and making this a national priority.”
Education officials, including the Alliance for Excellent Education, note there are also societal costs to high dropout rates and that it was time for Minnesota to change its laws.
Statistics provided by the Alliance for Excellent Education indicate that:
• Nearly 14,000 students did not graduate from Minnesota’s high schools in 2009; the lost lifetime earnings in Minnesota for that class of dropouts alone totals more than $3.6 billion.
• Minnesota would save more than $224.4 million in health care costs over the course of the lifetimes of each class of dropouts, had they earned their diplomas.
• Minnesota households would have over $829 million more in accumulated wealth if all heads of households had graduated from high school.
• More than $1.3 billion would be added to Minnesota’s economy by 2020 if students of color graduated at the same rate as white students.
• If Minnesota’s high schools graduated all students ready for college, the state would save almost $89.1 million a year in community college remediation costs and lost earnings.
• Minnesota’s economy would see a combination of savings and revenue of about $77.8 million in reduced crime spending and increased earnings each year if the male high school graduation rate increased by just 5 percent.
“Our current attendance laws are outdated and get in the way of anti-dropout efforts,” Sen. Wiger noted. “We need to get serious about high school completion and remove systemic barriers that get in the way, such as antiquated policies and laws. When kids dropout, everyone loses.”
Sen. Wiger added, “Minnesota is known nationally and internationally for quality education programs and we strive to maintain that quality for all our young people,” Sen. Wiger said. “As the President pointed out, we need an educated workforce to build a strong state and national economy. That means we must have well-educated students who are prepared for challenges after high school. Coupling an increase in the compulsory education age with our other education quality measures, we can put our students on the road to success.”