FRANKFORT | A legislative bill to change the high school drop out age from 16 to 18 passed with a vote of 87 to 10 in the Kentucky House of Representatives on Thursday.
House Bill 224 sates, "Amend KRS 159.010 to provide that, effective July 1, 2017, school attendance shall be compulsory for students between the ages of six and 17; provide that, effective July 1, 2018, school attendance shall be compulsory for students between the ages of six and 18."
State Rep. Mike Denham said this will give schools time to adjust to the new law.
"Schools will have four years to get prepared," he said. "Instead of dropping it on them with no notification."
Denham said the bill is something Gov. Steve Beshear and his wife have been working on for a long time.
"I think we've tried to pass this a few times, but it has never made it," said Denham.
Denham said he is a supporter of the bill.
"I voted for it," he said. "We need to change the number of dropouts. The vast majority in our prisons are dropouts. We also need to change our attitude and keep them in school longer."
According to Denham, there are about 6,000 students who become dropouts every year in Kentucky.
Area educators and students also voiced support for the bill.
Bracken County High School Principal Michael Hunter said he approves of the legislation.
"Drop outs are unacceptable," he said. "You're setting yourself up for disaster down the road. Education is something a child should invest in."
Mason County High School Principal Steve Appelman agrees.
"I'm in favor of keeping students in school," said Appelman. "Hopefully this will help give a better chance to educate students."
MCHS Counselor Kent Moore expressed similar sentiments.
"I agree with making the dropout age for students older," he said. "A 16 year old is too young to make a decision that will impact the rest of their life."
MCHS student Erica Roberts is an 18-year-old senior, who goes to school full time, works and supports a one-year-old son.
"I agree with changing the age," she said. "I don't want my child to think it's OK to drop out when he turns 16."
Roberts said even after having a child, dropping out of school never crossed her mind.
"I talked about going to night school to continue my education, but that is as far as I got. I never considered dropping out," she said. "I know I have to rethink the things I do because I am responsible for someone and that's one of them."
Roberts said she hopes to eventually enlist in the military.
"That was what I wanted to do," she said. "I was in the process of talking to them when I found out I was pregnant and it pushed my plans back. But, I know I couldn't do it if I dropped out."
Senior Trey Davis, 18, said he has never considered dropping out and also supports the legislation.
"I think it should be 18, because you're an adult then," he said. "Most 16 year olds are with their parents and it's difficult to get a job at that age. If you drop out, that's what you have to do."
Davis said he plans to graduate and go to Northern Kentucky University to get his degree in graphics.
Ashley Maze, a 16 year old junior, said "It's a very good idea. Kids should not be allowed to drop out. A parent's consent shouldn't make a difference in the matter either."
Maze said she grew up in a house where dropping out was never an option.
"If I even considered dropping out my parents would have probably grounded me," she said. "It's not an option, but I never considered it anyway."
All three said they know people who have dropped out and have seen what leaving school at a young age can do to a person's future.
"It's very bad for parents to lose the want and need for their child to get an education," said Maze.
"And some people have good parents, while others have bad parents," added Roberts. "That's why I'm a strong believer in changing the age. It shouldn't be left to a 16 year old or a bad parent."