Florida bill would raise mandatory school attendance age to 18

News Channel 8 | By Sam Sachs | February 22, 2023

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Amid a raft of education bills and legislative proposals in Florida, a state senator has introduced legislation that would raise the state’s compulsory age for school attendance.

The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 992, would raise the cap by two years, from 16 to 18. Parents would no longer be required to sign a declaration of intent if a student is ending their enrollment, or dropping out.

Schools would also no longer have to confirm receipt of those declarations with parents, should the bill pass. As written, SB 992 makes it so a student can’t choose to leave school on their own before they’re legal adults.

Data from the Florida Department of Education, which track dropout and graduation rates for Florida public schools, showed a graduation rate of 87.3% in the state, as of summer 2022. The FDOE reported that was a 2.8% decrease in graduations compared to the year before, but noted it was still higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

With an 87.3% graduation rate for the 2021 to 2022 school year, 12.7% of high schoolers, aged 16 to 18, did not complete high school in Florida. However, state reports say that despite a difference in graduation rates, those who do not graduate are not all dropouts.

“Non‐graduates include students who have been retained and are still in school, attending adult education, received certificates of completion, or received GED‐based diplomas,” FDOE reported.

In the 2021-2022 cohort, FDOE reported 2.9% dropped out of school, while 9.8% are still enrolled, attending adult education, or are earning a certificate of completion, special diploma, GED-based diploma, or transferred to private education.

The previous year’s report shows that more students dropped out but fewer students did not graduate for the other categorical reasons. For the school year ending in 2021, 13,789 students did not graduate and 6,603 dropped out. By comparison, in 2022, 6,029 students dropped out, while 20,227 students did not graduate.

If enacted, SB 992 would take effect on July 1.

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