Savannah leaders push for increase to high school dropout age - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Savannah city leaders join push to increase high school dropout age

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Savannah's fight on crime is heading from the streets to our schools. City leaders are renewing their support to increase the age a student is allowed to drop out of school.

It is not a new proposal, but it does have new support.

Georgia State Senator Lester Jackson told WTOC, this is a much different environment, politically and socially, versus the original bill to raise the dropout age from 16 to 17 in 2006.

Jackson says the new bill, which has been changed from a 16 years old to 18 years old increase, has been modified as a compromise between the dueling parties in the State Senate. The 2012 bill mirrors the 2006 bill, hiking the age requirement to be able to stop going to school from 16 to 17 years old.

The bill only has bi-partisan support, which it did not have in 2006, but also urban and rural community support. Thursday morning, Savannah City Council pledged their support as well.

"I think it would help tremendously by keeping them in school longer in a learning environment, but it goes beyond that," Mayor Edna Jackson said. "we have to talk to our students and ask why they are dropping out of school and what we need to do as a community."

"Right now, a juvenile court judge can not make a 16 year old go to school. A 16 year old can say, you know what, I am tired of this, I am out of here, and they can leave and a parent can't make them go to school. A judge can't make them go to school. We are saying we realize we have a responsibility to make them go to school so we know where they are. A 16 year old is still a child," Van Johnson said.

Savannah City Council, involved in continued efforts to battle a juvenile crime problem in Savannah, believes the bill will help keep high risk teenagers off the streets.

In Atlanta, the support from GOP members of the Senate and House, Senator Jackson said, has been fueled by what he calls the cost saving aspect of the bill which not only reduces budget costs but reduces the number of children in the juvenile system.

He says people have seen the effects on the budget, but also the chance to lure industries back to Georgia who may pass on the Peach State because of a lack of skilled work force do to the high dropout rates.

Alderman Johnson is all on board, as the state lawmakers sponsoring the bill begin to focus on selling the proposal to the state superintendent and Board of Education.

"We know when 16 year olds are able to just walk away from school, with no education and no sellable job skills, we know that equals crime," Johnson said.

The proposed legislation is scheduled to be brought up in January as the House and Senate begin their next session in the state capitol.

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