JUNEAU -- A proposal requiring that most students stay in school until they turn 18 passed the Senate on Wednesday.
The bill by Sen. Bettye Davis, D-Anchorage, would require Alaska children to attend school from ages 6 to 18. Current law requires attendance from ages 7 to 16.
Davis said her goal is to ensure that learning starts early and that parents have something to fall back on should their kids want to drop out before graduating.
"The Alaska compulsory school age has not changed since territorial days," Davis said in a floor speech. "SB9 allows parents to tell their children that if they drop out of school before they turn 18 and have not gotten a diploma that they're in violation of state law."
She said the measure, SB9, would help boost graduation rates, but Senate Minority Leader John Coghill doubts that claim.
"You have to start leading them and treating them like adults rather than trying to compel them," said Coghill, R-North Pole.
Sen. Tom Wagoner, a Republican from Kenai and a former high school teacher, said Davis' proposal is well-intentioned but would create classrooms full of disruptive students who don't want to be there. "The last thing I would want to see as a teacher that's handling 35 to 40 students in a class is a bill like this passed," said Wagoner, who voted against the measure. "It becomes a disciplinary problem, and it takes away time a teacher should be paying a lot more to those students who are there to learn."
The bill, which passed 13-7, moves to the House for consideration.
By AUSTIN BAIRD