JacksonBoston City Councilors John Connolly (at large) and Tito Jackson (Roxbury, South End) today proposed raising the minimum age at which public-school students could leave school to 18.
The two say similar action in other states has led to dramatic decreases in dropout rates; they will hold a hearing later on dropout-prevention efforts by Boston Public Schools. If the council as a whole agrees with them, it would have to seek approval from the state legislature to change the current minimum Boston dropout age of 16.
"What are the things we don't allow 16-year-olds to do?" Connolly asked. "And yet we allow them to leave school."
Connolly said seven out of ten Boston public-school students never go to college. When a college degree is the key to lifetime success, that's unconscionable, he said.
Connolly acknowledged that simply raising the dropout age would not be enough; the city needs to work even harder on programs that help kids get through high school.
Jackson said the higher age would give the school system another tool to get kids on the right track and away from the criminal-justice system.
BPS spokesman Matthew Wilder said the School Committee has yet to be presented with the proposal, but would likely be interested in considering it. "We have done a lot of work around the dropout rate, even in the last few years," he said. "The dropout rate is now 5.7%, the lowest point in nearly three decades. We certainly recognize that there is more work to be done and still, despite the recent successes, more work needs to be done."
He added BPS also has programs that try to get dropouts either back into educational programs.
City Councilor Bill Linehan backed the proposal, in part out of personal experience. "I was a troubled teen in high school. Not only was I thinking I would leave high school, but my teachers were hoping I would."