Florida lawmakers push to increase minimum school dropout age

Florida lawmakers hope to increase the minimum dropout age for children in K-12 schools. 

The Sunshine State is one of 15 states that allows students to drop out of school with a parent's permission at 16-years-old. 


A new proposed bill would raise the dropout age to 18-years-old.

State House Representative Kevin Chambliss said he believes 16 is too young for a child to leave school even with a parent’s permission.

The latest data from the Department of Education shows Florida’s dropout rate from 2019 to 2020 was 3.1 percent. That is down just slightly from 3.4 percent the year before. 

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"We have about a 3 percent dropout rate, which is not very bad," said Kati Pearson, Executive Director Academic Services and Interventions, "But, we want to catch those students in the 3 percent." 

Lake County School leaders have made strides in knocking the district’s dropout number rate. The same state report showed the district had a 4.8 percent dropout rate from 2018 to 2019. 

The school district has done things like offer daycare program assistance and instructional support to keep students at desks.

Representative Chambliss believes his bill would add teeth to local efforts. He believes it will also make strides in community safety. 

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"If we look at kids getting shot or shooters – it’s 16 to 18," said Chambliss. "Why in God’s name would we let them go." 

He also said that students around that age range are targeted by gangs because the penalties for crimes are less severe since they are considered minors. 

In Lake County, districts are required to do exit interviews before a student is released. Staff said that many leave because money is tight at home and they need to work. 

Academic Services and Interventions caution that a new law might not be bad but it also might not be enough.  

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"Even if we make a law, it won’t change the need for why students might have to take that option," said Pearson. "I’d like to couple that law with resources that would make a difference of the root cause for why it’s occurring." 

To view your child's district's dropout percentages over the last few school years, visit Florida's High School Cohort 2018-19 Dropout Rate.

Representative Chambliss said he also hopes to come up with a standardized truancy definition and response across the state.

In addition, he said he wants to require law enforcement to report encounters with students so that schools can make sure they have up-to-date addresses for students. Officers wouldn’t report the circumstances of the encounter. 

Lawmakers will meet in January for the legislative session. 

Watch FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.