Florida is just one of 15 states that do not require a parent’s permission to drop out of school at age 16.
But that may be about to change, as legislation set to move through both chambers of the Legislature would raise the minimum age for dropping out of high school to 18.
Legislators believe dropping out can lead to long-term financial and economic hardships. Additionally, they say, it can lead to learning disabilities and substance abuse.
In the Sunshine State, most students drop out because of family obligations and financial difficulties, according to educational experts.
Florida’s drop-out rate has decreased since 2020 from 3.4 to 3.1. During COVID-19, many students went to school virtually. During that time, many high school students felt like they didn’t receive the same structure online that they had on campus, and decided to try again in person. Many universities in Florida only offered online courses because of guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Amaria Harvey, a transfer student, remembers almost dropping out during COVID because of the challenges she faced during her first year as a college student.
“I barely graduated high school in 2020. I always dreamed about taking classes virtually, but I immediately missed the learning experience once that opportunity came. I did not feel mentally prepared for college because I did not learn anything my senior year,” Harvey said.
Representative Kevin Chambliss, D-Miami, believes offering assistance programs in more public schools would help reduce drop-out rates for single moms and dads. He thinks it will also improve community safety, reduce gang violence and substance abuse.
“As a community, we must serve students with the utmost support through eventful times. We must also remember most students that commit a crime understand penalties are less severe since they are considered minors,” Chambliss said.
Newly filed House Bill 961 would provide more opportunities for high school and alternative school students, such as career events, apprenticeships, or technical training. This bill also mentions establishing after-care programs for teen parents and tutors that can help students with assignments. Rep. Chambliss and Senator Alexis Calatayud, R-Miami, are responsible for the proposal.
Leaders believe increasing the dropout age and implementing this new bill will give students a more successful career. Adding the programs outlined in their legislation will provide students with support and opportunities to find their paths and strengths, they said.
This unique idea also helps create foundations in a more prominent way to display dedication, drive and hard work without making tremendous sacrifices. Florida lawmakers hope to increase the dropout age by the end of 2023.