A new bill in the Vermont Statehouse would require children to attend school up until age 18.
Senate Bill 249, introduced this month by Sens. Alice Nitka, D-Windsor, and Alison Clarkson, D-Windsor, would raise the minimum age of school enrollment from 16 to 18 as a means to prevent students from dropping out of high school.
The bill, Nitka argued at a hearing of the Vermont Senate Education Committee last week, would improve outcomes for students who might be considering dropping out of school.
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While working as a social worker, Nitka said, “I met many, many children (and) young people, especially teens, who could have accomplished a great deal more in life had they had more education.”
“These people are a resource as our future workers, and many of them mature if they have a little more time in school,” she said.
Neither Nitka nor Clarkson immediately responded to calls and emails Monday afternoon.
If signed into law, the bill would incrementally raise the minimum age of school enrollment from 16 to 18 between July 2023 and July 2026.
Students could be exempted from the attendance rules if they met certain requirements.
The proposed law would not apply to students who had already finished the 12th grade, or were enrolled in college, technical school or an apprenticeship.
Students also would be exempt if they were “mentally or physically unable” to attend school, or if they had been excused by a superintendent.
Versions of the same bill have been introduced in prior legislative sessions, but have failed to gain traction.
According to 2020 data from the Education Commission of the States, a nonprofit education policy group, 26 U.S. states require students to attend school until they reach 18 years old.
The compulsory age of entering school varies from state to state, but most states, including Vermont, require children to begin schooling at 6 years old.
“I’m interested in that bill,” Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington, chair of the Senate Education Committee, said in an interview Monday. “I think it certainly warrants a conversation and a real look at this.”
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