Illinois may soon join 27 other states whose high school dropout age limit is 18. The governor is pushing the idea after the president proposed it Tuesday in the State of the Union address. The governor says the change could increase graduation rates, and that would boost stability for the long-term economy and decrease crime. But some Southern Illinois lawmakers are skeptical.
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State Rep. John Cavaletto (R-Salem), an educator for more than 35 years, says truancy won’t be solved with more mandates. Instead, he says, Illinois must address problems at home. “There’s no doubt about it, there’s a lot of broken homes. I don’t care whether you’re all the way from Chicago or Cairo, it’s the same thing. There’s kids dropping out of school because they can’t succeed at an early level and parents sometimes don’t care,” Cavaletto says. State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld (R-Okawville), also a longtime teacher, says he doesn’t know how he would vote on such a proposal and wants to talk with educators in his district. He says there could be problems by forcing 17-year-olds to stay in school. “It sounds good to start with. It sounds like that ought to be what keep kids in school longer, but to force kids who don’t want to be there is sometimes a real problem. There are problems that it creates,” Luechtefeld says.