Sen. Kenneth Corn has announced plans to file legislation that would prohibit students under the age of 18 from dropping out of school. The measure would also implement a Statewide Truancy Court Program, providing every District Attorney in the state with a truancy officer. The proposal is supported by the Oklahoma District Attorney’s Council, Corn noted.
Corn said reducing Oklahoma’s dropout rate is critical to ensuring future economic growth in the state.
“We have to do everything in our power to ensure that students stay in school until they graduate,” said Corn, D-Poteau. “Education can open countless doors to students, and it’s critical in our efforts to build an educated workforce and attract industry. We simply can’t continue to write these students off – it’s time for us to take action.”
Pointing to recent statistics showing that approximately 29 percent of Oklahoma students failed to graduate, Corn said the figure has a direct correlation with per capita income. Studies have shown that the lifetime earning difference between a high school graduate and a dropout is an estimated $260,000.
Investing in a properly educated citizenry, Corn said, is the best way to foster economic growth in Oklahoma.
“The emotional, cultural and economic costs associated with this crisis are immeasurable,” Corn said. “The cost to our state measures into the billions. We can, and must do better.”
Additionally, the measure will include provisions that will provide at-risk students with alternatives to basic academic instruction, allowing them to learn marketable job skills. The secondary options would provide students with a safety net in the event that they do not earn their high school diploma.
A similar proposal was authored by Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson in the 2008 legislative session. Corn, who co-authored the legislation, credited Wilcoxson for her efforts to improve Oklahoma’s public schools.
“Sen. Wilcoxson carried the torch on this issue for years, and did so admirably,” Corn said. “It’s my hope that we can bridge partisan divides and approve this common sense proposal.”