The bill did not pass without controversy.
Opponents believed it would just keep uninterested kids sitting in classrooms longer. At best, they drain teacher time and other resources from more committed students. At worst, they are disruptive.
The Daily Mail editorial board has been meeting with candidates over the past few weeks. I asked some of the Putnam County school board candidates what would happen if the school attendance laws were simply repealed. I had begun to wonder if a dropout age was a good idea at all.
In my grandparents' day, there were no school buses to pick them up and no itinerant teachers or computer classes to let them study at home.
These days we bend over backwards and spend millions to force schooling on kids. Is it possible we have made public education so accessible - so mandatory - that it is less desirable?
The candidates assured me it would be a very bad idea to do away with the attendance laws. Former long-time principal Jack McCoy said he sometimes drove to students' homes to pick them up and take them to school. Their parents simply didn't care.
Now state and local officials are wringing their hands over restructuring low-performing schools to draw down federal tax dollars.
We can replace principals and teachers, and we can revamp curriculums. We can throw a lot more money at an already-expensive system.
The hard truth is that existing schools work for many kids - those whose parents make education a priority.
We're trying to make them work for those who don't.
It may be an exercise in futility unless we recognize we are dealing with a deeper problem that school officials cannot address by themselves.
Friend is the editor and publisher of the Daily Mail. She may be reached at 348-5124 or nan...@dailymail.com.