Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Students shouldn't be punished twice for schools' failure

LA Daily News

Dump school and kiss your car goodbye.

If two bills working through the California Legislature come to pass, this could be the newest slogan in the ongoing struggle to keep teens in school.

The two bills, AB2107 and AB2414, would deny provisional driver's licenses to 16- and 17-year-olds if they drop out of high school.

While it's nice to see state leaders taking an interest in California's dropout crisis, these bills only offer double trouble to kids already hurt by the failure of schools. Life without basic education and reduced career opportunities is already punishment enough for dropping out.

Besides, the bills ignore that there are many reasons students leave high school, and not all of them are related to laziness or delinquency. Indeed, it could simply be that they don't feel safe in increasingly dangerous schools, or they're uninspired by what passes for education on too many of our campuses.

In Los Angeles, students sometimes leave because of family financial hardship. How does it benefit anyone to deny a license to a teen who suddenly needs to support her family by getting a job, not allowing her to drive to work?

If legislators want to improve the dropout rates, which are particularly appalling in the Los Angeles Unified School District - as much as 50 percent - they would do more by threatening the driver's licenses of school administrators and bureaucrats.

The prospect of a commute on the bus filled with current and ex-students they failed would probably do more for improving the dropout rate than this misguided legislation.

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