Two State Senators said they were stunned after their chamber voted to kill a measure aimed at keeping more teenagers in school until they get their diplomas. Senate Bill 519, co-authored by Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson, R-Oklahoma City, and Sen. Kenneth Corn, D-Poteau, would have eliminated part of current state law that allows a student to drop out of school after turning 16.
“I was stunned that people are willing to keep a law that says it is okay for a student to drop out of high school, even if their parents and the administrators say it is in their best interest. It’s never in their best interest, nor the best interest of the community for us to have students not having a high school diploma,” Wilcoxson said.
The measure was killed with 23 Senators voting against the measure and 20 voting for it. Corn called the Senate vote against the bill “a horrendous decision.” He said it sends a message to teens that it’s okay to drop out of school. Corn said it was bad public policy.
“Students can make a choice at 16 that can literally cost them their future,” Corn said. “Keep in mind that we require inmates in the custody of the Department of Corrections to get an education, but we’re not going to require students to get an education when it’s free. It’s a decision I do not understand.”
The lawmakers noted that SB 519 was one of Governor Brad Henry’s education initiatives for the 2007 session. Corn said he had made a motion to reconsider the vote that killed the bill. Under Senate rules, he’ll have three legislative days during which time he can bring the bill up for another vote.