FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Gov. Steve Beshear defended a plan on Monday to delve out some $570,000 to school districts wanting to change Kentucky's generations-old policy that allows minors to drop out.
The money, divided up in $10,000 grants, could help as many as 57 districts with the costs of raising the minimum age for quitting school to 18.
House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover had questioned the propriety of providing the grants, especially at a time when the state lacks sufficient funds to purchase enough textbooks for students.
Beshear, speaking at a Capitol news conference in Frankfort, said the money is coming from a fund for dropout prevention.
"So the money couldn't be used for textbooks anyway," he said. "It's being used for exactly what it was designated for."
The General Assembly passed a law earlier this year addressing the dropout issue. It specifies that after 55 percent of districts increase the dropout age to 18, then all of Kentucky's remaining districts must follow suit within four years.
The grants could help to hasten statewide implementation by assisting with the cost of planning and implementing the change.
"I find it disturbing the commissioner of the Department of Education is offering more than $500,000 in public education funds to advance this agenda while tens of thousands of children in Kentucky are desperately in need of textbooks," Hoover said in a letter to Beshear last week.
Proponents contend the law could potentially prevent some 6,000 Kentucky teens from quitting school early each year. Fifteen other states require students to stay in school until they're legal adults.
Kentucky's law came about as the result of a compromise engineered by Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, after years of heated debate among lawmakers over barring minors from dropping out. The compromise added the mechanism that would trigger statewide implementation.