Plan May Revoke Drop-Outs' Licenses


State lawmakers move to punish high school drop-outs by taking away the one thing that ensures their independence.

State lawmakers are moving to punish high school drop-outs, by taking away the one thing that gives them independence -- their driver's license.

High school students may not be allowed to drive, if they miss too much school.

Under Assemblywoman Jean Fuller's proposal, local school boards would have the authority to suspend the driving privileges of California high school students who miss more than 20 days of classes per semester.

The former school superintendent says too many dropouts have social costs.

"They are much more likely to be a minimum wage earner without benefits to support their family, and they are much likely to be in prison," said Assemblywoman Jean Fuller (R) Bakersfield.

The state does a terrible job tracking the number of drop-outs, but the most accepted estimate is 35 percent.

The Assembly Education Committee today agreed suspending drivers' license would encourage kids to stay in school.

Opponents vowed to fight it at the next hearing.

"They'll just drive without a license. Again, it comes down to the role of government. Is our local school board elected to decide whether my child can drive or not? There are laws about truancy on the books," said Karen England from Capitol Resource Family Impact.

Juvenile courts already have the authority to take away driving privileges of truants, but it has been rarely used.

From 2002 to 2006, of the estimated 300,000 dropouts in California, just 5,000 had their licenses suspended. That's less than two percent.

The prospect of more people other than judges and parents being able to take away driving privileges riles up teens.

"I think it's ridiculous. I've probably had 20 absences this year," said high school student Hannah Collentine.

"If they get it taken away from them, then it's going to suck probably," said high school driver Maria Martinez.

ABC7's Nannette Miranda: "But will it keep them in school?"

"I guess it'll keep them in school," said Martinez.

Eleven other states already allow local education agencies to suspend the driving privileges of dropouts.

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