Administrators, educators and students came to the defense of a law suspending driver’s licenses for high school dropouts as Gov. Phil Batt called for its repeal.
Schools are not using the law, so it should be repealed, Batt said in his State of the State address.
But the Idaho Department of Transportation reports that it has suspended 264 licenses under the dropout driver’s law since the school year began. The law took effect in July.
If the rate of suspensions remains the same, the number for the school year will top 500. It should be higher, Batt spokesman Frank Lockwood said, considering the total number of juniors and seniors who drop out.
Last year, a total of 2,736 juniors and seniors dropped out of school.
Thirty-five students from the Boise School District have had their license suspended this year.
“It suggests it is not being widely used,” Lockwood said.
“If it can be shown it is working, then that is a strong argument for keeping it in place.”
Batt continues to argue that the law is punishing people for doing nothing illegal. Batt said that since 16-year-olds may legally withdraw from school, they should not be penalized.
Critics say Batt is eager to dump a law he never liked and refused to sign.
“The governor hasn’t given the law enough time to work,” said Rhonda Edmiston, state Department of Education spokeswoman.
“Let this go one full cycle so we can see where it is working or being used,” she said.
School administrators are not ready to toss the law out yet either.
“I think the idea has merit,” said Mike Friend, executive director of the Idaho Association of School Administrators.
But administrators say some of the law’s internal provisions, such as who holds suspension hearings, need fixing.
High school counselors are lukewarm about the dropout driver’s law. They say it is not a deciding factor in whether kids stay in school. Many of the dropout candidates who see Karen Coleman, a counselor at Centennial High School in Boise, do not think they will lose their license.
“They believe there is a way around it,” she said. “They say, ‘I’ll take night classes.”’
Suspensions can be lifted for several reasons, including home schooling and GED classes.