Pennsylvania Changes Age Requirements for Mandatory School Attendance

Pennsylvania Changes Age Requirements for Mandatory School Attendance

In the state of Pennsylvania, some children begin their education as early as five years old. Others may start at the age of eight. State law in Pennsylvania currently requires children to start school at the age of eight years. This makes it one of only two states in the country that require education to begin at this age. In addition to this, students are able to drop out of school at the age of 17 without parental consent. However, this law will change within the new year. The Pennsylvania Board of Education decided to raise the age that students are required to start and stay in school.  

Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, children in Pennsylvania must enter school by the age of six years old. The state board of education also approved another requirement that raises the age of student drop-out from 17 years old to 18 years old. This will begin in the same school year. According to state Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, about 14,000 students within the state dropped out of high school during the 2016-17 school year. Before the law passed, he stated that he expects to see an increase of 3,300 students in elementary enrollment.

During the hearing regarding the passing of the law, Rivera stated that he believed the compulsory attendance age was outdated. He said, “…engaging children in the crucial fundamentals of education early in life provides the basis for students to be prepared for opportunities available to them throughout their educational careers.”

The change in age requirements was originally proposed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf earlier this year as part of his Statewide Workforce, Education and Accountability Program (SWEAP) initiative. As of now, children in Pennsylvania are not required to enroll in kindergarten. The state board of education believes that lowering the mandatory school age will help improve language and literacy skills as well as enhance social and emotional development. It also comes with hopes of encouraging kids to finish high school. These new laws stand the same for all schools alike, including public, private, charter, or homeschools. 

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