ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A bill under consideration in the Minnesota Legislature would try to keep teenagers in high school by preventing dropouts from getting their drivers licenses.
The Star Tribune reported Tuesday that the proposal has bipartisan support, including the backing of Sen. Gen Olson, a Minnetrista Republican who heads the Senate Education Committee. The bill hasn't had a hearing yet.
At least 20 other states, including Wisconsin and Illinois, link school attendance and driving privileges. Minnesota law requires students to stay in school until age 16. More than 4,000 high school students dropped out in 2009, or 5.6 percent based on four-year graduation rates, according to the state Education Department.
The bill's House sponsor, Rep. Carlos Mariani, said the state should use its leverage to keep students in school.
"Driving is not a right, it's a privilege, and it's perfectly within bounds for the state government to expect a quid pro quo when it comes to extending privileges," said Mariani, DFL-St. Paul.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton's office told the paper he hasn't reviewed the proposal or taken a position.
Former high school dropout Vanessa Fedde, 25, urged lawmakers to include an exception for those who leave school because of family responsibilities. Fedde said she left school at 17 to care for her mother, who had severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
Fedde said she probably would have driven illegally if the state had prevented her from getting a license, because she needed to work, shop and drive her mother around.
"I needed it. I had to have it," Fedde said.
Mariani said the proposal could face opposition from greater Minnesota lawmakers, because dropouts outside the Twin Cities would face more problems getting around than those in the metro area.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)