Louisiana student driver's license bill rejected

| 6/26/2006

Students in Louisiana who drop out of high school or play hooky too often no longer need to worry about having their driving privileges taken away or denied.

The House voted 48-42 June 14 to kill a Senate-approved bill that called for a two-year pilot program allowing public school districts and private schools to use the incentive tool to keep kids in class. It wouldn’t have applied to people 18 years of age or older.

Sponsored by Sen. Clo Fontenot, R-Livingston, the bill – SB284 –applied to dropouts and students who missed more than 10 consecutive school days, or 15 days’ total, without an excuse during a semester. Exceptions would have been made for students who must drive to work to support their family.

Fontenot said something needs to be done to reduce the state’s high school dropout rate, which is the second highest in the nation, The Times-Picayune reported. He also said students who graduate from high school make $10,000 a year more than those who don’t. In addition, he said dropouts make up 59 percent of the state’s prison population.

One other state that still is looking to rein in its dropouts is Illinois.

A bill awaiting Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s signature would take high school dropouts’ driving privileges away until they re-enroll or turn 18 years old. The bill – HB1463 – also would revoke driver’s licenses or learner’s permits of students with 18 or more unexcused absences.

Supporters of the effort in Illinois say they have similar concerns to those in Louisiana.

Sen. Frank Watson, R-Greenville, said dropouts are more likely to end up in jail, so these types of deterrents are needed.