South Carolina legislators moved forward Tuesday with a bill that would take away driver’s licenses for students who drop out of high school. Rep. Tom Young (R-Aiken) says the state’s dropout rate is too high and he wants to create an incentive for students to stay in school. He pointed to a 1989 legislative report that made a similar recommendation, saying the problem hasn’t improved in 22 years.
I’ve talked about this bill for over two years to kids in my district. It is unanimous (among them) that it would make a difference for some people… The only thing that might be a better incentive… would be to take their cell phone.
The bill would make exceptions for students suffering hardships, such as those who have to drop out to support their family or to work. Under the bill, a parent or guardian could appeal through the Department of Motor Vehicles to get an exception.
It is the second time Young has brought the legislation forward. A similar bill passed the House last year, but died on the Senate floor.
Rep. Bill Taylor (R-Aiken) told the panel connecting driving privileges with school attendance would give teens a reason to stick with high school when they might otherwise drop out.
Do you remember when you were 16… how important that automobile was? You just couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel of that car. Because what it represented was freedom. It was that time you could say, “I’m now out of the nest and I… can go where I want and do what I want.”
However, Rep. Harold Mitchell (D-Spartanburg) said he’s afraid the bill goes too far.
I haven’t heard anything to defend the state stepping in as Big Brother. That’s exactly what we’re doing… We could start coming up with all kinds of incentives. I think it’s a slippery slope that we’re about to take.
Taylor answered that teen drivers are given a special privilege by the state.
We already are quite involved as the state, because we already grant the driver’s licenses. It’s a privilege that we grant to 16-and-17-year-olds, that’s all. They’re not of legal age at this point, so we do have a right to… say, “Look, do your part and we’ll do our part.”
Mitchell said the bill would only affect the small number of dropouts who have cars, “In the projects, nine times out of ten you don’t have a car, anyway.” He says it would not address the core problems facing low-income students. Young agreed the bill was not a “silver bullet,” but hoped it would keep even a small number of students in school.
The bill heads to the full Education and Public Works Committee next week after passing by a 3-2 vote.