The Iowa House has voted to change the state policy that currently denies a drivers license to kids who drop out of high school. Current law says high school drop-outs can’t get a drivers license until they’re 18, but legislators like Representative Lance Horbach of Tama says the law’s not being enforced. “How many legislators knew this was law?” Horbach asked. “I would be willing to bet half of us..did not know that if you dropped out of high school, you lost your license. And you wonder why people stand out there…outside these walls and shake their heads at us.”Horbach says it’s folly to try to force kids to stay in school with the threat of losing their drivers license, because those kids will go back to school, sit there and — in Horbach’s words — “they won’t give a damn.” Representative Wayne Ford, a democrat from Des Moines, got his colleagues to vote for a change that would let high school drop-outs who work at least 20 hours a week keep their driving privileges. “Everyone wants to reduce the number of Iowa students who drop out of school, but the reality is that some kids will drop out,” Ford says. “Maybe they need a job to support their family. Maybe they have kids of their own. Maybe they’re helping care for an ill parent.” Representative Jim Van Fossen, a retired cop from Davenport, says it makes sense to let teens who’ve dropped out school but are working keep on driving. “You know, the state of Iowa is addicted to taking people’s drivers licenses for reasons not involving driving violations,” Van Fossen says. Representative Kurt Swaim, a democrat from Bloomfield, says telling a drop out they can’t drive can push some kids over the edge. “One of the things I learned as the country attorney is that you can’t come down so hard on kids that they lose their stake in society,” Swaim says. But there were a handful of House members who argued taking a high school drop-outs drivers license was an effect tool in trying to keep a kid in school. Representative Royd Chambers, a republican from Sheldon, is a high school social studies teacher. “As an educator, I have seen this used as a tool to keep young people in school,” Chambers says. “It’s been used very effectively as a tool in my school district.” Chambers says he’s sat in on meetings with kids who’ve been threatening to drop out, and the threat of losing their drivers license was an argument that worked to keep them in school. The proposed change in drivers license policy must be approved by the Senate and the governor before it becomes law.
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