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Senate adds budget provision to Md. dropout bill

A sharply divided Maryland Senate voted Monday night to advance a bill that gradually raises the required age for staying in high school -- but only if the estimated cost of the additional students is included in the state budget.

An amendment making the proposed policy contingent on available funding passed on a 23 to 22 vote following heated debate.

Stoltzfus mug.jpgSen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus (R-Somerset), who sponsored the amendment, said that lawmakers would be fiscally irresponsible to adopt the policy without ensuring they could pay for it.

"Ladies and gentlemen, there's just so much money to go around," Stoltzfus told his colleagues.

The bill would gradually raise the required age for staying in school from 15 to 17, making it possible to drop out at 18 instead of 16. Stoltzfus's amendment would make the policy "null and void" if the budget enacted by the General Assembly does not include at least $48 million to pay for the policy change in fiscal year 2013 and $71 million in 2015.

Pugh.jpgSen. Catherine E. Pugh (D-Baltimore), the sponsor of the bill, argued against Stoltzfus's amendment, saying the policy was an affirmation of the desire to see students finish high school.

Pugh argued that if lawmakers didn't adopt the policy, they risked seeing more children incarcerated -- and at a far higher cost.

The bill faces a final vote in the Senate this week before moving to the House.

By John Wagner  |  March 15, 2010; 11:44 PM ET
Categories:  John Wagner  | Tags: General Assembly, Maryland Senate, Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, education, high school, state budget  
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