PHOENIX — A first-term lawmaker says it's time to reconsider the 30-year-old requirement that students make it at least to the 10th grade before they can drop out of high school.
In fact, Rep. Paul Mosley, R-Lake Havasu City, questions whether any parent should ever be forced to send a child to public school, at any age.
Mosley, who attended public schools and has a bachelor's degree in business management, said he's not anti-education. But he told Capitol Media Services the current system of forcing children to go to school and forcing their parents to send them there is not creating a better educated society.
"Do you know what our dropout rate is?'' he asked when queried about his position. "One of the highest in the world.''
And Mosley said Arizona, with more than 40,000 people behind bars, has among the highest incarceration rates in the world.
"And we spent $1.1 billion every year,'' he said. "So how's compulsory education working for us?''
Mosley said he believes there's a nexus between compulsory education and incarceration.
"Maybe we'd value education more,'' he said, seeing it as a privilege instead of something for which there is no choice.
"Maybe we'd value the actual free education that the state offers to the children of Arizona,'' Mosley said, with the students who are in schools voluntarily more interested in learning what they can.
As a starting point, Mosley said lawmakers should consider going back to the way the law was in the early 1980s when an eighth-grade education was considered sufficient and allowed someone to quit school, no matter the age.
Current law requires completion of 10th grade. But in any event, a student can drop out at age 16.
Various prior efforts to boost the age requirement were rebuffed amid arguments that forcing older students to remain in classes where they did not want to be would only cause disruption for everyone else.
The question of whether Mosley translates his philosophy into actual legislation next year to repeal compulsory education remains up in the air.
State schools chief Diane Douglas declined to respond to Mosley's comments but said she would weigh in if and when he actually introduces such legislation next session.