Finally, Rick Perry wants to do something about the dropout rate. He proposes to prohibit people of high school age from having a driver’s license if they drop out or aren’t progressing toward a degree. Current law requires that students be enrolled in high school in order to get a driver’s license. (I would have voted no.) The requirement of progress toward a degree is where the program really becomes invasive. Here are the details, from a release today about his appearance in Wichita Falls: The governor reiterated his recent proposal calling on the Texas Education Agency and the Department of Public Safety to work with local school districts to further leverage the privilege of a driver’s license as an incentive to keep students engaged in the education process. “I believe that in order for high school-aged individuals to get and keep a driver’s license they should be enrolled in school, be it bricks and mortar or our virtual high school, and, most importantly, working toward their diploma or GED,” said Gov. Perry. “This approach will not only give local school districts another tool in their efforts to reduce dropouts, it will also give students an incentive to do the work that will prepare them to compete in the workforce.” Only a person who is driven everywhere, and whose kids were driven everywhere, could come up with this stinkeroo. Here is the problem: It doesn’t just punish kids. It punishes parents. Do you think mom wants to spend part of her day schlepping her struggling teenager to school, then leave work early to pick her up? Do you think she wants to stop cooking dinner to run to the grocery store because she ran out of flour and junior lost his license? I can’t begin to count the number of times when a mini-crisis arose at home, and only one parent was around, and we were able to call upon a child with a driver’s license to save the day. This is an instant replay of HPV — It is meddling in the lives of thousands of Texas families. I don’t want the government telling me that my kid who is otherwise fully qualified to drive is prohibited from doing so. I don’t want my colleagues at work to complain about my absence at a crucial time because I had to run an errand when I had teenage drivers at home who were barred from driving. Perry described driving as a privilege. It is not a privilege. It is a right. (Yes, I know, a license is by definition a privilege. But the privilege can be earned by meeting certain requirements.) If my kid is of the requisite age, and has successfully completed a driver’s ed course, and passes the required written test, he is entitled to a license. If my kid is over 18 and passes the test, he is entitled to a license. The government should stay the hell out of my family life. Meanwhile, what becomes of the sixteen-year-olds who drop out? Even if they get a job at McDonald’s, how are they going to get there? Suppose they are poor and the family has one car. Suppose the family lives in Arlington, which is (or was) the largest city in the country without public transportation. Suppose they live in rural Texas. Perry is placing a burden on families that will cause stress and tension. Perry believes that the threat of losing their license will be an incentive for kids to stay in school. This is not necessarily how the teenage mind works. Threats work on politicians and lobbyists. But if a kid is alienated or depressed, a threat will make things worse, not better. A likely result is that dropouts with nothing to do will become involved (or more involved) with drugs. Forget this idea and go back to talking about secession.
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