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Md. likely to raise school dropout age to 18

Monday - 4/9/2012, 6:02am  ET

Max Smith, wtop.com

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland lets kids drop out of school at age 16, two years before they can in Virginia and D.C., but it looks like that's about to change.

The General Assembly looks set to pass a bill that would require kids to stay in school until they turn 18.

The bill details some exceptions, including for kids who graduate early or get a GED, are married or in the military, provide financial support for their family, or are taking classes through an alternative program.

Gov. Martin O'Malley is expected to sign the bill, which is on its third and final reading in the House.

The bill would phase in the changes over the course of a few years, with the age first being raised to 17 so that school systems have time to adjust.

The assembly estimates the changes will cost the state an extra $54 million a year once the dropout age is raised to 18. It's expected to cost $35 million more a year while the age is 17.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 20 states (including Virginia) plus D.C., American Samoa and Puerto Rico require kids to stay in school until they are 18, unless they qualify for an exception.

As of 2010, the group says 30 states and the Virgin Islands set the minimum dropout age at 16 or 17.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)