One of the most eyebrow-raising moments of Obama’s state of the union address last night (outside of proposing a defacto nationalization of higher education) is his call for a federal mandate for high school attendance until graduation or the age of 18.
“We also know that when students aren’t allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma,” said the President during the speech. “So tonight, I call on every State to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn eighteen.”
In a perfect world, everybody would graduate from high school and go on to a life full of prosperity. As a practical matter, mandating attendance is problematic for a lot of reasons. First, you can’t force kids to learn. Education is a two way street, and it’s a waste of time and money to try and educate a student who is intent on resisting it or being disruptive in class. It also does a disservice to other students stuck in the same class with such students.
Such a mandate isn’t good for the taxpayers, and it certainly isn’t good for education policy as a whole. But one group of people it is good for are the teacher unions. According to Bloomberg, this sort of a mandate would mean at least another $1 billion per year in education spending (take that, budget deficit!) most of which would no doubt to go hiring teachers and other education personnel who would pay a lot of dues to teacher unions who, in turn, will contribute a lot of money to re-electing Democrats.
So it’s not so much about good education policy as it is about feeding tax dollars to the liberal election machine.