Governor Perry's Plan: No Diploma, No Driver's License

Governor Sees Proposal As Solution To Curbing Texas Dropout Rates

No diploma, no driver's license. That's Governor Rick Perry's plan to whittle down dropout rates across the state.

"If you are of high school age and you are not in a bricks and mortar or virtual high school, you are not going to get a drivers license. It's that simple," Perry said during a recent news conference in Houston.

Texas has some of the highest dropout rates in the country, and those numbers appear to hold up in El Paso, too.

In the 2007-08 school year there were almost one thousand dropouts at El Paso Independent School District alone. The governor sees his proposal as a way to drive that number down.

Under the proposed plan, the Texas Education Agency would notify the Department of Public Safety when a student drops out of high school. DPS would then revoke that teen's license.

It's not clear exactly how the agencies would exchange information regarding students' enrollment under the governor's proposal.

Under current state law drivers under the age of 18 need a verification of enrollment form to apply for a license. If the governor gets his way, teen drivers would need to stay in school in order to keep their license.

ABC-7 spoke to teen drivers at Cherokee Driving School in El Paso. They were split on the issue.

"I think it's a good thing I guess. 'Cause people who drop out... there's no point of dropping out. I mean driving is a privilege," said Vanessa Hernandez.

"I think it might trouble the people who don't have a choice but to drop out. There are some kids who have to get a job to support their family," said Desiree Villanueva.

Teacher Sandra Pacheco says the proposal could even drive bigger problems.

"It could be that they may not be able to get a driver's license and how are they going to drive now? They're gonna start driving illegally now and they're going get in trouble and it's going to get worse and worse," she said.

The governor's proposal comes in the middle of his heated re-election campaign.

Katy Bacon, a spokesperson for Gov. Perry's democratic opponent, Bill White, has commented on the dropout driving ban proposal.

"After 10 years of doing nothing, career politician Rick Perry is trotting out election-year sound bites," said Bacon. "Students are slipping through the cracks every day, and Perry still refuses to answer or provide a real solution for the three in 10 Texas students who don't graduate on time."

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