Vol 17 – At the Edge of Seventeen with Lynne Graziano

In this thought-provoking episode, Andy Rotherham and Jed Wallace are joined by Lynne Graziano from Bellwether Education Partners to dive deep into the complexities and inconsistencies of adolescent laws across the United States. Using Bellwether’s new “Edge of Seventeen” report as a cornerstone, this discussion covers a wide range of topics from the age of consent and marriage laws to labor rights and education policies.

*Key Topics Discussed:*

– The diversity in state laws regarding age-related permissions.

– Surprising statistics on child labor and marriage.

– The influence of federalism on policy consistency.

– The impact of these inconsistencies on today’s youth.

– The role of schools and education policy in navigating these challenges.

*Episode Highlights:*

– [01:45] Introduction of guest Lynne Graziano and the Edge of Seventeen report.

– [05:30] Discussion on the age of consent and marriage laws.

– [15:00] The role of federal legislation in creating consistency.

– [25:20] How adolescent laws impact education policies.

– [35:45] Viewer Q&A and final thoughts.

*Why Listen?*

This episode is a must-listen for educators, policymakers, parents, and anyone interested in the intersection of youth, law, and education. You’ll gain fresh insights into the often-overlooked area of adolescent policy and its real-world implications.

*Show Notes:*

– Edge of Seventeen Report by Bellwether Education Partners:

https://bellwether.org/publications/t…

– Aspen on cross-partisanship:

  

 • Crossing the Partisan Divide in Educa…  

https://www.aspeninstitute.org/public…

– Reagan Institute conference:

https://www.reaganfoundation.org/reag…

– SD state superintendent race:

https://www.inforum.com/news/north-da…

– NC state superintendent race:

https://www.cnn.com/2024/03/14/politi…

– Eduwonk musical chairs post:

https://eduwonk.substack.com/p/charte…

– Eduwonk musical chairs post:

https://eduwonk.substack.com/p/charter-schools-might-not-have-a

– Brandon Brown agrees with Andy:

https://x.com/BBrownIndy/status/1789041617715794327

– Travis Pillow agrees with Jed:

https://x.com/travispillow/status/1789414349141856388

Thanks for listening! See you in the next episode of WonkyFolk!

Transcript
Andy Rotherham:

Hey Jed, how are ya? I'm doing great. So you got a, you have a visitor with us today. Yeah, I brought along a friend. Um, uh, who is actually a, both a friend and a colleague Lynn Graziano with Bellwether. I'll let her, uh, introduce herself, but I'll just say she's been with us For years, long time. One of the, one of the longest, um, uh, Belwarians other than the founders, she used to do research work, uh, for me. And I was like, you're fantastic. And you should just work here. And, um, uh, against her better judgment, she, um, she, she decided to do that. And, uh, against her better judgment again, she decided to come on with us today. So, um, Lane, why don't you introduce yourself?

Lynne Graziano:

Thanks, Andy. It's great to be here. Uh, yes, I'm coming up with my 10 year anniversary at Bellwether and actually did work with Andy and Mary and some of the other kind of founders before we actually became officially Bellwether. So it's been, it's been a good ride and, um, no regrets about being talked into joining the family and I'm really excited to be here. I'm now a senior analyst on the policy team and policy evaluation team at Bellwether. And, um, we're going to talk about. piece we worked on a little bit later, but first we've got some other things to do, so I'll throw it back to you guys.

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah, so Linzel, we're going to talk about this edge of 17 report that we just put out at Bellwether, um, which I think will be fun. That'll be a fun, uh, conversation. A couple of housekeeping things before we, um, just

Jed Wallace:

to be clear, we make it a practice. We share with everyone that they should question their, their judgment, you know, when we, you know, guests. So just, you know, no, you're a part of the club now.

Lynne Graziano:

Absolutely.

Jed Wallace:

Uh, but hey, we got, you know, there are like two or three things to touch base on before we jump into this, uh, this new report from Bellwether. And, you know, Andy, I know we were talking a little bit about some new stuff going on at Aspen. Uh, tell me what your reflections are on that.

Andy Rotherham:

Yes, I had a busy week of webinars this week and events and so forth. On Wednesday, I did this webinar at the Aspen Institute. This project, there's just fantastic people there. And Karen Nussel has been sort of leading this. Um, but, uh, we had a, got a couple of folks together for a, um, uh, webinar on this idea, and they put out a paper about this, on this idea of like cross partisanship, basically, how do you get stuff done in an intensely. polarized partisan environment and I think negative polarization is a theme that'll probably show up later when we talk about the edge of 17 report

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Andy Rotherham:

well. Um, uh, and the webinar was, was, um, uh, was really interesting and it, it bears a little bit. We always talk about charters as, as being bipartisan. I think they are, and I think they, they continue to some extent. We're going to talk about that later, but, um, Uh, this idea of cross partisan where the lines are just really, uh, really sharp and the differences. And so how do you figure out how to get things done in an environment like that and continue to get things done? It was a great we'll throw in the show notes. It was a it was a good conversation. I think it does bear on some of the some of the issues we work on.

Jed Wallace:

What's the overarching theory there? Is it that there's really not anything bipartisan anymore in that there's going to be a lasting body of middle of the road proposals that people can be organized around and now it's gonna be more eclectic? Or is there some other way of

Andy Rotherham:

That's, yeah, that's a good way to say it. And then, like, one of the things I talked about and we've talked about on this show Um, it's like we, we functionally, we, we have, we have four political, we have two political parties, like officially the Democrats and Republicans, but the only thing they're like strong enough to do is sort of ward off third party challengers, like they're not actually that effective as, as political parties right now. And within them, you really have like functionally for, you've got sort of. Liberal, really progressive, um, Dems and then sort of moderate, more establishment kinds of, um, you know, more, more traditional liberal Dems. And on the Republican side, you've got establishment Republicans, then you got MAGA and I mean, there's overlap and that plays out in different ways. But like it, what it means is if you actually want to get something done, you're sort of picking and choosing. And I think if you look at Congress, we've sort of seen a little bit of that with this like flurry of, of policymaking recently, that's been surprising in one instance, almost unprecedented in terms of how the parties have, have interacted with one another, the unprecedented one being everybody's like, we're not going to do the, go through this whole speaker circus again. And so you had the, you know, the opposition party save the, the, the Speaker of the other party. It's like that's the unheard of.

Jed Wallace:

Yeah, I mean, we've talked about this before. I mean, the metaphor that I use here is rather than a blob in the center, a blob of policy proposals around which the moderates can kind of, um, uh, organize themselves. It's more a barbell. Um, and that we're going to see this, this strange mix of new policies that can work, that some will be considered far left, and some would be considered far right, and because we're just redefining the political, the political norms, um, it's wrong to just think about just things in the center, um, and, and actually we need to start thinking are, are there new ways to propose something that previously was thought to be far left, Um, in ways that might resonate with people far right and we have a just a weird eclectic mix of new things that might be driving and reforming in the decade in front of us.

Andy Rotherham:

Well, I hope you're right because that's in the past. I mean, I remember like, you know, you can, when George Bush was getting attacked on no child behind from his right flank, people hated, they were like, why are we doing all this stuff? And that was in many ways, a very liberal education policy, which is why, you know, he was partnered up with, with Ted Kennedy on, on key aspects of it. And so I think that sort of fluidity for education, given that education sort of just does not align with either party. Uh, particularly well like that. If that is the case, that's actually good news for what we do because it'll create opportunities.

Jed Wallace:

Well, we will, uh, we'll see how that plays out. Now. I know you've also been thinking about some, some, uh, some superintendents that yeah,

Andy Rotherham:

let's just quickly ask Lynn Lynn. Lynn lives in Pennsylvania. Um, and, and, um, a quiet little crossroads Gettysburg. Um, uh, um, so how Lynn, is this what we're talking about here? Like in terms of, I've been watching Pennsylvania politics. it's sort of an interesting state. It's going to be a key state in 2024, obviously in the, in the election, but also just like the governor of the legislature, the politics there seem like interesting and a little confused. Does that, does what we're talking about? Does it resonate?

Lynne Graziano:

Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think, um, I think the perfect example is, is Fetterman, how Fetterman, everybody just loathed him and just reviled him early on. And now he's become something of a spokesperson for moderates on both sides of the aisle. And I think that that's sort of an interesting example of how, um, things aren't what they used to be. You're

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not

Lynne Graziano:

getting what you expected in a lot of ways. Um,

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah, the Fetterman's, like, Fetterman to Sinema, like, the land speed there is really remarkable.

Jed Wallace:

Well, also, I think the Democratic governor in Pennsylvania being a strong supporter of school choice, uh, is another example of just an, an odd mix of things. And, and it being a, you know, a quasi swing state now, I think, um, it, it makes Pennsylvania even more interesting. And the governor seems very pragmatic,

Andy Rotherham:

Shapiro. Like he, he doesn't seem like he doesn't seem like a big ideologue on things.

Lynne Graziano:

Yeah. I feel like he's been one of the, just from a, like how he's managed to bring people together. I've been watching him as I've been here, a resident for 10 years, but I've also been watching it for about another 12 before that with my parents here. And I feel like, um, he's one of the best examples in those two decades that I've witnessed that. He's really stood up for what he believes in and done what he perceives to be right, regardless of what maybe the policy has been traditionally in his party. Um, school choice being a prime example of that. Um, he's also worked very hard towards the economic issues and he's also, I think, more in touch with Surprisingly, maybe with with rural politics than one might expect. It's been a nice surprise.

Andy Rotherham:

And what's interesting about this, Lynn, if I can say this, um, uh, I guess if you hate it, well, we don't do a lot of editing. We'll cut it out like you don't share his politics, but yet you're still like admiring of his style and how he's approaching this.

Lynne Graziano:

Absolutely. I have, I am a firm independent, um, and I don't really vote one way or other. I, in the old days, leaned Republican, but as we know, a lot of us have ended more on the independent spectrum in recent years. So, um, I do admire his work and I admire the way that he's been able to build bridges in, in, in what you've described well as a cross partisan world. I mean, I feel like he's managed to make connections in a way that the citizens of Pennsylvania, at least the ones that I know, respect him from both sides of the political spectrum.

Andy Rotherham:

I just think that's like interesting in terms of there. I think there is an opportunity here for politicians who like, aren't re don't react so much to like the current thing, but instead start to move towards where our politics could be going. It seems like those politics is often, you know, you're fighting the last war and the, and the, and I think the ones who are, who are looking forward are going to, are going to benefit. Um, but speaking of last wars. Jed, that's what you wanted to get at. I was just struck. So I was at the Reagan Institute on Thursday. Um, we're recording this on a, on a Friday. Um, and we'll release that for Memorial Day and the other Reagan, in fact, this Reagan Foundation and Institute, they have obviously that huge place in California, um, which I've never visited, but they also have an office, a lovely office in Washington. And, um, they host an education summit. And it was really good. It was really good this year. Um, since a lot of people who listen to this, listen for sort of the, you know, whatever insider breadcrumbs, um, Jenna Talbot at whiteboard, uh, really did some great work helping and the, the Reagan folks and the Reagan folks, I thought did a nice job bringing together, um, uh, different voices. You didn't, it was not the panels were not the, you know, yeah. Three people saying the same thing. Like on my panel, I carry Rodriguez, uh, from national parents union and Tiffany justice from moms for Liberty. Um, and I, it, it, I think it takes a certain, it takes a certain kind of, did

Jed Wallace:

you sit between them?

Andy Rotherham:

No, I didn't. Um, who's, uh, Ralph Smith from the campaign for grade level reading was between them. Um, uh, and, and yeah. And, and, um, uh, determined to try to stave off, you know, It was interesting conversation. Kerry Jenner, the state chief from, um, Katie Jenner, excuse me, the state chief from, um, Indiana was, it was just fantastic state chief and another example of this, like she's a Republican, but she's just very pragmatic. And, and, um, uh, anyway, um, but one of the things that struck me is, um, Kathy Truitt, the chief of North Carolina was there and on a panel. And so was, um, Kirsten Basler, the chief in, in North Dakota. And. I mean, both like really accomplished, very serious, uh, people, very deliberate. Truett though, in her primary, uh, election lost. It was a big, people were quite surprised. People just didn't even think the primary would be that seriously contested. She lost to a woman who like, among other things, like has posted tweets about like shooting former presidents, you know, like Obama and Trump. So about Biden and just said stuff about Muslims, like way, way beyond the pale, all kinds of, all kinds of craziness. And it's an interesting situation. Cause it's like, you had this like really great chief and now you have a choice between this person and the Democrat. The word on him down there is everybody's like, he's fine, but he's not like going to set the world on fire with like bold education ideas. So like North Carolina voters, your choice is like, you know, lame or lunacy. Um, uh, which, I mean, if you're a voter, that's, that's a bummer. And then in North Dakota, Basler, the Republican convention, um, uh, endorsed, uh, they, they didn't endorse her. She's a Republican. Um, uh, you know, like I would think in, in good standing, um, she's been really pragmatic there and so forth and they didn't endorse her. And, um, instead there's two candidates she's running against one who thinks. The number one problem facing public schools is the persecution of Christians, which I mean, I don't know. Like I, it seems to me like low reading and math achievement might rank above that, but that's just me. Um, uh, and then the other guy is also very, very far, right. But he, he has the Heitkamp last name. And so I think people think. They may be associating him with, with Heidi Heitkamp, who's a very sort of, you know, middle of the road senator. Um, uh, and so anyway, that is, uh, so watching Bassler out there in a fight. I mean, she was like, you know, she was president of the Council of Chief State School Officers. She's done all kinds of, of stuff. She's very well regarded. We should have her on the podcast at some point. Although, uh, I hope that would help her or not. But, um, uh, um, uh, that might make people question her judgment. I'm here trying to make a case that she has solid sound judgment. So maybe not. Um, but in any event, uh, I just think it's interesting trend and it's kind of one of these things I've been surprised it hasn't gotten more attention. Like, it, it seems interesting that this is happening in our politics right now.

Jed Wallace:

Yeah, I think it's odd that, um, we have all of this focus on hyper partisanship and, and there, there, clearly there is that, but there's not enough focus on, uh, the dissension within the parties. And, you know, what we've seen in Congress is a clear example of this, just the Republicans unable to come together and it's just complete and utter chaos, which then results in the cross party stuff that, you know, you're talking about in order to keep the speaker, uh, you Uh, you know, in, in his seat, but if you talk to people in a lot of different states, I mean, I can remember people talking, telling me about in Idaho, um, it's not that focused on, but the, but the tension within the Republican party and sometimes on education policy issues where somebody, you know, said to me, literally in the Capitol building in Idaho, they were this close to fisticuffs. You know, on, on some of these issues, um, amongst Republicans, I've heard of similar, uh, levels of conflict in other states, Oklahoma is another one that comes to mind. So, um, yes, we are seeing the hyper partisanship explicit in this kind of way, but also within the subsets, we have similar things that are just ripping a lot of our status quo relationships apart. Fisticuffs. That's

Andy Rotherham:

not a word I've heard in a long time. I didn't realize you were so Victorian. Well,

Jed Wallace:

maybe it's, maybe it's, I think it's an Idaho term that somebody

Andy Rotherham:

state chief in Idaho is another, I'm probably going to like, by saying all these people are great. I'm probably like putting targets on their back, but like Debbie out there, she's a fan, you know, doesn't share my perspective. Politics, but she's a fantastic chief, very, um, uh, pragmatic, committed to kids, wonderful person to just a really nice person. Um, uh, and so you've got these, you, you, you've got these really fantastic people, but these you're exactly right. These intro party pressures are, are challenging.

Jed Wallace:

Yeah. And of course, I mean, we could have focused on tensions within the democratic party as well. I mean, I think that, uh, you know, bringing this back to what we were talking about with Pennsylvania, um, uh, And and like cross partisanship cross. Is that what you call it? Cross partisanship coming? Yeah, yeah. Instead of

Andy Rotherham:

bipartisanship cross party. Yeah,

Jed Wallace:

I mean, I just actually taking

Andy Rotherham:

the partisanship as a given.

Jed Wallace:

Well, school choice is just one of these barbells. I think that, um, hey, we've got very progressive people in Philadelphia that are just Just furious at the quality of options that they have available to them and who are their political allies, but Republicans at the state, and they might not be able to agree on virtually any other issue, but on school choice and getting something better than what they otherwise have to attend in Philadelphia. Is something that they can, they can clearly come to agreement on.

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah. And I mean, and that's the, we've talked about it a lot in past episodes. That's the Democrats cross pressure problem is this issue of the teachers, unions, and parents, and you know, the Democrats, you know, try to ignore that tension, um, or minimize it, but it's, it's, it, that is going to be, um, an issue and you're seeing that a little bit, who knows what will happen in November, but there's some evidence that, you know, around the edges that's mattering to voter behavior as well.

Jed Wallace:

Yeah, well look I want to get to this conversation about your guys great new report. I also want to just Um put a little push in here on on your your latest Um post around charter schools and and hey in this game of musical chairs Uh charter schools may may lose out here. Um, I may you know uh write something on this because that was one that provoked me to think you know, I Andy and I agree on most things on this one. I don't think we do but Amplify a little bit. What, what, what informed your, or what, you know, was the precipitating event for you to write that musical chairs piece?

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah, that's a great. So a lot of conversations is that I think, um, you know, what you saw, I think, I think it was Travis pillow from Florida is like, we're not seeing this in Florida. And you had people, um, but then like, you know, Brandon Brown and in, uh, runs the mind trust in Indianapolis. Like, no, this is exactly like, he was like, I, this is the piece I would have written. Um, Uh, so I think, um, and I guess I'm sort of pre budding what I anticipate your objection is. Um, I think it depends on the contact. It depends on the place. I don't think this is like across. And I think we tend to think about this stuff in national terms. And I think it depends place by place. It depends what's on offer. Um, in different places, but you're hearing a lot of conversations where, uh, particularly on the right, people are, like, really excited about the potential for more sort of universal unfettered choice and feel like charters are, you know, growth is slowing in places, um, uh, all the regulatory hurdles and some of these folks like charters were like a way station for them. They were never actually bought into the charter model. It was just more choice. Now, the flip side of this is, historically, as you know, When we've had more pressure for private school choice, it's actually been really great for charters. And I mean, the early days of Brian Hassel wrote a book about this years ago in the early days of charters, like that was like the biggest predictor of if you're going to get charters was like a serious voucher threat.

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It was like

Andy Rotherham:

your compromise. So there's a, there's a positive scenario there as well, but I'm concerned that this thing you've talked about charters don't have a crisp differentiator right now. They've tried to basically. Convince the Democrats that, hey, we're not so bad when the Democrats structurally simply can't embrace them and that there is more energy on the on the right now around some of these other choice options and so that that's that's what I'm hearing and seeing and it seems like a direction. It's one of those ones. Obviously, like, I hope I'm completely wrong.

Jed Wallace:

Well, in terms of, like, where charter schools sit, you know, I think that, um, like, one of the comments that you made that's probably the one that I've, I've pointed people to the most in terms of your work, Andy, is around charter schools and the, and the cool kids. You know, in the cafeteria and you said that, you know, in, in Arizona, when we were there for charter school growth fund. And I think you've said it on other recordings that we've done too. It's just completely and utterly dysfunctional. Charter schools just want to see where the cool kids are. We just want to see where the political, where it's politically opportunistic to seat ourselves and we go there almost regardless what the policy position is that's, you know, being talked about in the, in the cafeteria that day and how dysfunctional that is for us. We have to like know what You know what? What's what do we want to eat in the cafeteria? What's you know, what's going to be our true sustenance from a policy standpoint? And we got to see ourselves, you know, we're there and and when we can like do so in a in a principle way, we're going to find people coming to us rather than us having to bounce and back and forth across the cafeteria every time a new topic comes up. So I love that, you know, chair reference on this musical chairs. I'm just not seeing anybody yet really pull a chair away from charter schools and In these red contexts where you see people that are excited about esas and that kind of stuff. I'm not really seeing any Policy setback for charter schools. In fact, I think we've seen a lot of policy Um wins happen for charter schools simultaneous the real thing and you pointed this out The real thing as far as I can tell in terms of charter school seats How many are we growing? Are we serving more kids or not? And that's the key thing that may ultimately pull chairs away from us, our own decision, our own inability to grow at the level that is needed to capture the attention of policymakers and show that we're on a trajectory for the breadth of, of, of change. That policy makers want to see now, do you see risk though?

Andy Rotherham:

I mean, I, I hear that. Do you see risk that when like, so let's look at these states where ESAs have completely busted the budget because they're so popular and you're going to have to come back. Do you see risks that like when you get to that actual level of like zero sum political fighting over resources that like charters, they will, they will be playing the weekend when that happens. Which could happen sooner, sooner than we think.

Jed Wallace:

Yeah, I mean, I think the budgetary pressure coming from, uh, ESAs that are not means tested is going to be very, um, significant. Um, I mean, when you look at Arizona, 65 million originally budgeted, it's ended up costing 900 million. There's a huge chunk there to, um, to address, but are charter schools going to be the ones that that people try to take resources from? Um, I don't really foresee that. I mean, there might be some things like maybe at the federal level. You know, vouchers start saying, Hey, we want a chunk of the C. S. P. Dollars so that if people want to set up a new private school, there's some funding from maybe or maybe some of the facilities programs that we've set up. Why should the facilities programs only go to charter schools? And maybe people would try to, uh, to get a piece of it for private schools. But generally, um, I think as long as charter schools keep growing, I'm more worried about, you know, in Florida, if we've got, you know, 8, 000, you know, per kid going to wealthy families, um, some of whom may have, like, wanted to stay within the traditional school system for, you know, values, reasons. The traditional system continues to fall apart. Charter schools can't grow fast enough. So suddenly, you know, there's a bunch of new momentum, you know, in private schools, you know, uh, I, I mean, we shouldn't be saying what about these things altogether, but still not the degree of, of risk I see yet, or the evidence yet that would warrant chairs being pulled away in the game of musical chairs.

Andy Rotherham:

We should disagree more. It's fun. We'll do, we'll, we'll find, we'll find more of these. Lynn, before we move, we've got to wake Lynn up. Um, uh, uh, before we move to the reason we had, we invited you on, like, is it true that everything you need to understand about adult relations, you can learn by hanging out in a high school cafeteria? Are you asking me that question? Yeah. Do you agree? Do you agree with our jet? That's the way that's the place. Jed and I agree that like basically all you need to learn how people are going to behave. You can learn in

Lynne Graziano:

That's an interesting theory. Uh, probably. I mean, It's got some merit. It

Andy Rotherham:

explains Congress, right?

Lynne Graziano:

Yeah,

Andy Rotherham:

for sure. How Congress works. You got the

Lynne Graziano:

dynamics.

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah. You got the nerds, the jocks, the cool kids, like the bullies. Yeah,

Jed Wallace:

I mean, I'm not sure if it describes all of humanity, but it certainly describes People working in ed policy Yeah

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah, absolutely. Um, hey, so the reason we didn't have you on is we did this report this week It's called edge of 17, which i'm like probably prouder of the title than I than I should be but um We always try to give these things catchy Catchy titles that felt like we we should give stevie mix her her due And then you worked on. And so like, I just want to, like, it was just a fun, it's one of these stock taking reports we do where it's non normative, we don't get into like, here's the right way or wrong way to think about these questions. It's much more like, Hey, here's what's happening. Um, and we've done previous ones on sort of, um, uh, on common ground that like a lot of these issues that are considered really polarizing, actually, if you scratch the surface, like there's tons of agreement on them. Uh, and so. Like we're, we're being professionally divided by the political class on some of these things. Then we did one on science of reading and that was like, you know, there's some risks ahead for science of reading and, and some lessons. And then this latest one was on what the hell does it even mean to be 16 or 17 in 2024? Um, so do you want to talk a little bit about like what we did and then we can dive in and I know Jed's got some questions too.

Lynne Graziano:

Yeah. So this kind of came out of an idea that I guess you and a colleague at Reason. Um, had earlier this year and I guess last year at this point and reason had done, um, an initial database need to give a shout out to them because they had done a look at some of these fields back 2016 17 I think was when their original research was done and they had shared that with us and we took that as kind of a springboard to look at, you know, Both things that they had looked at, like sex and age of consent and marriage age and driving ages, and added some of our own categories that hadn't been looked at at that time, to what ultimately became 36 policies and actions that we categorized into six sort of rough buckets, and ended up figuring out a way to rank them, which is, Shout out to Chad Alderman, who was also on this project and helped do the rankings of those and come up with a way to, to do that. And to your point, we didn't weigh anything extra based on our own opinions or what we thought was more important. We all just kind of ranked these things equally. And then sort of came up with a permissive to restrictive ranking system of the states. Which turned out to be really interesting because most states are not consistently either one or the other. The vast majority of states have some areas that they're very restrictive in and other areas where they're very permissive in. And so we started breaking those down and looked at, you know, where trends were and where there was a lot of legislation happening, and some of that was surprising as well.

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah, I think one of the big takeaways is people, you would naturally assume, okay, federalism, there's gonna be differences between the states. But I think the degree of incoherence within states is really, and that's one of the reasons we wanted to do this. We had a hunch that was the case. Um, Catherine, Maggie Ward and I were just talking one day about, like, some of these issues that, you know, are really hot. Um, Uh, and so like trans kids access to healthcare is like a really hot issue right now in terms of like a lot of political friction and everybody's like the age should be this or that. But when you, and, and feels very strongly, but when you pull back, you're like, wait a minute, like, like that doesn't align with any other, doesn't align with people's other political commitments and it certainly doesn't align with like how states are doing things in many. Um, you know, for example, Mississippi is like we shouldn't have, uh, trans kids shouldn't have health care until they're 18 because you shouldn't do irreversible stuff to kids. But like in Mississippi, you can get married at pretty much any age, um, which seems kind of irreversible. Um, and so it's just, there's just like a lack of, um, uh, there's a lack of consistency. Um, and then the other thing is, I think. The natural thing here is everybody's like, Oh, yeah, it's crazy. You can be in the, you know, you can be in the military and die for your country, but you can't drink in a bar. Um, but like, there's so many examples. It's not just like these obvious ones. There's just like all this stuff that just doesn't make any sense. Um, when you, when you back it out, like you can make super consequential decisions, but you can't buy a lottery ticket. You can, you know, um, uh, you know, just like all these very, you can't gamble. When can you, um, you know, different ages now around pot. And then the big one that's coming is like social media where you're going to have. States it looks like increasingly where kids can have sex, but you're not gonna be able to like, uh, You know, you're not gonna be able to see any representation of it on tiktok

Jed Wallace:

Do you guys um, were you able to? Identify, you know what may have been the moments historically that led to incoherence Because I think that right now we're in a moment of Okay, there's this transgender issue, and, and, you know, people want to score political points, and, and they want it done next Tuesday, and let's not even bother to, like, review statute to see what things, um, stand as it relates to, to age, and so, boom, they just go. Um, are there, were there other key moments in history where, again, people wanted to just project something within a one or two week basis that led to incoherence, or? Are there no patterns along those lines that you guys can identify?

Lynne Graziano:

Yeah, I don't think there was, I don't think there was ever a time that there was more coherence or less coherence. I feel what I came away from this was how truly separate our states are, that our states stand on their own strange mix of politics and values and regional interests and just economics. There's a whole variety of things that play into that. Religious mix, you know, all of that kind of goes into it. There's some things that sort of, You know, there was a trend, like for instance, the, um, the marriage legislation was a good example of that. So prior to when Reason did their original database, um, prior to 2018, almost every state you could get married at very young ages, if you met some degree of exception, whether that was your parents said, okay, if the woman was pregnant, um, If the court, if, if you appealed to a court to get an order, there was a variety of ways you could get married at really young ages. I mean marriages, even just as recently as 2000, 2005, you know, 12, 10 year olds, you know, things you don't really wanna think about. Um, and so Jen, where are you on that? Where are you

Jed Wallace:

on that issue? I'm sorry, I'm,

Lynne Graziano:

I'm on child marriage Um, judge, you don't have to answer that. I ain't touching that one. Keep going. Ask everybody that. Andy's proud because his state was the most recent state and the first state in the South to actually make 18 the minimum age. But when we first started looking at this, so in 2018, there were no states that had said 18 is a minimum. There's now 12. And in the course of this project, which has just been a few months, it went from like seven or eight to 12. So this is like a hot area of legislation that a lot of people are not aware that there's two or three really strong advocacy organizations out there really pushing to make. 18, the universal minimum age across the country. So that could be something that we'll have, you know, the next time we do this study, it might be so cohesive that we can set that one aside like we did the drinking age and, um, the age to buy cigarettes. But, um, but that was a really interesting area to, to see. Um, child labor was another one. So 21 states have, Permission for 12 year olds to work in agricultural settings during the school day. And I thought that was, you know, pretty surprising, um, in 2024.

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah, that was interesting. And I think, um, uh, well, a couple of thoughts. I do think there are some issues where there's consistency and that's either because. Because we reached some kind of a consensus. I certainly hope we get there on child marriage because one of the alarming things is the number of child marriages. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's like over the last 15 years, it's around like 60, 000 or so that would be criminal. except for, uh, the fact that it's covered under state law. If there wasn't a state law, the activity would be would be criminal. And I mean, that I just think that's like incredibly troubling. And so hopefully we will get to a point where everybody's like, Yeah, 18 on that one. Um, but what shows are in shows are the inherent inconsistency 18 at some level is kind of arbitrary, but I think it makes us all feel better in terms of protecting kids. Um, uh, and then you have ones that are consistent because you have federal law. So Lynn mentioned, you know, alcohol, alcohol and is that that's in that regard is not an interesting question because it's 21 everywhere. So we didn't even look at it. I do think some of this just springs up. We forget how complicated the system is. So like right now we're about to have, you know, the Biden administration's announced they're going to change the scheduling for marijuana. Um, from from being a schedule one, which is like, basically a drug that we say has no, uh, purposes is, you know, is addictive, dangerous, no health purposes to a different schedule where we put drugs that can be dangerous, but also have, um. benefits, but like it's not going to, that's not going to create total consistency because the states have laws that are all over the place. And it's going to take a long time. Same thing was true, obviously after prohibition, that was a thing. Um, uh, same thing was true. Like women, we, we, we talk about suffrage. Like women were voting in many places before you had the federal law, like, so there's like, I think some of it is just like fun with federalism level stuff. There's just always. And, and, and then you have the thing that, that, um, Lynn's talking about where people get hopped up. I think it was Lindsay, you know, just on a particular issue. And so suddenly that issue, you know, just emerges and then that's going to be there. And then these laws don't. Change for a while. So I think it's like all those things lead to this inconsistency. And then we're talking about kids. So like, you're very, we're very susceptible to moral panics and and and and that and that shows up.

Jed Wallace:

Well, it's kids in this moment in time to and with all of the new stuff. I mean, heck, It could be that, that, you know, they're going to be taking away cell phones from 17 year olds, at least while they're in school all day, right? Right. So there'll

Andy Rotherham:

be in some states, they'll be able to have sex, but they will not be able to take pictures of themselves with their phones.

Jed Wallace:

Yeah. So it

Andy Rotherham:

doesn't make a lot of sense.

Jed Wallace:

And, you know, as you guys pointed out, uh, in your report, there's, we also have this kind of societal evolution, um, of a lot of young people pushing off certain adult activities. I mean, they don't even want to. They don't want to drive anymore. They're getting, um, also a lot of teenagers, they aren't having sex anymore, right? Um, and so how do you think that, how do you think the incoherence that you found that seems like it's been there forever, perhaps there's a spike up, you know, as it relates to the transgender stuff, but this historical incoherence about what defines an adolescent and what can, uh, defines an adult. How is it, you know, affecting teenagers today?

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah, I don't think it's the transgender thing that's causing it to spike up. I think that's just an example. I just think that's an example where everybody gets hopped up about a particular issue. And that was sort of, like, that was the impetus for us to do this report, is like, instead of focusing on any one issue, just broaden the aperture. Is there, does this make sense? Cause what we have is this situation where you have, you know, in, in, you know, kids have all kinds of access in various States, the different kinds of healthcare, mental health services and so forth. And again, we didn't get into who's right or who's wrong. You can. Argue, you shouldn't be able, you know, someone wants to make the case. You shouldn't be able to access mental health until you're 18 without your parents' consent. Like, have at it, go make that argument. But the fact is, like across the country, it looks like wildly, uh, looks wildly different right now. And that's what we were simply trying to, um, to, to call attention to. And just how. Like in Virginia, the age of consent for sex is 18 in Montana. It's 16. We use, I use that example, um, and something I wrote about this week and like, you know, you have to ask yourself, are our kids in Montana two years ahead in on average, in their ability to make good decisions, our kids in Virginia, really two years behind or. Is this just totally arbitrary and then like, I mean, you can look at brain science and stuff, but there's not like a clear, like, what should it be? And I think we, we often do tend to default to 18 just for customary reasons, but like, like there's no, maybe it should be 17. Like, it's just, it's just hard to, um, and so you just end up, I think, with just a lot of arbitrary stuff. Lynn, what would, what would you say?

Lynne Graziano:

I think I lost track of the question at this point, um, just in terms of.

Andy Rotherham:

With kids. Well, there's this point on like, does this affect kids? And I'm, I mean, it's my short answer on that would be, I don't think it does. Cause kids are going to, if kids wants to, kids want to drink, they're going to find a way to drink. They don't care. It's 21. Right. And they're going to engage in various kinds of behavior. Like, I don't know how much attention they pay to this.

Lynne Graziano:

Yeah. So one of the things, um, you know, we were looking at this through the lens of, of, you talk about, you know, ignoring the laws and the incoherent laws, um, vaping is a great example of that. And it's an issue that really does plague schools because schools have to wrestle with it all the time. And yet technically no one within the school, you know, doors other than the teachers should be able to buy vaping products, you know, and yet obviously kids everywhere have them. So I think that's, um. That's an example of where even with the incoherence and the, the, or, or the coherence of a law, it's 21, um, there can be just incoherence in how it's enforced and, and, um, plays out. I think for kids today though, you know, as opposed to when I was growing up, there's more a sense of what other kids can do in other places, right? We talk about social media, we talk about TikTok, we talk about, I mean, you can see what the kids are doing in California if you live in Nebraska, you know, and, and you can, You can see what permissions are in different places that maybe you don't have, um, where you are, particularly when it comes into issues like getting an abortion or, or having somebody provide you some sort of transgender health care. You know, there's a tension that comes in there then with knowing that here you are the same age as somebody else and they can do it and you can't. And I feel like that's probably, Just adding to the sort of the anguish and the general angst and mental health issues that some of our young people have that recognition that, um, it's not the same for other kids and that if they could just get their parents to move them somewhere, maybe their life would be better in a way that they perceive. Um, I found that kind of interesting to think about.

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah. That interconnectedness. Is a big thing. And we talk about Jed. One of the things on this, we, um, you, you know, schools are people like, well, why, why, what, why are you guys interested in this? And like, cause a lot of this lands right at the schoolhouse door.

undefined:

Yeah.

Andy Rotherham:

Those are mandatory reporters on a variety of behaviors. They have to enforce some of these other laws, you know, around labor and, and in some cases driving and things like, like it all, it just shows how schools are just intersections for sort of communities. Um, all this stuff. And then you throw in all the sort of hot button social stuff, whether it's around mental health, around transgender kids, around, um, uh, social media, like schools end up like at the flashpoint. And also, if we're being fair, like schools also have, in some cases, injected themselves into this. They've decided to take positions on on highly disputed issues. But that's one of the reasons we did it was just to like this this this in some ways is an educational issue Just because of where schools are positioned in society.

Jed Wallace:

I guess where I would be Because I think I would talk about a little bit differently. Um, andy than you just did, you know, how much does this? Directly affect the our adolescence. I I just feel as though we're in this moment when Um the challenges of adolescence, um and an early adulthood Are becoming more, um, first of all, they're becoming more severe just in terms of the mental health problems. We're having just health problems and habit changes and all these kinds of things. Um, we have a policy construct for what to do with quote unquote minors. Um, and we have a policy construct that applies to adults, and it just seems as though we're entering this time when being able from a policy perspective to be able to say this is what we need, um, to help foster healthy late adolescence and early adults, um, is a new imperative, but we don't even have a policy construct, a policy, you know, structure within which we could actually tailor a helpful policy.

Andy Rotherham:

Well, in some states you do have a contract, you have a mature minor statute. So, and, and, and, and so, but I take your point in general, I completely take your point. I don't have an answer at all. I said, like, I thought we need in the thing I wrote about this was like, we need to be asking where we probably shielding kids from, uh, areas they should have responsibility. Uh, and then where are we giving them responsibility too soon? And like, from where I sit, the answer is probably examples of both. And we just have no, no one can tell you like, and in the old days you did have sort of certain rituals for various reasons and like where kids move through these gateways and, and we, and those are sort of eroded. And so no one can just really tell you like a 16 year old. Um, like what does that, they can tell you they can drive like legally they have that, right. But what does it actually mean, uh, to be 16 in America in 2024? No one really. Knows the answer, at least no one I've encountered. And that I do think is something we should talk about. And it, it does implicate education in terms of like, what kind of agency should kids have on high school decisions. We talk, whether we're talking about pathways, um, uh, different kinds of credentials, different kinds of things they wanna do, you know, like that, the lack of co consensus around that does. Come into, uh, come into play. Lynn, what would you say there?

Lynne Graziano:

Yeah, I mean, I think that's right. I think you hit on a lot of it. We didn't, we researched it, we didn't really include it in the paper, but one of the things that struck me, again, Jed, going back to your kind of historical time frame differences, you know, there were like, What were considered like five traditional events that a young person would become an adult. And that was, they would leave their parents home. They would get married. They would possibly buy a home. They would complete education or job training, and they would enter the workforce. They would become a full pay, you know, tax paying member of society. Experts now agree that. Instead of those like traditional events that young people are actually like seeing markers, and it's more like accepting responsibility for themselves, feeling like they have autonomy, making their own decisions and attaining financial independence, whatever that looks like. And so it's been separated from sort of these, these clear roadmarks that you would, you would get along the way to be more of a thing that's identified, like how you identify and how you feel it. And so it's harder to just, even from a young person's perspective, I think, say, Oh, I'm an adult now, you know, because it's, it's not as clear as it once was.

Jed Wallace:

I have a question for you guys, which is what does this make you think about education policy? We see now what a total lack of coherence, what inconsistency there is, you know, on the books in this, I think, smaller, you know, niche, but I'm like, look, I sometimes keep the California ed code on my desk. I see it's elsewhere in my office right now, but I mean, it's, It's as you know, it's thousands of pages long and and any quick perusal and you can find, you know, mutually exclusive contradictory passages within it, but no one is going through and and trying to make these things consistent. I'm just getting off a consultancy call where we were charter advocates were asking ourselves, should we just make it an ongoing priority that we should reduce? By two percent the number of words in the ed code per year for the next 10 years Which would force a kind of look at the overall ed code to purge itself of its inconsistencies Having gone through this exercise What what what might you think about ed policy more broadly?

Andy Rotherham:

It's a great question. I don't know lynn you go first I've got one thought but you go first.

Lynne Graziano:

Yeah, so what I mean, I think it's even it's it's We looked at state level policy, right? So with schools that you add the layer of districts or like, it's like, it's a complete nightmare because whatever you've got at the SCA level, you've got the LEA saying, well, we're going to tweak this a little bit. We're going to do this. You know, it's just, um, Yeah. And, and to the idea that, I mean, it, it makes what I think this project to me explains why things like No Child Left Behind and Common Core and, um, anything that's been like a push for like universal acceptance, even the current kind of science of reading push, um, states have very strong opinions, districts have very strong opinions about what they are doing now and why they are doing, I think it's the why that they're so entrenched and, um, They don't really want to know, you know, why they should, should change because this is how we do it. Right. So,

Jed Wallace:

yeah. Interesting.

Andy Rotherham:

I mean, yeah. And I think, look, some degree of this is, is you're going to have this, um, this is just like, there's always going to be some incoherence and some contradictions and, and, and that's, that's life in a democracy where the people get to make the decisions. Like if you want to have a really streamlined system, there's like other forms of government, which I think are a lot less desirable. Um, I do think sort of in very practical terms for education, it does. We are having these different conversations about high school and they're usually proceeding from places like what credentials do you need for the workforce or is college rather than proceeding from this point of like what kinds of decisions should like 14 year olds, 16 year olds, 18 year olds, Be making and the 18 one is a little bit decided for us because of our legal structures, like 14 year old, 16 year old, and I don't think we proceed from that, which I think leads us to all kinds of like we, we don't give kids agency where we probably should. We give them too much in some case. Like I'm not, that's why we've talked about this job, not a huge fan of like pathways for 14 year olds because you don't know necessarily enough yet. But I, and I, and I think we, we, if we proceeded from a little bit of sort of an age kind of standpoint, that would be useful. And then also Rich's shows, we have to find ways to have systems that are flexible because we simply are not going to agree a bunch of the issues we talked about, you're going to find people all over the place on the other, whether it's, you know, healthcare questions, mental health. The stuff on sex, drugs, you know, people that, you know, people are gonna be all over the place and so you've got to figure out for schools aren't going to solve all those, but for schools and education policy, which is a, you know, how are these public schools going to work for the public? We have to have systems that have some degree of flexibility in them because we're not going to be able to make this to see some of these decisions for in terms of education policy for everybody.

Jed Wallace:

Let me push you guys on this on this ed policy comparison point because it makes sense to me that this would happen in this adolescence early adulthood thing because we don't really have a group of advocates that are focused on on this particular slice, right? And so, okay, it's a little bit of a gap. So maybe no one minding the store at all. We, uh, you know, we allow these inconsistency to approach. Well, um, in ed policy, We got thousands of us. We're focused on this, and it should at least be like coming in and saying, Hey, do we have consistency or not? And when and when we don't, I mean, the advocates could be, like, really working on this. Okay, let's purge the stuff that doesn't make sense. Or let's make consistent the things that are inconsistent. Uh, I think this speaks to it's making me think about, um, we and advocates aren't doing nearly as good a job as as we could be if we if we thought about it, taking a general lens that you guys brought to this exercise.

Andy Rotherham:

Yeah, maybe. I don't know. I just feel like I it's interesting that you the way you approach the scale question that there's so many of us and all that I find I still feel like education policy is still very much a cottage and you get you, you know, you get on the you get these emails and they'll have, you know, 50 people on them. And like, it's it's like 50 people really are doing different things. Things and, and are able to drive things. I like, that's certainly not how it works, like in the energy world. Um, right. You know, um, or healthcare for that matter. And so, so I don't know. I, I, I, I, I, I would need to think about that.

Jed Wallace:

Yeah. Land. What do you think?

Lynne Graziano:

Yeah, same

Jed Wallace:

last word here. Why isn't this up here?

Lynne Graziano:

Yeah. I don't, I don't think I have a wise answer. I, I mean, I think what you see. So if you look at the examples, we excluded things that have become kind of universal policy, right? The drinking age, the voting age, um, could add policy pick three or four things that they really wanted to be consistent on and make those work nationally. I mean, I think what's happened with one of the lessons, you know, of this. Paper was, you know, for instance, that the driving age was, um, the drinking age was established because of federal federal money that was leveraged and said, look, you don't get your transportation dollars if you don't, um, move it up to 21. And so states did, and some states created sort of loopholes for that, but 21. Um. What is the, what is the federal cudgel that could be used to get everybody aligned on whatever it is we decide is the most or, you know, two or three important things. And I think that's, That alone, I mean, just identifying what those 2 or 3 things are. I think you're going to get different answers from wherever you ask. So, um, there may be something to do

Andy Rotherham:

that though. Right? I mean, that was the whole idea with like, you know, conditional aid for various things. We still do. The conditions are pretty meaningless at this point, but like, at different points, they've been quite meaningful. Um, that's that's been the that's been the approach. And I, I like your idea, Jed, you could, you know, and Ben Austin is trying to do this with this like right to a quality education that actually includes some sort of right of action. Yeah, it's been a big project of his. So there are like, and maybe we would be better off if, if, and I may, so maybe I'm completely wrong by being like, I, you're always going to have some of this. And instead we said, no, it's not like tolerate this level of. core stuff.

Jed Wallace:

Well, I commend you guys for just taking a run at something in a new way. I, I, when I first saw this, I did a double take on it. What, what is Bellwether doing? Oh, oh, oh, okay. Um, and, um, And it's I think made me think about the subject itself in a different way But it also has made me think about all sorts of adjacencies in different ways, too um, so, um There could be all sorts of bank shot values to what you guys have done here So so thanks for it. I mean i'll i'll leave it up to you guys to wrap it up with any any final thoughts here But um an interesting discussion and definitely an interesting report

Andy Rotherham:

And there's a big thanks to Lynn for taking time out to come, uh, join us and do this with us.

Lynne Graziano:

And now that I know it's, I was not making a good decision to do this according to you guys, but it was really a good time. I enjoyed it and, um, really appreciate the opportunity to talk about this was really, I mean, I've done a lot of projects at Bellwether. This was, was definitely one of the, the most interesting in terms of just exposing me to a whole range of things I hadn't really thought about. And, um, as somebody who's gone through, you know, My own raising kids and, you know, never thought about what it meant to them to have to identify all these things in the process. And, um, it was just, it was a good project. And it was great to work with the team of Andy, Chad and our other Andy at Bellwether, Andy Jacob. So shout out to everybody who was part of the project. It was, it was a lot of fun.

Andy Rotherham:

We'll throw in the notes.

Jed Wallace:

Yeah. Andy. I'll see you in a few weeks. All right. See you now. Take care.