There’s nothing new about high school students wanting, even needing, to work. And, generally speaking, we’re of the view that having a job is a good thing for students.

There’s the income, of course, which can be crucial for kids and hard-pressed families in tough economic times.

But holding down a job also broadens students’ education by giving them practical, real-world experience that will serve them well when they leave school and enter the work force.

So the indignant opposition being voiced to proposed legislation that would allow Maine’s 16- and 17-year-old students to work more hours than current law permits strikes us as misplaced if not ridiculous.

To be fair, the bill now working its way through the Legislature, L.D. 516, emerged at about the same time as an ill-advised proposal to pay teenagers a sub-minimum “training wage” that would have meant they’d have to work more hours to earn as much as they had in the past.

That bill deserved to be killed and it has been.

Opponents, however, refocused their ire on L.D. 516, which in its current incarnation permits high school students to work 24 hours per week, a modest increase of four hours over the current limit.

And, as of late last week, a provision to stretch kids’ legally permissible quitting time from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. was in the process of being amended to set the latest work time at 10:15 p.m.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Debra Plowman, R-Hampden, said the extra 15 minutes would allow teenage workers to complete tasks that arise late in their shifts, busing a table in the case of a restaurant worker, for example, and still leave work no later than 10:30 p.m.

Plowman also said the moderately later quitting time could help employees and employers avoid fines if teenagers work a few minutes past the legal deadline.

“Teens work for a variety of reasons,” Plowman said. “Some save for college. Some work for clothing. Some work to put gas in the family car. Some work to help out their families. Some work for a sense of accomplishment … LD 516 will not force kids to work more hours than they are comfortable with.”

That last point is important. Plowman’s bill provides students with the opportunity to work additional hours if they want to or need to, but it doesn’t require them to work more or less than they do now.

Employers in the hospitality industry who hire teenagers to wait tables or as restaurant kitchen workers requested these changes to give them more flexibility in hiring and scheduling, not to force kids to work more hours.

Opponents apparently fear that bosses will use the new law to turn their establishments into teenage sweatshops; the anti-business sentiment inherent in that objection is so blatant it hardly requires a response.

Some of the other objections we’ve heard are just plain silly. Kids who work at night fall asleep in class? What about kids who stay up late playing video games, or hanging out with their friends?

We would hazard a guess that youngsters who are responsible enough to hold down a job are likewise responsible enough to organize their time to allow for work, study and a good night’s sleep.

Plowman’s bill represents a reasonable adjustment to current law and a realistic response to a challenging economy. We support it.