Dropouts Are Putting a Major Strain on Our Economy

Despite all the efforts of every president from Kennedy to Obama, [high-school dropouts] are a blight on our society. According to DoSomething.org, [more than] 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States every year, [or roughly] 7,000 kids a day. [In 1970], the United States […] had the world’s highest graduation rates of any developed country; [our nation] now ranks [at] No. 22 out of [the world’s] 27 [developed] countries.

[Statistically], high-school dropouts commit 75% of our [nation’s] crimes. The unemployment rate for [these former students] is 9.1%; for those with high-school diplomas, it’s 5.8%, and [for those] with college degrees, [it’s] 3.3%. The average high-school dropout earns $20,240 annually versus $30,600 for a high-school graduate.

According to The New York Times, if we could reduce the number of dropouts by a little over half, this would yield close to 700,000 […] graduates each year. These […] graduates […] would obtain a higher rate of employment and earnings, […] would be less likely to draw on public money for healthcare and welfare, and less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system—[a]nd, because of the increase in income, [they] would contribute more in tax revenues. Each of these graduates over their lifetime produces a net benefit to taxpayers of $127,000 in government savings, [which] would benefit the public close to $90 billion each year. […] That is serious money and an easy issue that both Democrats and Republicans can rally behind to reduce our deficit while supporting funding for education.

Throughout the years, […] our leaders have made attempts to reduce the dropout rate through improving our educational system. Kennedy […] [desegregated] public schools to give all kids the hope of a better education. Johnson established Head Start so all kids would have a chance to start on equal footing. Carter upgraded the Department of Education to cabinet-level status. Clinton passed the “Goals 2000 Educate America Act,” which gave resources to states and communities to enact outcomes-based education with the theory that students will reach higher levels of achievement when more is expected of them. George W. Bush passed the “No Child Left Behind Act,” which worked to close the gap between rich and poor students by targeting more federal funding to low-income schools. Obama passed the $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” legislation, which has competitive grants supporting education reform and innovations in classrooms. Yet, we still have 1.2 million students dropping out of high school each year.

[A]ccording to The Arizona Republic, the 18,000 high-school [students who dropped out] this year will cost Arizona $7.6 billion over their lifetime. Phoenix, the country’s sixth-largest city, had the highest rate of youth disconnection among the country’s 25 largest metropolitan areas [in 2012], with 24% of its students dropping out of high school. [T]his year’s dropouts will cost Arizona $4.9 billion in lost income, $869 million in health costs, $1.7 billion in crime-related expenses and $26 million in welfare over their lifetime. On top of all [of] this, statewide, 22% of [those ages] 16 [to] 24 […] are [neither] working [nor] in school, [totaling] 182,000 young people.

The societal impact of our kids dropping out of school is devastating. Our schools know early on when many of these kids are in trouble. Key indicators include poor grades in core subjects, low attendance rates, failure to be promoted to the next grade, and disengagement in the classrooms, which would also include behavioral problems. [T]o save these kids, [o]ur government needs to invest in early childhood education. When students enter school without the needed knowledge and skills, they begin behind and just never catch up. Early childhood programs need to support the emotional, cognitive and social development of kids.

So what should our schools do to curb this enormous economic problem? Because many dropouts feel alienated from others and disconnected from the school experience, schools must ensure that all students have meaningful relationships with adults while at school. This obviously includes teachers and administrators but should include counselors, volunteers, and more paid and unpaid mentors. Schools must have individualized learning sessions and nontraditional options, [which] may include online learning and intensive tutoring programs. Also, students with disabilities, who are twice as likely to drop out as students with[out] disabilities, must be offered [more personalized] programs from Kindergarten [through 12th grade].

This is truly a grassroots effort in each community to lower our dropout rates. There are national programs to help on the local level. Communities in Schools, an organization that has been around for 30 years, […] helps bring community resources inside public schools […] for at-risk kids to succeed in the classroom and in life. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America provide programs, services, and a safe place to learn and grow and connect with adults. […]

Dropouts cause our society emotional pain because we all feel sorry for those less fortunate and struggling to survive, [b]ut the cold, hard fact [is that dropouts also] cause us economic pain that could be avoided. […] We have to get our schools the resources to go at this problem head on. Maybe if we approach our current congressional leaders that this is an economics problem, not a school funding issue, we can finally get their attention.

Original article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marc-joseph/dropouts-are-putting-a-ma_b_5586176.html

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