The Dropout Crisis
?When more than one million students drop out of school, it?s more than a problem, it?s a catastrophe.? -- Colin Powell
Our nation?s education system is in crisis. Every year, an estimated 1.2 million students drop out of school. That means that every 24 seconds, a student drops out. and every school day, more than 7,000 students drop out of school. One out of three U.S. students does not graduate from high school. Among students of color, the dropout rate is almost 50 percent. Only 44% of Black males and 52% of Latino males graduate from high school.
Dropping out of school is like dropping out of society, and cumulative costs to the public are in the billions. Compared with high school graduates, dropouts are more likely to live in poverty, be unemployed or earn significantly less than graduates. They are more likely to be incarcerated, suffer from poor health, or depend on costly social services. Most dropouts earn significantly less income or never enter the workforce at all. On average, high school dropouts earn $9,000 less per year than a high school graduate and $1,000,000 less over a lifetime than a college graduate.
Ultimately, we all pay the price for this lack of academic achievement. The economy suffers, as businesses spend more on remedial training and taxpayers bear the expense of more prisons, higher public assistance rolls, and escalating health care costs.
? 60% of all those on unemployment rolls are not high school graduates.
Students who fail in school often fail in other areas of life. Millions of uneducated, jobless young adults are left with little hope and little future. They are also more likely to experience social problems stemming from feelings of hopelessness and disempowerment.
The Crisis in LAUSD
The statistics in Los Angeles are particularly dismal. In the Los Angeles Unified School District, the dropout rate is nearly 40% and some studies estimate the graduation rate as low as 45%. In the 2006-07 academic year, this translated to 20,000 young Angelenos who left school without diplomas. These are not just statistics. Each one of these 20,000 young people is someone who is likely to fail to live up to their potential. They will not make the contribution to our economy or to their community of which they are capable. If this is allowed to continue, the potential impact on our city is devastating.
Unfortunately, as a result of our current fiscal crisis, in the short term, the problem at LAUSD looks likely to get worse not better. To make ends meet for the 2008-2009 school year, LAUSD has cut deeply from its budget by laying off teachers, cancelling summer school, increasing class sizes and postponing textbook purchases. LAUSD faces more cuts for the 2009-2010 school year in the range of $200 million to $300 million. For further discussion of LAUSD?s crisis, see Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines?s discussion at www.lausd.net. Budget cuts will surely exacerbate the problem as class sizes and counselor case loads increase and more students fall through the cracks. It will be harder for students to make up credits needed to graduate or just to find a safe, constructive place to spend their summer.
Now more than ever, school districts like LAUSD need community based organizations like CISLAW to help them combat the drop out crisis, our nation?s ?silent epidemic?.