Speaking off the cuff, then-State Senate President Emil Jones said
back in 2006 that "dropping out of high school was an apprenticeship
for prison.” A Chicago-based education organization commissioned some
research on the claim. And after combing through recent census ...
Speaking off the cuff, then-State Senate President Emil Jones said back in 2006 that "dropping out of high school was an apprenticeship for prison.” A Chicago-based education organization commissioned some research on the claim. And after combing through recent census data, the Alternative Schools Network (ASN) reports (PDF) that youth who dropout of high school are actually 63 times more likely to end up behind bars or in a state institution than their peers who graduate from college. Not surprisingly, young black male dropouts between the ages of 16 and 24 are disproportionately affected -- a stunning 23 percent wind up in prison, compared with between 6 to 7 percent for Asians, Hispanics, and whites.
We've highlighted report after report about Illinois' growing student achievement gap, which has become one of the worst in the nation. The high school dropout problem is an equally disturbing trend. In Chicago, for example, more African-American males leave school (55 percent) than graduate (40 percent). Statewide, the dropout rate hovers around 30 percent. As ASN's Jack Wuest told WBEZ, this is contributing to the youth violent that has been making headlines as of late:
If you look at the people who don't commit violence who are young people, they're the ones who are engulfed in the good schools and relatively good communities, those kind of conditions help prevent youth violence and we need to build the communities with decent jobs for the adults.
By continually failing to reach even basic school funding targets, Illinois lawmakers have contributed to the problem. And alternative education has fared worse. Alternative high schools and reenrollment programs were on the chopping block this year, taking between 10 and 25 percent cuts. As ASN notes, the ongoing failure to fund education is only adding more pressure to the state's overall economy, a point that business-friendly education advocates have also tried to drive home. More from the report:
Over their working lives, the average high school dropout will have a negative net fiscal contribution to society of nearly -$5,200 while the average high school graduate generates a positive lifetime net fiscal contribution of $287,000. The average high school dropout will cost taxpayers over $292,000 in lower tax revenues, higher cash and in-kind transfer costs, and imposed incarceration costs relative to an average high school graduate.
Fortunately, there are some solutions on the table. Back in July, the Illinois Hope and Opportunity Pathways through Education (IHOPE) Act (SB 1796) was signed into law, creating a system for re-enrolling dropouts. The initiative was developed by a blue ribbon commission (PDF) that identified the re-enrollment strategy as a crucial priority. But IHOPE's budget is contingent upon $25 million in state funding. In the short-term, Wuest tells us that his organization is lobbying for some of the federal "race to the top" money and other federal grants flow through to alternative high schools. But that's no match for raising new tax revenue. Otherwise, Wuest tells us, "We're on the Titanic, it's just a matter of when are we going to hit the iceberg."