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Bob Wise Touts Equitable, Quality Education as Means to Improve Economy

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April 30, 2013 04:51 pm

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In his monthly Huffington Post column, Alliance for Excellent Education president and former West Virginia governor Bob Wise discusses the moral – and economic – imperative of a quality, equitable education. Citing a recent Alliance report, Inseparable Imperatives: Equity in Education and the Future of the American Economy, he points out the current achievement and opportunity gaps between white and affluent students and students of color, Native American students, and low-income students. Over the next decade, he says, minority students will become the majority in a number of school districts and states. If they are not receiving the best education available while they prepare to enter college and a career, it will have negative consequences for the U.S. economy. On the flip side, by addressing these outstanding gaps in high school graduation rates between white students and students of color, the nation could see ecnomic growth, while also improving the lives of millions of young Americans. 

“The nation’s economy is two-thirds consumer driven, meaning that the majority of its economic growth is dependent on every citizen’s ability to spend at increasing levels. In order to increase purchasing power, workers need to be competitive in today’s job market, which is nearly impossible without a high school diploma.

Based on the latest jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, high school dropouts are 1.5 times more likely to be unemployed than high school graduates and 3 times more likely to be unemployed than college graduates. When employed, high school dropouts earn approximately $9 per hour, compared to $13 per hour for individuals with a high school diploma and $25 per hour for college graduates. To be prosperous in this century, the United States must have more than a $9-per-hour economy.

As students of color are quickly becoming the largest group of consumers, their ability to be major drivers of individual and national economic growth depends upon the quality of their education. For example, if every state had reached the America’s Promise Alliance’s goal of graduating 90 percent of its students, many of whom are students of color, for just the Class of 2011, America would have more than 750,000 additional high school graduates, which would likely result in more than $9 billion in increased annual earnings, more than $22 billion in increased home sales, and 47,000 newly created jobs.”

You can read Wise’s full column on the Huffington Post.

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