Building and sustaining the public will to reform high schools is one of North Carolina’s best economic development strategies, according to national high school advocate Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia.
Delivering the keynote address at the United Way of Forsyth County’s annual meeting on Tuesday, March 25, Wise said the state’s approximately 41,500 students who did not graduate with the Class of 2007 will cost North Carolina almost $11 billion in lost earnings during their working lives. “Multiply this by each year’s class of dropouts,” Wise said, “and we see that the dropout crisis affects all of North Carolina’s business operators, community leaders, and taxpayers, regardless of whether they have a child in the public school system.
“The best economic stimulus package is a diploma,” said Wise. “Based on annual median income by level of education, we can predict that simply turning 1,000 dropouts into high school graduates would result in an additional $20 million in payroll in any given area, the equivalent of locating a major new business. And suddenly there are hundreds of new taxpayers, home buyers, and big-ticket consumers.”
Author of Raising the Grade: How High School Reform Can Save Our Youth and Our Nation, which will be published this spring, Wise said the commitment to providing quality education in the early grades was paying dividends in increased federal test performance for fourth graders. “But gaining full return on that hard work means not dumping those same children into low-performing middle and high schools,” Wise added.
“The federal government must also learn this lesson about getting maximum return on early education investment,” Wise said, noting that current federal spending for high schools is only 13 percent of what is spent for early childhood. “With over two thirds of the nation’s eighth graders reading below a proficient level, clearly every grade and age requires constant effort.
“North Carolina residents need to continue supporting significant high school reform, and the federal government should be a partner in this national effort. In Congress, the proposed Graduation Promise Act would combine federal dollars with the city and state funds to turn around the lowest performing high schools that have the highest dropout rates.”
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The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington-based policy, research, and advocacy organization that works to make every child a graduate, prepared for postsecondary education and success in life.
For more information about the Alliance for Excellent Education, please visit: https://all4ed.org.