High school dropouts are costing the state of Arizona billions, according to a new report by the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable.
The more than 18,000 Arizona students who dropped out of high school this year will produce $7.6 billion less economic activity over their lifetimes than those who did graduate, the report says. In Phoenix alone, 3,070 students did not graduate in 2012. That amounts to $1.4 billion in lifetime economic losses for the state and city.
One in five Arizona youth did not graduate, according to the report. Each Phoenix student that does not graduate results in a $463,500 loss in economic activity over his or her lifetime due to decreased earnings and increased public and private spending on health, crime and welfare.
According to the report, youth who do not graduate are less likely to find a job and earn a living wage, and more likely to have poor health, engage in criminal behavior and require public assistance.
“This report should be a wake-up call to everyone in our state about why it is so important that we work together to get every student to graduate high school,” said Mayor Greg Stanton in a statement. “It’s important for us to have city-level data so every elected official understands that if we sit idly by and leave this problem for others to solve, we do so at our own peril.”
Of the $1.4 billion in losses from Phoenix students, $193 million represents fiscal losses to state and local governments, the report said. Reducing the amount of dropouts by half would generate more than $711 million in lifetime economic benefit for the city and state.
“We’ve all known that dropouts have a cost to our society, but this report displays it in a startling way,” remarked Todd Sanders, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. “We at the Greater Phoenix Chamber commend the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable for illuminating the stark reality of the economic burden of dropouts in our cities and state, and we look forward to working collaboratively with the mayors and the community to seek educational reforms and provide programs that will ease the economic burden of dropouts and improve our future economy.”
Stanton said Phoenix is working to make sure kids read by third grade and is opening an online high school to make going back to school easier for those who have dropped out.
“Beyond the profound consequences to individuals and their families, we are now able to quantify the impact of school dropouts on Arizona’s economy,” said Paul H. Koehler, director of WestEd’s Policy Center and coordinator of the Mayors Roundtable. “This report should serve as a clarion call to action for state educators, policy makers, and all Arizonans.”
The report used an economic model based on national research evidence and Arizona-specific data. The full report can be found at AZmayors.org.
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