Thursday, September 25, 2008

Save Money and Futures

Yesterday the lead editorial in the Chicago SunTimes was "Save money and futures: Get dropouts into school." This was an endorsement of a state task force report calling for a statewide system of re-enrolling dropouts that would return 25,000 teens each year to comprehensive alternative high school programs. The cost could be $99 million a year when all 25,000 slots are added.

I've written about the high school drop out crisis in past articles. I've also pointed to research by people like Dr. James Heckman, a Nobel winning economist from the University of Chicago, who shows that sustained investments in disadvantaged children would have dramatic results, and that programs that invest at later years, not only cost more, but have less impact.

Thus while I agree with the concern for the 25,000 youth who have dropped out, I urge the SunTimes and others to advocate for a public and private sector funding strategy that supports kids from preschool to first job, with a variety of tutoring, mentoring, social emotional, arts and learning programs, available in non school hours and locations, not just in schools.

If we prevent more of these teens from dropping out in the first time, we reduce the problems we face later on.

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