Report: Dropouts cost Arizona billions of dollars

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- This year's high school dropouts could cost the state of Arizona more than $7 billion in lost productivity and government payments involving crime, health care and other expenses, a new report shows.

Dropouts are less likely to find steady work and instead engage in criminal activity or use public assistance, according to the report released Wednesday by several Arizona mayors at a meeting in Phoenix.

It says more than 18,000 students dropped out of high school this year.

The report attributes the losses over the lifetimes of those students to $4.9 billion in lost income; nearly $870 million in health care costs; $1.7 billion in crime-related expenses; and $26 million in welfare.

"We know as mayors the future success of the schools in our cities and our cities are one and the same," Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said.

The report states that dropouts who later go on to college could save Arizona as much as $398 million.

The Arizona Department of Education says 22 percent of 9th graders statewide don't finish high school. Yet, more than 60 percent of jobs in the state by 2018 will require some higher education.

The California Dropout Research Project oversaw the report using data from the department, the U.S. Census and a recent university study.

The report focused on the dropout population in 10 cities, including Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe and Tucson as well as rural areas such as Miami, Oro Valley and Sahuarita.

The mayors, who were speaking to the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, say they would like to see businesses in those communities build relationships with schools.

"The economic impact is something we cannot ignore, but it also presents an opportunity to build relationships and build on the success we have in partnerships with nonprofits, the business community and local government," said Chad Heinrich, chamber vice-president of economic development.

Stanton suggested creating more internships and scholarships to keep students interested in higher education.

Officials with the Tucson Unified School District will take the message door to door next month, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

School officials as well as former dropouts will reach out to students at their homes during a walk on July 18.

"Our hope is that the children and families will see that if all of these people are taking the time, this is important," Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said.

Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable


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