High School dropouts are expensive for Tucson taxpayers - Tucson News Now

High School dropouts are expensive for Tucson taxpayers

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Dropping out of high school can be expensive.

Not just for the student who will likely find lower wages, little or no health care and in too many cases, a life of crime.

But the expenses add up on the other side of the ledger too.

A new study commissioned by the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable shows in Tucson, a high school drop out may cost the community as much as $383,000 between the ages of 18 and 65.

The total for the city is estimated to be $434 million dollars.

That's the price the 1,100 drop outs this year will cost the system throughout their lifetime.

But it's not just the city.

According to the new report,  drop outs are costing Arizona nearly $8 billion in loss economic growth.

The report says a student who dropped out as part of the 2012 class will experience a personal economic loss of $421,000 over a lifetime.

In an effort to cut the costs and insure a better outcome, the city will begin a new program called Steps for Success.

It will target the recently dropped out.

TUSD's new Superintendent Dr. H.T. Sanchez says he has identified 434 of those dropouts and where they live.

On July 18th, Tucson's Mayor Jonathan Rothschild along with Sanchez and others, will walk door to door to talk to the kids.

"To see if we can get them re-engaged and re-enrolled in school," Rothschild says.

"It should be a big deal when a kid says I want to drop out of high school," says Carrie Brennan, Principal of City High School. "it should be a really big deal."

City High, a charter school of about 180 students, will often have students enroll who have dropped out or at least contemplating dropping out elsewhere.

"The biggest thing we try to do with drop out prevention is to actually forecast it the best we can," she says. "By paying attention to at risk factors."

It seems to work. Drop outs are fewer than one in a 100.

But budget cuts on the state level in recent years have made class sizes larger making it more difficult for teachers to develop personal relationships with students.

"Sometimes it's too easy," says Brennan.

A local group, Youth On Their Own, is also trying to change all that.

According to the report, 18,100 students didn't graduate in 2012 creating an economic loss of $7.6 billion for the state. 

"There are quite a few different really drastic terrible things that could happen to someone who drops out," said Youth On Their Own Program Manager Dane Binder. 

"High school drop outs may end up below the poverty line, they may end up utilizing public services," he said. 

The report says 1,140 students dropped out in the 2012 cohort, losing the Tucson economy $434 million over those student's lifetime. Binder says there are several reasons why students don't graduate: having disabilities, to being a refugee student who cannot pass the AIMS.

"When you have enough credits to graduate but you can't pass a standardized test, that's a very common reason for not graduating," said Binder.

Add to that cuts to education funding. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Arizona has the 3rd largest cuts to education since 2008. Binder said this is a public threat and people need to wake up.

"But the fact of the matter is we're talking about billions of dollars in revenue over the course of several years, if that doesn't get you inspired to do something about this problem. I don't know what it's going to take," he said.

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