Dropout Health

It's often pointed out that high school graduates make more money over their lifetimes than do dropouts. A new survey wants to point out that high school graduates also tend to be healthier over the course of their lives compared to dropouts. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports preventing dropouts could save on health costs.

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"The message is quite clear that investing in high school reform and getting our kids to graduate pays off. It pays off for them and there's a return on investment for all of us."

Former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. It's a Washington-based policy, research and advocacy group.

"What we show is that if Texas could graduate one class of graduates it would save $1.6 million dollars in healthcare costs and that's just for one class of dropouts."

Wise says high school reform is needed to educate children for the modern workforce.

"It was designed for another time when we could afford to have 30 to 40 percent of our kids dropping out and another 30 to 40 percent not going to college. We can't afford that anymore. 90 percent of the new jobs being created will require some type of post-secondary education."

He says dropouts tend not to make informed health decisions.

"We also know that they are much more likely to need Medicaid, government healthcare provided for the low income. So what this study shows is that there's a direct link between tax payers saving money on healthcare costs by greatly reducing the dropout rate."

Wise says graduation is not only better for the students, but the population as a whole.

"The second group that is affected is the rest of us because we pay these costs. We pay for the increased healthcare costs, we pay, if somebody is not able to pay their share of taxes, then we have to pick it up. And so what we are doing with these studies is to demonstrate conclusively why we all need to be involved in high school reform both at state and the federal, national level."

Wise points out that Congress next year will be taking up the "No Child Left Behind Act" which expires.

"It does not cover high schools for the most part. What is it that needs to be in there to make sure we can correct this situation and so that we no longer have two out of three of our kids finishing their high school years not ready for the modern work place or college."

Wise says the legislation could support reading programs in middle and high schools. He says schools should be required to measure graduation rates.Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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