Local News

Group: Dropouts Take Toll on N.C. Economy

Posted October 24, 2007 1:09 p.m. EDT
Updated October 24, 2007 6:46 p.m. EDT

— A recent study suggests dropouts cost North Carolina millions of dollars each year.

The study, conducted by Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina in conjunction with Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, documented the public costs of the state's high school dropouts.

According to the study, nearly one-third of students entering public school in North Carolina do not graduate, costing the state $169 million per year. The costs involve lost income tax revenue, extra Medicaid spending and housing for prisoners who didn't get their diplomas.

The report suggests a slight increase in private school enrollment would save up to $24 million annually. Not everyone is sold on that idea.

The groups said one way to reduce the number of high school dropouts is to find a way to make more private schools available to parents. According to the Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, nationwide research has shown that school districts with more students in private schools have higher public school graduation rates.

Many of the high school freshmen who walk the halls of Johnston County schools won't be there by their senior year. Johnston County has a 75 percent graduation rate. About 400 students drop out per year.

“I think it's a big concern for all of us. If we have one high school student who drops out it's a major concern,” said Johnston County Schools Superintendent Anthony Parker.

It is a much bigger problem on a statewide level.

“North Carolina will continue to pay a dear price well into the future for failing to solve this problem,” said Robert Enlow with the Friedman Foundation.

Advocates of the study want to make private and alternative schools available to more parents. They say a slight increase in private enrollment could make a big difference.

Rep. Earline Parmon, (D) Forsyth County, said she is more open to hearing about other options in terms of educating students.

Parker said he believes Johnston County Schools can provide the type of education that will keep students in school. The school system already has at-risk counselors in every high school to help address the issue, he said.

Educators say one problem with drop out numbers is that it can be difficult to track students who leave the system or enroll in GED programs.