Saturday, Oct. 7

Gov. Blagojevich launches task force to focus on re-enrolling high school dropouts          Send a link to a friend

[OCT. 7, 2006]  SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced on Oct. 2 a new task force to focus on re-enrolling students who have dropped out of high school. Research shows that high school graduates earn more than $9,000 more a year than high school dropouts. Dropouts are also 3 1/2 times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested in their lifetime.

The new task force brings together advocates, educators, legislators and state agencies to build on the governor's ongoing efforts to keep kids in school and re-enroll those who drop out. Last year, the dropout rate for Illinois students showed the greatest one-year improvement since 1994, the year the state began tracking this information.

The creation of this task force builds on increased support for efforts to re-enroll, teach and graduate students across Illinois. In the current fiscal year, Blagojevich's budget includes $18.1 million for the Illinois State Board of Education's Truant Alternative and Optional Education Program and $18.5 million for the Regional Safe Schools program -- a $500,000 increase in both programs over the previous fiscal year. The budget includes an additional $24 million to fund after-school programs at schools throughout the state.

"Two years ago, I signed legislation raising the dropout age from 16 to 17," Blagojevich said. "That law has helped, but we need to do more. We need to find new ways to give at-risk kids the help they need, so they stay in school, graduate, and go on to bigger and better things."

Sponsored by state Rep. Calvin Giles, D-Chicago, and state Sen. Kimberly A. Lightford, D-Maywood, House Joint Resolution 87 establishes the Task Force on Re-enrolling Students Who Dropped Out of School. The task force will examine research and existing policies to develop ways to re-enroll, teach and graduate students who left school before earning a high school diploma. The task force is made up of public representatives and legislators, along with individuals from the governor's office; the Illinois State Board of Education; the departments of Human Services, Children and Family Services, and Commerce and Economic Opportunity; and the Illinois Community College Board. State Board of Education Chairman Jesse H. Ruiz will chair the task force, which plans to have a series of meetings throughout Illinois.

"This task force will address one of the biggest challenges in our schools today," Ruiz said. "By bringing together educators, business and government leaders, along with representatives from the state's human service agencies, we will be able to look at the issue in detail and make new recommendations for ways to address this problem that affects the entire state. We are grateful to Representative Giles, Senator Lightford and Governor Blagojevich for bringing together this group to address this very serious issue."

"Out-of-school youth," Lightford added, "should be supported and encouraged in a positive way -- as young people who want to re-enroll back in school."

"We believe this is a great opportunity to address a problem that has impacted our communities for years," said task force member state Sen. Carol Ronen, D-Chicago. "Illinois is in a position to develop real solutions on this issue, and we must support the many young people who want to re-enroll in school."

The dropout rate for Illinois students last year showed the greatest one-year improvement since 1994, the year the state began tracking this information. As the dropout rate dropped to an all-time low of 4.0 percent, the graduation rate increased to 87.4 percent, the highest rate in the state's history.

Research conducted by Northeastern University shows 174,168 Illinois youth ages 16 to 24 and 98,908 youth ages 16 to 21 have not graduated from high school and are out of school. The majority of these dropouts are from low-income areas of the state.

The benefit to the individual student includes increased wages. Students without a high school diploma earn $516,000 less over their lifetimes than people who have a high school diploma and some college education.

Reducing dropout rates and re-enrolling students brings benefits to the entire state as well. With Illinois employers experiencing a shortage of skilled workers, re-enrolled students could provide the additional workers necessary to meet the needs of Illinois' economy and Illinois' businesses. The benefit to Illinois taxpayers is $312,000 over the lifetime of a re-enrolled student who returns to school and earns a high school diploma in terms of that person paying more taxes and reducing costs for welfare services, mental health and other dependency services, and being less likely to enter prison or incur other costs related to crime.

The National Dropout Prevention Center/Network reports alarming statistics showing the effects that dropping out of high school have on the economy, crime, literacy and health.

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Each year's class of dropouts will cost the country over $200 billion during their lifetimes in lost earnings and unrealized tax revenue. The estimated tax revenue loss from every male between the ages of 25 and 34 who did not complete high school would be approximately $944 billion, with cost increases to public welfare and crime at $24 billion. Nationally, students from low-income families have a dropout rate of 10 percent, with middle-income families 5.2 percent and high-income families 1.6 percent.

Personal income and employment

High school graduates earn an average of $9,245 more per year than high school dropouts. Between October 2001 and October 2002, about 400,000 people dropped out of high school. The unemployment rate for this group was 29.8 percent -- almost 13 percentage points higher than the unemployment rate for recent high school graduates who were not enrolled in college. In today's workplace, only 40 percent of adults who dropped out of high school are employed, compared with 60 percent of adults who completed high school, and 80 percent for those with a bachelor's degree. Employment projections show that jobs requiring only a high school degree will grow by just 9 percent by the year 2008, while those requiring a bachelor's degree will grow by 25 percent.


High school dropouts are 3 1/2 times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested in their lifetime, with 75 percent of America's state prison inmates and 59 percent of the country's federal prison inmates being high school dropouts.

The Alliance for Excellent Education found that efforts to decrease dropout rates yield dramatic results, showing that a 1 percent increase in high school graduation rates would save approximately $1.4 billion in incarceration costs, or about $2,100 per each male high school graduate. Their study further found that a one-year increase in average education levels would reduce arrest rates by 11 percent.


Alliance for Excellent Education research also found serious health concerns related to dropping out of high school, with the U.S. death rate for individuals with less than 12 years of education 2.5 times higher than the rate of those with 13 or more years of education (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2003b).

The Illinois State Board of Education will facilitate the task force, which will conduct public hearings throughout the Illinois to discuss the impact of students who have left school without a high school diploma on various regions of the state and to compare Illinois data with other states in the region and across the country. The task force met for the first time Oct. 3.

Individuals named to the task force:

  • Jack Wuest, Alternative Schools Network

  • Sheila Venson, Youth Connections Charter School

  • Bradley Cox, Illinois Association of School Administrators

  • Elaine Parker, John A. Logan College

  • Michael Bartlett, Illinois Association of School Boards

  • Mary McDonald, Illinois Education Association

  • Ronald Ragsdale, Illinois Federation of Teachers

  • Bill Leavy, Greater Westtown Community Development Corporation

  • Arne Duncan, Chicago Public Schools

  • Alderman Pat O'Connor, Chicago City Council Education Committee

  • Jesse H. Ruiz, State Board of Education, task force chairman

  • Sen. Carol Ronen

  • Sen. Kimberly A. Lightford

  • Rep. Linda Chapa la Via

  • Rep. Monique Davis

  • Sen. Dan Cronin

  • Sen. Todd Sieben

  • Rep. Jerry Mitchell

  • Rep. Suzanne Bassi

  • Ginger Ostro, governor's office

  • Sally Veach, Illinois State Board of Education, Accountability Division

  • Karrie Rueter, Illinois Department of Human Services

  • Cynthia Moreno, Illinois Department of Child and Family Services

  • Therese McMahon, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Bureau of Workforce Development

  • Jeff May, Illinois Community College Board

The task force will issue an interim report to the governor and the General Assembly by Jan. 10, 2007, and will complete its work by making final recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly by Jan. 10, 2008.

[News release from the governor's office]


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