Study: Dropping Out Costs Georgia Billions

Published February 10, 2010

A new study released by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice reveals high-school dropouts are costing Georgia taxpayers billions of dollars.

The high costs of incarceration, Medicaid, and other government programs mean the dropouts from Georgia’s class of 2007 will cost taxpayers $4.8 billion over their lifetimes, the study reports.

“The costs of having high school dropouts are tremendous,” said Kelly McCutcheon, president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, a think tank based in Atlanta. “It is a critical, long-term problem with Georgia.”

Spiraling Down

The study reveals Georgia’s high school graduation rate is only 65 percent.

According to the study, titled, “The Economic and Fiscal Costs of Failing to Reform K-12 Education in Georgia,” each new class of dropouts will cost taxpayers $95 million per year for the rest of their lives.

In addition, the study indicated, high school dropouts are more likely to end up in prison, have higher rates of substance abuse and addiction, rely on more government assistance, and have a higher percentage of children out of wedlock than their peers who graduate from high school.

For McCutcheon these results make two things blatantly clear about Georgia’s educational system.

“One, we do not do well compared to other states. We are toward the bottom,” he said. “And, two, we are not anywhere we need to be.”

Choice-Friendly Atmosphere

One bright spot in Georgia’s educational landscape, however, is its attitude toward school choice, says Paul DiPerna, the Friedman Foundation’s research director.

“Among a handful of other states, Georgia continues to be a major leader for advancing school choice reforms,” DiPerna said.

DiPerna also said the state’s two relatively new school choice programs have been well received by both parents and students.

The three-year-old Special Needs Scholarship provides scholarships to private schools for special-needs students whose parents are unhappy with their assigned Georgia public schools, and the Tax Credits for Student Scholarship Organizations program, which began operating this academic year, provides income-tax credits to individuals and corporations for donating money to student scholarship organizations. So far, that policy has raised more than $8.3 million.

Incremental Change

While Georgia’s school choice forecast is promising, McCutcheon said it has been, and still is, an incremental process.

“We have moved slowly and deliberately, steadily moving toward more choice in education,” he said. “Our hope is to continue down that path, to continue to provide opportunities for online education and more school choice for a larger segment of the population.”

Elisha Maldonado ([email protected]) writes from California.