|Dropout age important, not priority|
|Written by Emily Warner, Columnist|
|Tuesday, 19 June 2012 16:05|
If the U.S. education system was a car, it would be totaled. Sure, there are some parts that work fine, but the damage is beyond repair unless a lot of money is spent to fix it. With that in mind, the dropout age should be the least of people’s worries when it comes to education.
In January, President Obama called for raising the high school dropout age to 18. But why? In the past 30 years, the rate of 16 to 24 year olds without a high school diploma or GED has continued to decrease. And where is the funding to keep kids in school going to come from?
Of the 29 states that allow students to leave school before they turn 18, only Maryland has plans to raise the dropout age. The state plans to increase the age to 17 in 2015 and is budgeting $35 million for the change, and then increasing the age to 18 in 2017, which will cost the state another $54 million effort for an idea that does not even guarantee that students graduate.
The thing to focus on for education is how grossly uneven the education students receive in this country is. With funding coming from property taxes, schools in low-income areas have little to no resources while 30 minutes away in a suburb, kids are sitting pretty, using brand new computers. Perhaps if the resources were more evenly distributed, students would have less cause to drop out because learning would be a more enjoyable experience.
But say that enjoyable experience or not, students are going to drop out — what is the underlying cause of that?
Some students need to bring in incomes for their families and are either pressured from their families or make the decisions themselves to chip in. Or I think of the girls I see on shows like "Teen Mom" and see how difficult it is for them to get their GED after dropping out of high school to raise their baby.
But what if they hadn’t been able to drop out due to age? These teens are already strapped for cash and then they would have to pay for daycare too.
That’s why if the dropout age is raised to 18, there have to be options for students who have different lifestyles. This could mean free in-school daycare, independent or home schooling, or an option such as night school. My brother finished high school by going to night school, and instead of having the bad grades that he carried through traditional high school, he actually made the honor roll in night school.
With the idea that a college degree is the new high school diploma, the importance of people having a high school diploma is imperative, and I see how high school dropouts is an issue as, according to a report from Education Week, three out of every 10 students leave high school without a diploma.
In addition to this, these 16-year-olds that are choosing to drop out of high school are making a life-altering decision before they are mature enough and reasonable enough to wrap their heads around the gravity of a situation.
But even if the dropout age is raised all the way to 18, students can still make it to their birthdays and drop out of school or get kicked out for having bad grades, showing that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
I’m an Obama supporter, but calling to action a measure like this is like reading a ransom note and pointing out a spelling error — there is a much bigger picture to be focusing on.