We are asking, again this year, why doesn’t Georgia raise the high school drop -out age, from 16 to 17 or 18?
The facts about our current dropouts are very clear…
they earn far less money, are more likely to be in jail, less healthy, less likely to be married, and more likely to be on various forms of government assistance such as food stamps and welfare..
Twenty states have already made this change, according to a study by the Education Commission of the States.
11 states set the age at 17, while 19 states still allow students to leave school at age 16, according to the commission.
Alabama raised its dropout age from 16 to 17 and began requiring parents of a student wishing to leave school to have an exit interview during which they are told of the detrimental effects of not graduating.
Alabama also requires anyone under the age of 19 to show that they are enrolled in school, have graduated, or are gainfully employed to get a driver’s license.
Critics might say that raising the age requirement would mean putting off the inevitable for another year, at the expense of the state.
But let’s face it…this would at least give educators more time to reach these students, which would save the state much more money in the long run, as dropouts are not adding to our local economy’s productivity and taxes, and will cost taxpayers for their healthcare, welfare, or the cost of keeping them in jail.
This step would give potential dropouts another year to think about it, and to mature before they make a decision that affects the rest of their life.
We were reminded recently of a costly missed opportunity for Albany State University and our community when the Ray Charles Foundation made a 3-million dollar donation to Morehouse College to help build a Fine Arts Center in honor of the music legend. It’s a center that should have been built here in Ray Charles’ hometown.
More than a decade ago, Charles made donated 3-million dollars to ASU. Back then, University officials said they would use the money to build the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center.
State money for the project was held up, and the school ended up spending most of the donated money for scholarships and other expenses. The Ray Charles Foundation demanded the money back and even asked the Georgia Attorney General’s Office to intervene. Last year, Albany State relented and repaid most of the money.
University leaders still insist Ray Charles placed no restrictions on how ASU could use his donation, and an investigation by the University System of Georgia showed the college did not inappropriately spend the money. But that’s not the point.
It’s clear the initial plan was to build a center in Ray Charles’ name, and that’s certainly what his foundation wanted. Because of the size of the gift, the University should have bent over backwards to make the foundation happy. ASU may never get another donation that large. It certainly won’t ever have another chance to have a building named after Albany’s most famous native, a facility that would have attracted students and brought prestige to our area.
Written by Jim Wilcox, general manager of WALB.