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High school dropouts cost economy billions

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WASHINGTON — High school dropouts are costing some $1.8 billion in lost tax revenue every year, education advocates said in a report released Monday.

If states were to increase their graduation rates, state and federal lawmakers could be plugging their budgets with workers’ taxes instead of furloughing teachers, closing drivers-license offices and cutting unemployment benefits. While advocates tend to focus on the moral argument that all children deserve a quality education, they could just as easily look at budgets’ bottom lines.

This has huge economic implications,” said John Bridgeland, president and CEO of Civic Enterprises, a public policy group that helped write the report.

That’s part of the reason Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday introduced a three-year, $15 million effort to put AmeriCorps members in 60 of the nation’s worst schools. About 650 AmeriCorps members are going to try to raise graduation rates, increase math and reading skills and prepare more students for college.

Turning around our nation’s lowest-performing schools is challenging work that requires everyone to play a part — from teachers, administrators and counselors to business leaders, the philanthropic sector and community members,” Duncan said.