Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 24, 2009
High school dropouts, who are more likely to commit crimes than their peers with diplomas, cost the state $1.1 billion annually in law enforcement and victim costs while still minors, according to a study being released today.
The California Dropout Research Project at UC Santa Barbara found that cutting the dropout rate in half would prevent 30,000 juvenile crimes and save $550 million every year.
Drop-out statistics are notoriously difficult to pinpoint, but according to the state Department of Education, nearly 19% of students don’t graduate from high school. In Los Angeles County, the figure is more than one in five, and at some L.A. schools, fewer than half of students graduate within four years.
The California Dropout Research Project previously studied the economic effect of not finishing high school and found that for each group of 20-year-olds who fail to complete high school (roughly 120,000 per year), the economic loss is $46.4 billion.
“Dropout prevention is crime prevention,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, chairman of the board of the nonprofit Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a bipartisan effort by law enforcement officials and crime victims. “Schools need better tools for identifying potential dropouts so they can target interventions at the kids who need them most.”