Monday, August 28, 2006

The Dropout Problem In Kentucky

The best problems for big government to have are those that have no solution but do possess a very active constituency. So much the better if that active constituency persistently campaigns for increasing sums of money to "solve" the problem.

The high school dropout rate is a great problem for big government fans in Kentucky. Any education bureaucrat worth his salt can preach convincingly on the need to reduce the dropout rate. The income statistics and crime statistics tied to education attainment -- or lack of it -- really are compelling.

A former effort to reduce the dropout rate had us forcing kids to stay in school or lose their drivers licenses. This law served an educational function as hundreds of affected teenagers learned how to exploit the hardship loophole when caught driving on a license suspended due to dropping out of school. (Hey, it was more fun than civics class!)

We keep trying program after program to reduce the dropout rate, all to no avail. Yet the next program is just a brainstorm away. Open your checkbooks. Here it comes!

I have an alternative approach. Let's see how high we can push the drop-out rate. Class sizes are always a problem so let's see how we can encourage those who don't want to be in school to clear out so willing students can get what they need.

If the state offered to pay sixteen year old public school students $500 to drop out of school, we would see those who valued education that little head for the exits.

Good riddance, good luck with the job search, and -- most important -- good for the willing students who remain in school. And good for the state as well. Five hundred dollars and a pat on the back is much less money than it would cost to house an uninterested student for another couple of years and no real public benefit.

Okay, the diploma counts for something. So let's give $1000 to the same would-be dropout if he can pass the GED exams. A little incentive is a good thing.

This would be a positive for everyone involved. Kids who don't value education will get more than they eat up otherwise to hit the street. Some of those same low achievers will decide to hit the books before hitting the door in order to get the extra GED money. In the process, they will pick up a diploma. The most important lesson will be for those who stay in school, seeking higher education rather than going for the quick -- and small -- bucks.