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Obama’s war on high school dropouts

William McMahon, a student at the University of Missouri, wrote a column for The College Conservative arguing that President Obama is wrong to force high school students to stay in school until they are legal adults:

First, it is important to address the issue of choice.  What seems to be a common theme in politics repeats itself; the government allows individuals a choice.  When individuals make the wrong choice, the government declares the ability to choose must be eliminated.  This attitude is especially disquieting in a nominally “pro-choice” President.  It seems that in the eyes of the administration, a seventeen-year-old girl is qualified to decide the fate of her unborn child, but is unable to decide whether or not to attend high school.

The practical reality of this proposal also brings into question its moral integrity.  The federal government involves itself only to the extent of requiring states to require students to stay until graduation or their 18th birthday.  Despite stripping the states of the right to decide the minimal amount of high school education, the federal government still leaves the states to pay for it.  There is some degree of correlation between low graduation rates and high poverty rates in states.  Mississippi, the state with the highest rate of poverty, also has a graduation rate of 63.9%. Although 100% graduation is not realistic, even under Obama’s plan, let us assume the goal of 100% graduation is achieved.  This would represent a 56.5% increase in student population at Mississippi high schools.  Either the state must raise taxes on its already financially beleaguered population or accept larger class sizes and fewer teachers per student.  One option would harm a vulnerable economy while the other would create an environment where academic enrichment is even harder to obtain.  This makes the incentive to drop out even greater.

This plan has been tried before in various states, like New Mexico, whose graduation rate is, nevertheless, only 65%, as well as Texas, which is scarcely better at 67%, and Hawaii at 69%.  More positive examples do exist, like Wisconsin, with an impressive 85% graduation rate.  Iowa, meanwhile, lets students drop out at 16 years old and has an astounding 93% graduation rate.  Georgia also lets 16-year-old students drop out and has a graduation rate of only 54%. There does not appear to be any correlation whatsoever between minimum age for dropping out and graduation rates.

Read the full column at The College Conservative.

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