November 15, 2001 11:00 pm

Once again Oregons educational system is in the national news. Not necessarily for the reasons that most Oregonians would be proud of but instead for the fact that the state has one of the worst high school graduation rates in the country 40th out of the 50 states. The shock is that one in every three freshmen will drop out of high school.

The figures are even more devastating for Oregons minority students. One in two African American and Latino students dont graduate. These figures come from research by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. In recent years, the number of high school dropouts had hovered between 25 and 30


The failure of Oregons educational system (K-12) to help all of the states students toward the goal of receiving a high school degree is even more shocking when you consider the amount of money that the Legislature has earmarked for K-12. In the 2001-2002 school year, over $2.5 billion in taxpayer money will be spent in what is becoming a system that is failing. These increases have been pressured by those in Oregon who believe that the only way to successfully improve education is to continue to increase spending. It is evident that increasing funding for education is not the right answer.

For those who would have the public believe that getting a General Education Development certificate is the equivalent to graduating from high school, the reality is that those young men and women fall into the category of high school dropouts. The median income for GED certificate holders is $15,000 per year compared with $29,000 for those with a high school diploma. This means that most high school dropouts and GED holders are being doomed to a life of financial misery.

What is the answer to decreasing the dropout rate among Oregon high schoolers? It isnt more money. Rather it is looking outside the traditional box when approaching educational excellence and improvement. It means being willing to try new ideas when it comes to helping minority and non-minority students improve their opportunities to complete their high school experience with a high school diploma. And it means looking at those states where they are seeing a much higher rate of graduation. Idaho is doing better than Oregon, being ranked 29th, but perhaps we should be looking at Iowa, where 93 percent of students earn a high school diploma.

There isnt any reason for Oregon to reinvent the educational wheel. We need to see whats being done right and then bring those ideas to Oregon. We should stop looking with suspicion at private schools and home schoolers. We should learn what they are doing and implement their successes.

One thing we cant afford to do is continue to argue about the problem. Too many of our children are already doomed to a difficult future. We must act now to assure that future high school classes will be successful.