Rick Perry: Fact vs. Fiction on Education, Dropout Problem

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Yesterday, the Houston Chronicle penned a piece that must be read by everyone. (Seriously, if you are concerned about education or the lack of leadership in the Governor's office, forward this article on to everyone you can.)

Lisa Falkenberg wrote an article aptly titled, “Whopper is too big to let pass”, were she highlights Rick Perry's lies and deception on the massive drop out problem plaguing Texas.

In the face of years of research showing the rate upwards of 30 percent, and as high as 50 percent in some large urban districts, Perry's camp insisted it was only about 10 percent.

“The percent of students who enter high school and eventually earn a diploma or equivalent, or who remain in pursuit of a diploma or equivalent, is 90 percent,” Perry spokesman Mark Miner told the Chronicle's Gary Scharrer.

The number prompted laughter from a few, including Republican state Rep. Rob Eissler, chair of the House public education committee.

“Yeah. That's not what I base my stuff on,” said The Woodlands lawmaker, who believes the figure is about 30 percent. “You've got to categorize that as a bit campaign rhetoric. If our dropout rate were just 10 percent, I'd be feeling a lot better.”

Since Rick Perry is continuing the strategy of sticking his head in a hole and ignoring real problems, Democratic Candidate, Mayor Bill White, sent out some information today informing the Governor of the real problems facing Texas dropouts.

Bill White's approach to Texas' future is to know the facts, understand the needs of Texas families and find solutions,” said campaign spokesperson Katy Bacon. “Unfortunately, Rick Perry's approach to issues is to ignore them or stick with a discredited sound bite for the convenience of his political career.”

Here are the facts:

      Dropouts earn thousands of dollars less than high school graduates each year, and hundreds of thousands of dollars less over a lifetime.
      Census Bureau data shows that in recent years, median annual earnings for people without a diploma or GED are 42% less than for people with a diploma. Over the course of a 40-year work life, without adjusting for inflation, a person in Texas without a diploma or GED would earn $307,560 less than a high school graduate.

      It is not just students who suffer economic losses: we all lose out on dropouts.
      A recent study by researchers at Texas A&M's Bush School of Government and Public Policy found that dropouts are more likely to be unemployed, pay less in taxes and be incarcerated — all factors that hurt the Texas economy. The study concluded that the state's losses due to dropouts from the Class of 2012 will be between $5 billion and $9 billion.

      Effects vary by region, with some of Texas' largest communities suffering most.
      The Fort Worth Star Telegram analyzed a study by the Alliance for Excellent Education, concluding, “If North Texas schools, including those in Dallas and Tarrant counties, could decrease their dropout rates by half, it could mean an additional $143 million in spending a year for the region.” In fact, the article continues, “[e]ven just 1,000 additional graduates could bring an add $1.3 million to local and state tax proceeds each year.”

While Rick Perry continues to ignore Texas dropouts for the sake of perpetuating his political career, communities across Texas are replicating a successful solution that Bill White helped pioneer, an annual “Reach Out to Dropouts” walk.

Rick Perry has been Governor for 10 years and in public office for 25 years. He has time to fix the problem (or even address there is a problem) and he has done neither. Perry is showing why 49% of this party don't support him and 61% of general election voters voted against him in 2006.

His policy on tough issues is to ignore the problem until it goes away. The problem is, that's not how it works. The problem will trickle down to harm our economic infrastructure, school districts, and this will serve to increase the amount of people dependent on government to live and sustain themselves.

Rather than hide from the problem, maybe Rick Perry should engage in the discussion and put forth any ideas to solve our education woes.

Instead we get something else. Again from Lisa Falkenberg:

Of course, none of this is news to Perry. The dropout crisis is just an inconvenient truth during campaign season, and denial is the most convenient response.

But the governor should realize that while playing games with the numbers may help fend off a political opponent during one day of campaigning, it doesn't bring us closer to a solution. And it doesn't give any of us the confidence that he's really out there looking for one.

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