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Drop-outs, crime linked
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Managing Editor of the

Ceres (Calif.) Courier

Not only are drop-outs twice as likely to commit crimes as high school graduates, but they also cost the state money in juvenile crimes and in economic losses, according to a new UC Santa Barbara study.

If there were only half of the drop-outs, it would reduce the number of juvenile crimes in California by 30,000 a year and save the state $550 million a year, according to a study released Thursday by the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"This study underscores the immediate impact drop-outs have on both public safety and our state's economy," said Russell Rumberger, California Dropout Research Project Director. "If California could effectively reduce the dropout rate, it could subsequently reduce the juvenile crime rate and its staggering impact on the state budget."

For the 2007-08 school year, only 3.7 percent of the students enrolled at the four high schools in Ceres eventually dropped out, according to a study done by the California Department of Education. During that year, there were about 3,549 students enrolled in the Ceres Unified School District for high schools and 132 dropped out.

Ceres' numbers look good when compared to the countywide drop-out rate of 6 percent and statewide average dropout rate of 4.9 percent.

"I think that we have great connections to our familes and students," said Jones. "We really, really focus on keeping our kids here. We really focus on making school relevant for them."

CUSD records a four-year drop-out rate, where the students are kept track of from freshmen year until they graduate, said Mary Jones, assistant superintendent of student services for CUSD. In the 2007-08 school year, CUSD's four-year derived drop-out rates, as a whole, were 15.3 percent; Stanislaus County's drop-out rates were 22.8 percent; and California's drop-out rates were 18.9 percent.

During the 2007-08 school year the drop out rates at Ceres high schools in the Ceres district were:

• Ceres High School, 1.6 percent;

• Central Valley High School, 1 percent;

• Argus High School, 21 percent;

• Endeavor High School, 19 percent.

• Whitmore Charter High, 4.1 percent.

Jones said the district has a concern about the high drop-out rates at the continuation high schools.

"Those are the students who are having a more difficult time in school," said Jones. "That's the reason they didn't make it in the comprehensive schools. That's always a goal to improve the attendance and graduation rates at those two schools."

After the release of this study, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was presented with Senate Bill 651, which would require the California Department of Education to produce an annual report on drop-outs that would focus on drop-out trends and help with early warning signs. This annual report is one of the recommendations suggested by the California Dropout Research Project policy report in 2008 to increase California's high school graduation rate.

"This bill would require the superintendent, on or before Aug. 1, 2011, and annually thereafter, to submit to the Governor, the Legislature, and the state board, a report called the Annual Report on Dropouts in California," according to Senate Bill 651.

It costs the state about $1.1 billion a year in juvenile crime costs, but the economic loss from juvenile crimes is about $8.9 billion per year, according to the UC Santa Barbara study titled "High School Dropouts and the Economic Losses from Juvenile Crime in California." Starting at 12 years old, juveniles will cause about $1 billion dollars in economic losses. Throughout their life-time they will cost the state about $10.5 billion.