Seeking solutions

Published 7:18 am Saturday, October 20, 2007

By Staff
This week, the North Carolina General Assembly made its last appointments to two education panels formed to improve graduation rates and reduce dropouts.
Hopefully, they will do their jobs well. If they do, North Carolina will be better off.
The Joint Legislative Commission on Dropout Prevention and High School Graduation is tasked with analyzing how middle- and high-school reforms influence the dropout rate, reviewing curriculum and determining which strategies are making the biggest difference, according to the office of the Speaker of the House. The 16-member committee is being led by co-chairs state Sen. Vernon Malone, D-Wake, and state Rep. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth.
Earlier this year, the state House conducted hearings to receive public comment on methods to reduce the dropout rate. Of the ninth-graders who enter North Carolina public schools, only 68 percent graduate from high school, according to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
Keeping children in school and having them graduate will make North Carolina better. Don’t expect all ninth-graders to stay in school and graduate. In a perfect world, that would happen. But this isn’t a perfect world.
Efforts must be made to keep as many children from dropping out of school as possible. The more informed people are, they better they are able to cope with what the world may throw at them. Generally, the better educated someone becomes, the better equipped he or she is to make his or her mark in the world. The higher the education level, the higher the pay, goes another axiom.
To help reduce the dropout rate, the 15-member Committee on Dropout Prevention will award dropout-prevention grants of up to $150,000. This year, the General Assembly earmarked $7 million to fund the grant program, which was set up to encourage school systems and other organizations to develop programs and projects that successfully reduce dropout rates in their service areas.
Hope Mills High School principal Patsy Ray and Western Carolina University professor David Strahan will lead the committee.
The General Assembly has told the committee to issue the grant by Nov. 1, if possible.
Knowing how slow government moves at times, the chances of the committee meeting that deadline are slim to none.
One question does come to mind. Why wasn’t someone from eastern North Carolina appointed to a leadership position on one of the committees? To be sure, there is at least one qualified person east of Interstate 95 who can help solve the dropout problems and increase the graduation rate.
Anyway, at least the state recognizes the problems by forming the committees. And when those committees offer up some ways to solve those problems, it will be up to the state to at least fund some of them. North Carolina doesn’t need for the General Assembly to thank the committees for their work, then let that work go to waste.
It’s time the state put its money where its mouth is when it comes to keeping children in school and making sure more of them graduate from high school. Without doing more than just talking about the problems, the state is doing nothing more than paying lip service to those problems.
Money alone is not the answer.
Hopefully, the committees working to lower the dropout rate and increase the number of graduates will realize the answer is not just to throw money at those problems. That’s been tried, again and again.
Look for solutions that come from minds, not wallets. Look for solutions created by brains, not bucks.
Those kinds of solutions will keep Johnny in school until he earns his high-school diploma.