Our opinion: State's dropout rate a tough problem to solve

March 25, 2011 9:21:00 AM



Maybe you can do the math. 


State Superintendent of Education Tom Burnham, who was drawing attention to Mississippi''s school-dropout problem, put forth an alarming statistic: Nationwide, 72 percent of dropouts end up either in prison or on government assistance. 


A few more numbers for this equation: 5,000 students will fail to graduate in Mississippi this year. 


The state has a 16.8 percent dropout rate. Locally, the problem is much worse. The Columbus Municipal School District had a 22-percent dropout rate in 2009, according to the Kids Count database. So, more than one in five students in the system won''t make it through 12th grade. Lowndes'' rate of 13.3 percent beats the state average, but is still unacceptable. 


Compounding this difficult problem: state budget cutbacks. Money for programs combating the state''s high dropout rate have dried up. 


Despite budget cutbacks, and to its credit, the Columbus district has been hard at work to solve this problem. Columbus High''s Freshman Academy gives ninth-graders tools to transition into life in high school. The International Baccalaureate program gives CHS students a quality education to strive for. 


Without state funding, however, more programs desperately needed at schools like Columbus High won''t be available in the future. 


State funding can''t solve our dropout problem alone, however -- it''s only one piece of the formula. The community needs to support its schools. Students need to feel they have a safe, nurturing environment in which to learn. And, kids need help and support at home. 


All these add up to a successful education for our children. Take one factor out of this equation, and you can''t solve the problem.