The U.S. Department of Education released its state-by-state graduation list this week, and Georgia’s high school graduation rate of 67 percent was lower than neighboring southern states. Whether the new matrix for determining the rate is to blame or not, it is worth noting that Tennessee had 86 percent, North Carolina was at 78 percent, Alabama 72 percent and Florida was 71 percent.
The effect of Governor Sonny Perdue’s draconian budget cuts on education funding is documented and known. This low high school graduation rate hampers the state’s recovery from the Great Recession and puts thousands of Georgia youth in a perilous situation.
As bad as the news is, there doesn’t seem to be the public righteous indignation that this issue deserves. The impact of the high school dropout rate and continuing low educational achievement among Georgia’s youth on the economy and every Georgian will be disastrous. Dropping out of high school means you are likely to earn less money than those who graduate and who earn post secondary education; they are also more likely to require community and public assistance to support themselves and their families; and they are likely to contribute fewer tax dollars to the community and get stuck on the lower economic rung.
If this Perdue legacy doesn’t depress you then perhaps you are as outraged as I am that Governor Deal has taken Perdue’s baton in deciding to turn down federal funding from the Affordable Care Act, though it would improve healthcare services for hundreds of thousands of uninsured and needy Georgians. Under the program the state would leverage state funds 10 to 1 with federal funds. This is another travesty because those who need healthcare coverage are denied and the rest of us continue to support a healthcare system that serves far too many people in the highest cost care model, emergency rooms.
Georgia scores 2 for 2. With these policy choices – draconian education cuts and rejection of federal healthcare funding – state leadership with too little resistance from business, political and civic leadership and not nearly enough media coverage is making life worse for tens of thousands of Georgians under the muted sounds of near silence.
Martin Niemöller’s famous words come to mind at a time like this.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.