March 1st, 2010
11:36 AM ET
12 years ago

Obama highlights federal funds to lower high school dropout rate


 President Obama spoke Monday at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with the non-profit group America's Promise, which sponsors programs for at-risk children. (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama highlighted stronger federal efforts Monday to help lower a high school dropout rate that, according to the president, is undermining America's future economic potential.

Obama noted that the administration has committed $3.5 billion in new federal support for underperforming schools. Among other things, the Education Department is attempting to encourage states to identify and take new measures to reverse trends in schools with graduation rates below 60 percent.

The Education Department's new "school turnaround grants" are designed to help 5,000 low-performing schools in the next five years. Obama's proposed fiscal year 2011 budget includes an extra $900 million for the program.

"Our kids get only one chance at an education, and we've got to get it right," Obama said. "If a school continues to fail its students, then there's got to be ... accountability. ... The stakes are too high - for our children, for our economy, for our country."

The president argued under-performing teachers will need to be replaced in struggling school districts. But more accountability and higher standards, he said, need to be matched by greater federal funding and more parental involvement.

Obama made his remarks during an appearance at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with the non-profit group America's Promise, which sponsors programs for at-risk children. The group is headed by Alma Powell, the wife of former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Colin Powell.

Roughly 1.2 million students drop out of school every year, according to the White House. About half of the dropouts are Latino or African-American, Obama said. As a consequence, the administration claims, the country loses almost $320 billion in potential earnings every year.

Filed under: Education • President Obama
soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. Fair is Fair

    When are we ever going to learn that we're not going to solve the education problems in this country simply by throwing money at it?

    The problem begins at home. It used to be that when kids got home from school, their parents would sit with them and go over their day's lessons and homework.

    Today, when the kids go home, there's no one there.

    March 1, 2010 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  2. urfamily

    As long as the antiquated Curriculum System remains in our schools, the drop out rate will continue. The whole focus of 'schooling' needs to be changed with more emphasis on building 'the person' instead of just focusing on test scores. Prepare the kids for adulthood, and to be contributing citizens who are able to function with confidence in society. Think about it: when was the last time you used a 'geometric theorem' or a trig function in your daily life? And when was the last time heard or used the term: 'conjugated verb'. All these are more are pretty much useless to 99.9% of the population, only to a very, very few select professions. As Paul Simon said in the song: "...all the crap I learned in highschool".. Change the structure of the schools to address the drop out rate.

    March 1, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  3. Rush is to far left

    "If a school continues to fail its students, then there's got to be ... accountability. ... The stakes are too high – for our children, for our economy, for our country."
    Yep, the parents need to raise their kids and make them study. The education system and the teachers catch too much blame. The blame needs to be put where it belongs, parents and kids. The system cannot force a kid to study, but parents can, try taking away some of their video games and computer time.

    March 1, 2010 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  4. Mike in MN

    How come Obama's and the Democrats solution is to always spend more money and not be smarter with the money we already spend?
    We have increased spending per student by 200% since I was in school and we are told government run education is getting worse not better.
    Doesn't look like just throwing more money at education over the last 3 decades has been much help. Let's try a new approach. See how we can take the same money and do something different with it to help students. Apparently what we are doing now is not working real good. Scrap current programs that are not producing results and use the same money for new ideas.

    March 1, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  5. Hammerer

    Has anyone mentioned to Obama the fact that between 15&20 million people are unemployed?
    Or does he care?

    March 1, 2010 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  6. terry,va.

    Who is he going to hold accountable? I guarantee it won't be the teachers. They are backed by Unions that tell Obummie when to go to the bathroom. More hot air from the liar in chief.

    March 1, 2010 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  7. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    This is everyones concern and has nothing to do with politics. I have a grandson in grade 6 and is taking 8th grade level math which he's failing as well as the students in the 8th grade, now he's being tutored. We aren't in a struggling school district but believe the teacher is under-performing and will need to be replaced just like the principle has been. President Obama can't do it alone, it's every parents responsibility to make sure their child stays in school and learns.

    March 1, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  8. Marie MD

    Kudos to the President.
    I am sure the birthers and tea partiers will slam him for this because, well because, they themselves are not that smart and educated so why should anyone be smarter than they are.

    March 1, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  9. ronalde

    Mr .Presedent until we get the parents involved this is always going to be a problem.I raised my children to be responsible,today children have no respect for themselves or any body else,the parents give them everything and get no respect in return how do we solve this problem,years ogo when a kid dropped out of school there was jobs that required very little skills today it is different they drop out of school and hang on the corner because there is no jobs,there has to be a way to hold the parents accountable if not thie is money wasted,and for those of you wondering i'm a man of color.

    March 1, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  10. La Chatte

    Barack W. Obama's lack of experience will now rear its ugly head in education and screw it up like everything else he touches. So very clueless!

    March 1, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  11. Steve (the real one)

    Parents HAVE to be the primary support and motivator, money helps but cannot keep kids in school who are determined to get out! At the same time there are kids in DC who have the desire to do well in a better school and they have proven it, yet federal funds has been cut off for them. Am I hearing double speak?

    March 1, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  12. Miss Independence

    Quit throwing $ around. we need to get back to the basics and quit kowtowing to teacher s unions....they are failing our children and our country...they need to be tested, a criminal background check and fired if needed......and the parents need to quit looking at the schools as government funded baby sitters and take an active role in their child's education...and the kids need to quit goofing off and get down to business.. The grading system is fine.....quit the socialist educational programs....

    March 1, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  13. Fitz in Texas

    Hammerer March 1st, 2010 12:17 pm ET

    Has anyone mentioned to Obama the fact that between 15&20 million people are unemployed?
    Or does he care?
    I'm going with he doesn't care.

    March 1, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  14. Jeff from Chicago

    by teaching parents that they can be lazy and unproductive and the government will bail them out by taking money from people who worked hard to get ahead,
    What does he expect???

    He/democrats.liberals have shown our young that they don't need to work hard, they will be given everything they need for free.

    Go, go, go liberals!!!
    Go, go, go obama!!!
    Go, go, gone USA

    March 1, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  15. Angus McDugan

    I am sooooo tired of this guy. He is just talk and he does a lot of talking. I guess he wants to make sure there is enough footage in the archive for his hysteric, I mean historic presidency.

    March 1, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  16. Mike in MN

    There is a way to lower the high school drop out rate and actually save the government money.
    Make it a law that high school dropouts can not collect a penny of welfare, foodstamps or unemployment. Tell students if they drop out of school and can't find work, the only way Uncle Sam will help them put a roof over their head and food in the stomachs is if they join the military or National Gurard or go back to school and complete their high school education.
    That should get their attention and put some value in staying in school and learning something.

    March 1, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  17. Sam Sixpack

    How many of your friends are already way overqualified for their jobs?

    When everyone finally gets their PhD, where will they all work?

    This is yet another slush fund.

    For every 3.5 billion dollars doled out, somebody gets to skim a 350 million dollar (10%) "management fee" - right off the top.

    March 1, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  18. spend spend spend

    Sure spend more money to the unions that gave you the Presidency. Why dont you fire some teachers that are incompetent. Why not clean up the inner city schools so they have a good learning enviroment. Most cities are Dem controlled anyway. And by the way as an Electrician I use math quite a bit that I learned in High School.

    March 1, 2010 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  19. Jeff of Peoria

    They don't need money. Teachers need action from school boards. There's plenty of $$$ just no one willing to spend it wisely.

    March 1, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  20. BB

    Good!!! It's about time our Federal Government spends money on schools. For far too long schools have gone unfunded to the extent it should be. Lots of rules and regulations have been imposed by the Federal Government and yet never followed through with the funding, $42 billion promised for the "No child Left behind" program ...remember "Our Childrens learnin" quote?
    It's about time we finally have a wonderful President that will finally fund Education. He believes in Education. Republicants do not believe in Education, they do not fund Education, they want as many people uneducated as possible...because that way...they'll get all kinds of folks who are between the $25 Thousand to $85 Thousand in annual salaries to vote for them, all the while these people who do vote for them are too stupid "uneducated" to realize that they are actually voting against their own interests and security. Imagine, if we would have allowed Republicants to put our SS in the stock market??? All these Seniors that voted for them would be eating Cat food today. FUND EDUCATION!!!!! WAY TO GO OBAMA!!! YOU'RE THE BEST!!!!!

    March 1, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  21. a health economist

    @ Sam Sixpack,

    So how do you go from increasing the high school graduation rate directly to everyone having a Ph.D.? Granted, there can't be a top heavy structure of education levels. But that doesn't mean we should be happy with the drop out rate what it is. One thing that must be improved is the critical thinking ability of the population. You don't need to be a Ph.D. to be able to think critically.

    Earlier today I saw someone arguing that all the problems in the economy can be fix by giving 1 million dollars to the estimated 40 million worker >50 and force them to retire. The theory being it creates job opening and would get money into middle America instead of corporations that give bonuses. Unfortunatley that equates to spending 40 trillion dollars, a 15 fold increase in the Federal budget. Too bad many people would think this a great idea and not stop and do the simple multiplication to realize it is not feasible.

    March 1, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  22. Joel

    School spending in my Maryland school district is about $12,000-$15,000 per year, per student. In a class of 30, which by the way is average, that is $450,000 per class per day 3 times a day. My class load for the year costs over 1 million dollars a day. These students have access to the Internet in every classroom, including the 6 temporary building we have. Each teacher or classroom is equiped with a TV, DVD player, overhead projector, LCD projector to project computer images onto a screen. Each classroom has at least one computer, and many have more. Most have at least one printer. Student texts are updated every 3-5 years. We print all school publications in English and Spanish. 50% of the students i teach recieve free or reduced lunch. What is more mney going to do?

    March 1, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |

    TELL the teachers unions to get rid of the lousy teachers and maybe the kids will learn something or at least want to learn throwing more money at it aint going to help if the teachers are bad get rid of the bad ones. teaching is some what like the military you do it because you love it did you ever notice a good school teacher never retires? its like its in the blood and they arent hiding behind some union to keep their jobs because it aint really about the money .

    March 1, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  24. Fitz in Texas

    And the lesson we'll be discussing in the classroom today boys and girls is how to be a successful community organizer.

    March 1, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    "That should get their attention and put some value in staying in school and learning something."

    Actually, what you suggest would be tacit punishment for those who are stuck in horrible school districts. And no, we're not just talking about the "liberal dope-smoking oprah watchers" (as your kind are wont to generalize) in the inner cities. South Carolina has horrendous public schools, particuarly in the poorer rural areas. Your "solution" is without substance or merit. The problem is not "lazy people who don't want to work" leaving a terrible education's the terrible education system. But hey, threatening conscription into the armed services and taking away rights, those are free! Ridiculous.

    March 1, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
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