President Obama, over the weekend in his weekly address, outlined his plans to overhaul our education system and his reforms of The No Child Left Behind Act. I am encouraged that this is the next part of his agenda that he will focus on, as a quality and affordable education is something that every child in America should have to right to receive.
I recently read that the high school graduation rate in New York City is slowly on the decline, however for minority students, the number of students graduating is not improving. I pray as a nation we can get behind a fundamental truth. Educated, compassionate, and focused people build communities with opportunity and peace. Uneducated, fearful and disconnected people live in chaos and conflict. It’s time for a strong movement that puts educating our kids first and gives us a shot at future with innovation, motivation, better communities, and a better world.
As my friend Bill Milliken, founder of Communities in Schools (CIS) always says to me, the battle for America’s future rests at the schoolhouse door. He’s right and there are things we can do about it. CIS is a national network of more than 200 programs for at-risk students in 28 states serving more than two million children and teens every year. They believe when you get parents involved, provide guidance, academic support, social services, career awareness and cultural enrichment, then you give kids a chance at opportunities that are often lost before the game even starts. The drop-out rates for students in America is crazy – the number of students who drop out of school each year nationally is more than the population of the entire metro area of Philadelphia. Think about that. The city of brotherly love, every person in every house, on every street, in every alley, is a child not in school.
Whether Chicago, Houston, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, or Washington, D.C., the majority of public school students have to deal with issues like poverty, hunger, an unemployed parent, neglected health, and violent crime. The drop out rate is a national crisis by all measures. It’s a beaten path to squashed earning potential, poverty, neglected health, and crime. It’s a Catch-22, a dog chasing its tail, a spiral of negativity that doesn’t make economic sense even if you don’t care about the karmic damage done by all of this suffering.
Look at the state of Texas. The U.S. Census Bureau ranks it 50th in the nation in terms of high school graduates. It costs $17,684 per year to maintain a state prisoner. It costs $6,474 a year to educate a student. Dropouts make up two-thirds of local prisoners in Texas, and nearly half of the heads-of-households on welfare. Keeping kids in school is a bargain.
So think about the idea that America’s future rests at the schoolhouse door. Let’s get behind programs like CIS that are proven to work with millions of success stories of kids who walked through that schoolhouse door to find programs that have dramatically improved their math and reading scores, given them a chance to develop their artistic skills, or improved their health and taught them to be a team player through sports. It is my hope that the gift of quiet time in the classroom through the daily practice of meditation will one day be part of every CIS program, too.
Let’s make educating our kids a lifetime commitment.
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