In Chicago, nearly 40,000 youth between the ages of 15 and 20 and approximately 97,000 youth ages 16 to 24 are high school dropouts. These teens and young adults often find their personal circumstances too insurmountable to overcome on their own in order to stay in school.
Yet without a high school diploma, the implications for these youth, and the community as a whole, are severe.
Youth dropouts are more likely to be involved in destructive interactions and illicit activities, making them prone to incarceration. Dropouts are 3.5 times more likely than high school graduates to be incarcerated in their lifetime. 90% of the 11,000 youth in adult detention facilities have no more than a 9th grade education (Martin, N., & Halperin, S. (2006). Whatever It Takes: How Twelve Communities Are Reconnecting Out-of-School Youth. Washington, DC: American Youth Policy Forum).
The Alternative Schools Network (ASN) addresses the prison pipeline by providing youth with a safety net of options that gives them a second chance at obtaining a high school diploma. Working with 23 alternative high schools, ASN provides these youth with the support, understanding, compassion and a myriad of resources to help them combat the severe life barriers many of them have experienced.
High school dropouts are less likely to receive skills and experience needed for employment, which also impacts the development of the future workforce.
In 2001, only 55% of young adult dropouts were employed (nationally), compared with 74% of high school graduates and 87% of four-year college graduates (Martin, N., & Halperin, S. (2006). Whatever It Takes: How Twelve Communities Are Reconnecting Out-of-School Youth. Washington, DC: American Youth Policy Forum).
The Alternative Schools Network (ASN) helps former dropouts learn workforce readiness and employability skills while they are enrolled in any one of 23 member high schools. Students have the opportunity to build the soft-skills that are essential in today's workplace through relationships with an assigned mentor that works with them throughout their educational career. The ASN also provides opportunity for employment through its annual summer employment programs - where students not only learn workplace hard and soft skills, but also earn much needed income to assist themselves and their families. ASN's Added Chance program assists Illinois wards of the state to develop work skills and be placed in employment.
Dropouts earn less over their lifetime which equates to fewer tax contributions for the community.
They also contribute to the state and federal tax coffers at only about one-half the rate of high school graduates; over a working lifetime about $60,000 or less, or $50 billion annually for the 23 million high school non-completers, ages 18-67 (Martin, N., & Halperin, S. (2006). Whatever It Takes: How Twelve Communities Are Reconnecting Out-of-School Youth. Washington, DC: American Youth Policy Forum).
By youth graduating through any of its 23 member high schools, the Alternative Schools Network (ASN) helps increase tax revenues to the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois and the nation. Students receive a tremendous amount of support and resources that ASN integrates into each of its member schools - support and resources that wrap around students to provide them with all of the positive help they need to be successful in a high school educational setting. ASN programs have graduated over 9,000 youth - youth who formerly dropped out of traditional high school settings - in its 40-year history. That's 9,000 adults now actively contributing to Chicago's, Illinois' and the nation's tax revenue.
Over the lifetime of each dropout, taxpayers bear the cost of approximately $290,000 due to loss of tax contributions, increased public assistance costs and correctional costs.
Dropouts are substantially more likely to rely on public assistance than those with a high school diploma. The estimated lifetime revenue loss for male dropouts ages 25-34 is $944 billion. The cost to the public of their crime and welfare benefits is estimated to total $24 billion annually (Martin, N., & Halperin, S. (2006). Whatever It Takes: How Twelve Communities Are Reconnecting Out-of-School Youth. Washington, DC: American Youth Policy Forum).
By assisting schools to graduate youth and providing them with the soft and life skills needed to fully operate as an active and productive citizen, the Alternative Schools Network impacts the overall lifetime costs to this nation's taxpayers. Investing in a dropout, investing in alternative schools and investing in the Alternative Schools Network means investing in this nation's financial future and ensuring that we have a citizenry to help move this country forward