A bill that would pay schools for reducing their dropout rate is making its way through the legislature. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Tim Probst (D-Vancouver), would provide schools and districts cash rewards of up to $50-thousand for reducing the number of students that drop out of high school.
But are lawmakers dangling a plastic carrot while simultaneously work to cut the budget? An amendment to the bill which passed the House this week added the phrase "if funds are appropriated."
The Office of Financial Management says as many as 340 Washington high schools could qualify for the awards, if the cash is there. OFM projects ESHB 1599, nicknamed PASS (Pay for Actual Student Success), will cost taxpayers an estimated $4.8-million.
The Washington Education Association has come out in opposition to the bill saying now is not the time for such a program, even with a double digit dropout rate plaguing the state.
Rep. Probst told The Columbian newspaper that now is exactly the time to try to find new ways of improving education.
"There are two schools of thought playing out in this budget debate," Probst said. "Some people say,' Keep doing everything the same but do less of it,' I think that's the wrong approach. When you're in an economic crisis, that is the critical time to find new ways of doing business and making meaningful reform."
Statistics show that for every dropout that is kept in school the chances of that person committing a crime are reduced by 20-percent and stands to increase his/herlifetime earnings by more than $300-thousand.
The measure had its first reading in the Senate this morning and has been referred to the Early learning and K-12 Education Committee for their consideration.