The impact of education on cities is significant – affecting economic vitality, public safety, health, and quality of life. Research shows that society benefits by approximately $127,000 for each new high school graduate due to additional taxes paid and money saved on crime-related costs. A college graduate makes $1 million more during the course of their career than a high school graduate. An educated workforce is essential to attracting and retaining businesses. The better educated young people are, the less likely they are to be involved in criminal activities. More important than the benefits of quality education to the city are the benefits of quality education on residents themselves. The city has a responsibility to care for its citizens and central to this responsibility is a moral obligation to provide every child with access to a high quality education regardless of their zip code.
While there are strong schools in Sacramento and positive programs, the data illustrates there is a significant discrepancy in the quality of education and student performance across the city:
- Less than half of the young people across Sacramento are reading, writing and doing math at grade level
- Fewer than 42% of area schools met state growth targets last year
- Sacramento’s White and Asian students outperform Hispanic and African American peers by an average of over 100 points on the Academic Performance Index. This is a clear example of the achievement gap.
- 20% dropout rate across the districts and 36% truancy rate across the districts
In order to ensure that the city’s young people are prepared to be productive citizens in the 21st century and competitive in the global marketplace, the problems of low expectations, low high school graduation rates, truancy, lack of compelling and engaging school options and the persistent achievement gap must be addressed. Traditionally, the city has been most involved in programs outside of school-hours such as work-study opportunities and after school programs. While this has value, if Sacramento truly wants to close the achievement gap, the city cannot afford to sit on the sidelines or tinker around the edges. Success and aggressive reforms will require a deep and collaborative effort between the city and the five school districts serving the young people within its boundaries, with support and engagement by students, parents, business, faith-based organizations, community-based organizations, and others. Given the current structure, STAND UP has an opportunity to step up and serve as an intermediary to galvanize five disparate districts around a common vision for educational equity.