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Study: Dropout Rates Fueling Violent Crime in MI

August 21, 2008

Lansing, MI – There's a strong link between the school dropout rate and violent crime, according to a new study. That report, by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, says staying in school increases a child's chances of staying out of prison. That organization is made up of law enforcement leaders and crime survivors.

Spokesman Brian Mackie says dropouts are eight times more likely to end up in legal trouble.

"If we were to raise the graduation rate of males in Michigan by 10 percent, up to 80 percent, assaultive crimes would go down significantly. Other crimes – property crimes – would go down tremendously."

Mackie says people do better in life if they're at least high school graduates.

"About 68 percent of prisoners did not graduate from high school. There's not an automatic link between not graduating and becoming a criminal, but if you don't become part of the mainstream economy, your options are very limited. Unfortunately, the option that many people choose, especially males, is crime."

He says the key is getting kids interested in learning when they're young. By the time they're teens, it's probably too late, which is why early education is critical.

Mackie says Michigan did address the issue by investing $10 million in Head Start last year, despite difficult economic times, but he says that's not enough.

"The problem is that, even with that commitment, we are not funding quality pre-school for every child in Michigan who is eligible. That is extremely unfortunate. The question has to be asked in government, always: what will something cost? We also, though, need to ask the question: what does it cost not to do the right thing?"

The study says such full funding could prevent more than 140 murders and 7,300 assaults in Michigan every year. Mackie says the best way to achieve that is to expand early education for at-risk children.

Jim Wishner/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - MI