Tax day and high school grads

While Republicans and Democrats are using Tax Day to buffet (or is that Buffett?) each other over whether to sock it to the rich, the Alliance for Excellent Education has a slightly different take on the only thing in life, other than death, that is certain.

Get more people to graduate from high school and you’ll put more money into state and federal coffers.

In an email I received Monday, the group’s president, Bob Wise, who also is the former governor of West Virginia, is quoted as saying:

“Tax policy usually finds two groups, those in favor of tax hikes and those in favor of tax cuts, debating about which direction taxes should take. Unfortunately, there is not enough discussion about this third direction—graduating more students from high school.

“The U.S. Congress is constantly concerned about long-term deficit reduction, but as this analysis shows, decisions on how to close budget gaps and build a strong economy must begin with ensuring better educational outcomes for the nation’s students.”

It’s an innovative way of looking at the issue. If every state in the nation graduated 90 percent of its high school students, the economy would benefit.  I’m all for finding ways to truly qualify more students to graduate (not just to give them a diploma for showing up).

Unfortunately, the numbers aren’t too impressive. The analysis predicts that a 90 percent graduation rate would bring $1.8 billion more into tax coffers nationwide. That would be $1.1 billion for the feds and $700 million for the states.

For Utah, which already has a 79.4 percent graduation rate according to the U.S. Department of Education, the difference would mean $3.8 million more.

We just had a calculation error in state government that will cost schools $25 million this year, and the official response was that this is within a normal margin of error, given the size of public school budgets.

Honestly, I think improving graduation rates would do much more than just bring in a few more bucks. A percentage of those extra grads would go on to college or experience the life-altering changes education can instill in a young mind. Crime rates would diminish. The list of benefits likely multiplies in ways we can’t predict.

But the promise of adding a little pocket change to state and federal coffers isn’t going to affect the debates over taxes vs. cuts in the political arena. Nice try, though.

Categories: Utah issues

About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.

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