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Improve Early-Childhood Education to Help Reduce Texas Dropout Rate, Demographer Says

A leading demographer in Texas says the state must do more to prepare students for kindergarten to help reduce poverty and dropout rates, according to a recent story in the Houston Chronicle.

If steps aren't taken to improve the situation, current trends will result in three of every 10 workers not having a high school education by 2040, said Steve Murdock, a sociology professor at Rice University and former head of the U.S. Census Bureau in the recent Bush administration. He said the state should also look for ways to offer more financial help to students for college.

"The data seems to show that if a kid walks into a learning situation for the first time when they are 5 or 6, that's probably too late," Murdock told the Chronicle.

These suggestions may be difficult to carry with budget crunches and the current political climate there. The Texas Republican Party this month called for the repeal of government programs dealing with early-childhood development and opposes mandatory preschool and kindergarten, the San Antonio Express News reported.

More than 130,000 Texas students who enter high school do not graduate with their class, the article says. Also, school districts with a high percentage of low-income students have higher dropout rates. Large school districts where low-income students make up at least 80 percent of the enrollment have dropout/attrition rates of 50 percent or more, the Chronicle article says.

Texas is on track to have household incomes $6,500 lower in 30 years than they were in 2000, according to Murdock's projections. That number is not adjusted for inflation, according to the the Chronicle article.

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