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Economic, Educational Gains Seen From Out-of-School Spending

The Campaign for Educational Equity, which advocates for spending more on the neediest students, is arguing in favor of increased investment in out-of-school support services, a financial commitment it says will bring major returns for education and the economy.

Today's political and economic climate might not seem conducive to expanding government services, but the campaign, headed by lawyer and professor Michael Rebell, contends that such spending pays off over time.

The campaign, which is based at Teachers College of Columbia University, has released five papers laying out its rational for increasing out-of-school support services. Those papers will serve as the basis for a forum Tuesday, to be attended by New York state education commissioner John King and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, among others.

"A range of services is needed to overcome the impediments to learning created by poverty," Rebell said in an interview. "If we are serious about what we say is the nation's primary educational goal"—closing the achievement gap—"then this what we have to do."

What kinds of out-of-school services can have the biggest impact? The campaign argues in favor of expanded childhood-education services, starting from birth; after-school and summer school programs, and a much richer range of health services that can help students succeed in school and away from it.

How much would it cost? The pricetag would be an additional $4,000 to $5,000 per student, depending on the state. Rebell acknowledges that increasing spending "sounds like it's crazy in this environment," but he believes the financial pressures created by the sluggish economy could compel government agencies to find lower-cost ways to deliver crucial services. He also says the campaign is not arguing that the investments should happen overnight, but rather over an extended length of time, perhaps 10- to 12 years.

And those investments will pay off, Rebell argues. One of campaign's papers offers the following example:

Approximately half of all New York City public school students who live in families with incomes less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level do not graduate from high school, the authors say. What would happen if those students were given access to a set of comprehensive services that could "effectively raise the educational attainment levels of low-income children to levels associated with middle class children," they ask.

The report estimates the impact on a single cohort of 37,000 New York City 12th graders whose families were at that level of poverty. New York City and state spend an estimated $82,000 for each high school dropout (in lifetime, present value) on health care, criminal justice, welfare and other services, and collect only $45,000 in tax revenues for each of them—a $37,000 loss. For students who receive at least a bachelor's degree, the city and state spend $55,000, but bring in tax revenues of $143,000, allowing government to come out $88,000 ahead.

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