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Colin Powell: To Restore Economic Health, Congress Must Put Children First
In an Op-Ed column published in Roll Call, retired Gen. Colin L. Powell urged the 111th Congress to seriously consider investing more resources into children's education as part of efforts to strengthen America's economy.
Powell acknowledged congress' first priority should be to revitalize the nation's ailing economy. But he also noted that revitalizing the economy requires making sound investments, and that our children are the most sound investment of all.
"We don't hear much about America's children in our national economic debate," Powell wrote. "But, they are intricately connected to the dire economic consequences we face as a nation – and their well-being must be a critical part of the solution."
Powell noted nowhere is the failure to invest in our children more evident than in our nation's dismal high school graduation rate. A staggering 1.2 million students drop out each year in the U.S., which translates to 7,000 per school day, and one every 26 seconds. For young people of color, the statistics are even more appalling, Powell wrote. It is expected that 42 percent of Hispanic students and 45 percent of African-American students will not graduate on time with a regular high school diploma.
"According to Alliance for Excellent Education, if the students who dropped out of the class of 2008 had graduated, the nation's economy would have benefited from an additional $319 billion in income over their lifetimes," Powell wrote. "Losing more than 1 million students each year weakens our long-term ability to compete in the global economy."
Powell concluded that to move forward as a nation, the 111th Congress must put our children first. "It means raising awareness of children's issues and sending a message that our economic future depends on our commitment to investing in our children," he wrote.
"It is often said that America can weather any economic storm because of the strength, skill and creativity of the workforce. I believe this to be true. But with upward of 80 percent of 21st-century jobs requiring some level of post-secondary education, we can weather the storm only if our children receive the support they need to stay in school and succeed in life."