JAG-K program shows improving graduation rates both costs and pays

JAG-K program shows improving graduation rates both costs and pays

Kansas legislators
are receiving a report from a program called Jobs
for America’s Graduates – Kansas
(JAG-K) that shows significant promise as
a model for raising the state graduation rate. It also shows why improving
these educational outcomes will cost more – and how the payoff will be worth
it.

Spending $1,230 per year to help an at-risk student finish
high school results in $5,229 more in annual earnings and $235,000 over 45 years
working – even more if the student continues education after high school.
Jobs for America’s Graduates is a nationwide initiative that
seeks to help at-risk students succeed in jobs and careers. Thirty-three states
had JAG programs in 2016-17. The program works through an in-school elective
class that focuses on workforce competencies. It also includes community
engagement activities, academic remediation, summer support and a 12-month
follow-up period for seniors.
JAG-K is primarily funded through the Temporary Assistance
for Needy Families (TANF) grant but is also supported by corporate and
individual donations. Executive Director/CEO Chuck Knapp said its Kansas
student/teacher ratio is 15:1.
The program
results are impressive: according to testimony, the JAG-K Class of 2016 had a
graduation rate of 93 percent, positive outcomes of 89 percent, and full-time
placement (college and/or work) of 95 percent.
According to testimony, this year JAG-K has 68 programs in 33 school
districts, serving approximately 3,100 students. According to JAG-K website, the average investment is generally less than
$1,400 per student per year. The national JAG
website
says the cost per participant in the national network is $1,230.
How does
the 3,100 students currently served compare with the need? Over the last four
years, ninth grade public school enrollment in Kansas has averaged 37,384,
according to Kansas State Department of Education Date Central reports. With an
“adjusted cohort graduation rate” of 86 percent, 14 percent of those
ninth graders, or 5,234, will not graduate. That is four times the number of
students currently served by JAG-K, and would require an estimated $4.8 million
more for each class.
However,
JAG-K actually provides assistance to students in all grades of high school. To
provide JAG-K programs for 14 percent of students in grades nine through twelve
currently not completing high school in four years would mean serving nearly
21,000 students, at a cost of about $24 million.
Providing
JAG-K (or similar) services to 21,000 students currently expected to drop out
of school at a cost of $24 million would certainly be possible as part of a
plan to increase school funding by $600 million. In fact, it would be
completely consistent with the results of a survey of district leaders
reporting that they would spend $2.4 million specifically to increase the
graduate rate; $2.4 million for “other” programs which could include
JAG-K, and $47.2 million for unspecified “at-risk” programs. (Other
funding would go to students in lower grades and other programs to help high
school students prepare for postsecondary education.)
Providing
this program for four years of high school would require just under $5,000 per
student. Because high school graduates in Kansas currently earn $5,229 annually
more than someone who has not completed high school, this investment will
effectively pay for itself in economic terms in a single year. But over a
typical working career of about 45 years, the difference will be $235,305 in
lifetime earnings for each graduate, without adjusting for inflation or other
differences in future earnings. Because many of these students will go on to
complete postsecondary programs that result in much higher earnings, the impact
will be even greater.
Programs
like JAG-K demonstrate that increasing funding for K-12 education, especially
targeted at students currently not succeeding, in order to comply with the
Kansas Supreme Court is not just an expense. It is an investment that will be
repaid through higher earnings of individuals who will spend and invest that
additional income – which will also reduce in the long-term cost of social
services and corrections.
Here are a
few key facts to remember:
  • Other
    states are doing this. Since 2011, the national graduate rate has increased
    from 79 percent to 84 percent, while Kansas has increased more slowly, from 83
    percent to 86 percent, and Kansas dropped from 12 to 23 in national ranking.

  • From 2008
    to 2015 (latest data available), Kansas funding per pupil increased 4.8
    percent, while the national average increased 11.7 percent. Only 11 states had
    a slower rate of investment in K-12 education per pupil.

  • Preparing
    students to complete with other states academically and in the job market is
    one of the seven “Rose” capacities identified by the Kansas Supreme
    Court to determine adequate funding, and adopted by the Kansas Legislature as
    an educational goal.

  • The
    Governor’s budget calls for increasing K-12 funding by $600 million over five
    years to address the Supreme Court ruling, and also calls for reaching a 95
    percent graduation rate. The state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recently
    approved by the U.S. Department of Education, also sets that goal. Achieving it
    would make Kansas the highest in the nation (based on current state graduation
    rates).