We All Have A Stake In Our Public Education System

Denise JuneauMore Montana students are graduating from high school than ever before thanks to the unprecedented community and public school partnership, Graduation Matters Montana.

Now in 53 communities, Graduation Matters is placing an emphasis on the importance of graduating from high school and working alongside students and their families to turn that goal into a reality.

Earlier this month, my office released its 2015 Graduation and Dropout Report that boasts Montana’s highest graduation rate ever recorded – 86 percent. The state’s dropout rate has been cut by a third since 2009. We can all be proud of these statistics, I certainly am. Still, I know there is more work to be done to ensure all Montana students, no matter their zip code or family income, have the same shot at walking across the graduation stage with a diploma that has prepared them for college, careers, or military service.

Data shows that American Indian and low income students are more likely to drop out. Young men are more likely to drop out than young women. High school seniors are more likely to dropout than freshmen. We know that for many of these students, the warning signs that lead to dropping out can be identified and addressed.

That’s where all of you come in.

Graduation Matters Montana is rooted in the idea that all Montanans benefit when our children succeed. The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates Montana will see a $6 million annual boost to the state’s economy because 540 more students graduated in 2015 than in 2009. Those graduates will contribute an additional $10.3 million in spending on homes, and $700,000 in increased auto sales.

Students across this state often tell me that the difference between graduating and dropping out comes down to one meaningful connection with a caring adult. I was fortunate to have two parents and a community of teachers who stood beside me, encouraging me along the way. I’m urging all of you to make and develop those connections so our students have a caring community willing to make a positive difference for our young people.

Together, we have made tremendous strides over the last seven years. I am certain we are on the right path, and I can’t wait to see where our future graduates lead us.