Gov. Norm Bangerter has a "business" idea that would increase the state's revenue and ensure the satisfaction of all Utah teachers and parents:
When a child enters kindergarten, he says, parents could purchase an insurance policy from the elementary school principal that would absolutely guarantee a child's success in school and in life and staunch the dropout rate.The idea is facetious, of course, but represents the premise of a new strategy endorsed by Ban-gerter called "Success Insurance for Youth."
The best way to better "guarantee," or at least improve the odds for success for young people, is for state and local agencies to work together with that goal in mind and to identify potential dropouts or at-risk students from grade school through high school, Bangerter said in an address to leaders representing education, social services and the courts.
Collaboration, he said, "is the key to solving the problems of our youth. Many heads are better than one. No agency can work in isolation. It's time to pool resources to solve common problems for the good of our children."
The new strategy is in its infancy. Specific recommendations for helping at-risk students replace a pattern of failure with self-esteem and achievement will be developed by leaders of all Utah agencies dealing with youth working together.
The high numbers of Utah students dropping out of high school is a major concern to the governor.
"Utah cannot afford to have one out of every four students fail to graduate or drop out at a rate of approximately 14 to 16 percent. That's unacceptable."
The consequences of dropping out are increasingly severe for young people. There are fewer opportunities to work; dropouts are more likely to be on welfare and more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.
His priority to reduce the numbers of students who drop out has enormous support from legislators. When the governor proposed to the Legislature that another program designed to reduce the dropout rate, the "At Risk Youth" program, be given $480,000, the Legislature surprisingly increased the amount to $500,000.
"It's certainly not often the Legislature gives me more than I want," the governor said with a smile.
A real selling point of the new "success insurance" strategy is that it won't require any additional cost to the school system. This affirms the governor's belief that, given the opportunity, educators can develop cost-effective solutions to solve problems. "Money is not always the solution; sometimes it can help, but attitude and caring are always necessary."
The changing economy and nature of jobs will require more training, not less, in the future, making education even more essential. Those who do not receive an adequate education will fall even further behind, the governor said.
The state's literacy rates are above average, "but being above the average is not good enough. We cannot afford, financially or in terms of human resources, to fail with any of our children."
The success insurance program instructs educators, social workers, judges and juvenile court workers how to increase all students' potential for success. The strategy, the result of two years of research, will be a positive step in protecting Utah's most valuable resource its children, Bangerter said.