With the New Hampshire primary now secured by Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential candidates are setting their sights on South Carolina, the nation’s first southern primary. And in one big respect, South Carolina is significantly different from the two states that preceded it in casting votes for the GOP nominee: its high school graduation rate is far lower.
In 2010, New Hampshire had the ninth highest high school graduation rate in the country at 83.3 percent. Caucus state Iowa was third, with 86.4 percent. South Carolina, however, is 49th, at 61.9 percent.
What would the Republican candidates do about this problem? Not very much, besides unite in their desire to abolish the Education Department entirely. As Patrick McGuinn, an associate professor of political science and education at Drew University, noted, “the common emphasis on a diminished federal role in K-12 poses a challenge for the GOP presidential contenders hoping to push their own sweeping education proposals and stand out on the issue.” Forbes Magazine noted following a GOP primary debate in Dartmouth that “not one candidate made the obvious connection between an improved economy and ending the dropout epidemic.”
In 2010 alone, dropouts cost the nation $4.5 billion in lost earnings and tax revenue. In just California, “college dropouts are losing nearly $15 billion in earnings over their work lives, costing the federal government more than $3 billion in lost income taxes.” So far, the GOP has had precious little to say about the problem; South Carolina, with the second worst dropout rate in the nation, should provide the perfect venue for them to change that.