Recession's effects still felt in classrooms

PHOENIX - The recession is still hitting our children's classrooms hard.

Per pupil spending in Arizona is down 17 percent since 2008, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

During that same time, the dropout rate in our state jumped by the same 17 percent and is even worse for minority students.

We talked with some of those on the front lines of the battle to keep our kids in school.

One alternative school in Phoenix has been concentrating on keeping teenagers from dropping out of school since before the recession.

They're helping at-risk students walk away with high school diplomas.

A high school diploma is finally in reach for Vincent Austin. But that wasn't the case a few years ago.

"Awhile back my mother was in a car wreck, and that set me back a little bit," he said.

Many city students like him are busy helping out at home, and some even have two jobs.

The Suns-Diamondbacks Education Academy gives these students, considered at-risk, another chance so they can achieve their goals.

"Definitely go to high school and finish college. Do the best that I can do," Austin said.

With only 260 students, this public school didn't feel cuts as harshly as some other schools.

"The biggest thing, we didn't lose a lot of teachers. We did lose support staff, and again, that means some people had to do some other jobs that they weren't assigned too," said acting principal Rick Beck.

Since 2008, spending per student in Arizona has gone down $628 dollars and the dropout rate has gone up.

Arizona Department of Education reports the dropout rate is now 3.5 percent -- up from 2.9 percent in 2008.

But Beck actually thinks the recession has been positive for students in one way.

"I think more than losing numbers, we're seeing more numbers, as a lot of students realize they have to have a high school diploma," he said.

For students like Vincent this chance at a diploma could open a lot of doors.

"To graduate from high school, that would be like a high honor to my mom," he said.

In this year's budget, education spending is up but only one percent. That comes out to $4 extra per student, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

So educators are still hoping to see more dollars come in.

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