† The legislative session is rapidly approaching.† Important things like assigning all of the legislatorsí parking spots and seats in their respective chambers have been done.† Now it is time to get down to business.

†† You will hear a lot about the budget and how we have less money than last year (but still much better off than most states).† However, let there be no mistake about it.† The most important thing in our state (and nation) is the issue of education.† We have far too many high school dropouts in Oklahoma (almost 23 percent).† Many of our stateís problems will improve if we can improve our educational system Ė prison overcrowding, poor health, low wages, high rate of uninsured, child abuse, and teen pregnancy - just to name a few.

†† Approximately 6,900 of Oklahomaís high school graduation class of 2010 will drop out of school before they earn a high school diploma.

†† Did you know that 75 percent of state prison inmates are dropouts?† In fact, dropouts are 3.5 times more likely than high school graduates to be incarcerated in their lifetime.

†† Itís hard to get a job if you dropout.† Only 50 percent of young adult dropouts have jobs.† Seventy percent of those attaining a high school diploma and 86 percent of those with a college degree are employed.† Expected earnings for dropouts are only $16,683/yr. compared to $22,290 for a high school grad and $36,974 with a four- year college degree.

†† Dropouts are substantially more likely to rely on public assistance (your tax dollars) than those with a high school diploma.† The cost to the public of their crime and welfare benefits is estimated to total $24 billion annually.

†† The average life expectancy for the U.S. is 77.8 years.† For Oklahomans, 75.3 yrs.† But for Oklahomans that dropout, it is only 66.2 years!

†† Parents and grandparents, letís do all we can to keep those kids in school!† Remember, it all starts at home.† Teachers, work hard to find that special interest of each and every pupil and use that to motivate and stimulate your students.† By all working together we can give Oklahoma a brighter future.