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Dropouts cost US $1.8 billion

WASHINGTON — High school dropouts are costing some $1.8 billion in lost tax revenue every year, education advocates said in a report released Monday.

If states were to increase their graduation rates, state and federal lawmakers could be plugging their budgets with workers’ taxes instead of furloughing teachers, closing drivers-license offices, and cutting unemployment benefits. While advocates tend to focus on the moral argument that all children deserve a quality education, they could as easily look at budgets’ bottom lines.

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‘‘This has huge economic implications,’’ said John Bridgeland, chief executive of Civic Enterprises, a public policy group that helped write the report.

That’s part of the reason Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday introduced a three-year, $15 million effort to put AmeriCorps members in 60 of the nation’s worst schools. About 650 AmeriCorps members are going to try to raise graduation rates, increase math and reading skills, and prepare more students for college.

‘‘Turning around our nation’s lowest-performing schools is challenging work that requires everyone to play a part — from teachers, administrators and counselors to business leaders, the philanthropic sector, and community members,’’ Duncan said.

Increased graduation rates might be the most lasting way to turn around struggling budgets. Budgets for 24 states are smaller than they were in 2008 and states are still clawing their way back to pre-recession levels, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.

Lawmakers in state capitals are making tough choices about whether to raise taxes to keep classroom lights on or sell off state agencies to provide health care to seniors.

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