A new study by the University of California, Santa Barbara shows cutting California's dropout rate in half would prevent 30,000 juvenile crimes and save more than half a billion dollars a year in taxpayer money spent on law enforcement, victim and court costs.
It shows how addressing the problem would not only improve public safety but also lessen the impact on the state budget.
"They start out with property crimes, burglaries, car thefts and that gets into what the peer group becomes, they start hanging out with the gangs, then they start getting into violence," Police Chief Rick Braziel said.
Roy Smith dropped out when he was 17 years old. Though he is now trying to turn his life around by getting his GED, he had previously turned to selling drugs to survive.
"My family was struggling, there wasn't nobody working and stuff, I had to try and make money to eat, it's not like I wanted to do it," Smith said.
California's drop-out statistics vary. The state says it is about 20 percent; other universities studies show it is as much as double that.
The Sacramento School District says it was nearly able to cut its dropout rate in half in just two years.
"We've done it through offering choices for students and families; we've got online curriculum, we've got independent study, we've got options at our high schools that offer career-embedded themes," Associate Superintendent Mary Shelton said.
Carol Bainbridge resumed her studies because she was tired of having no career option without a diploma. The 52-year-old hopes to graduate with her grand-daughter next year.
"It's just not the life I want to live and getting an education will help from living that life," Bainbridge said.
The state has done a terrible job of pinpointing California's dropout rate. A bill that would require the state Dept. of Education to produce a dropout report every year is on the Governor's desk.