President Barack Obama took aim Monday at the nation's school dropout epidemic, proposing $900 million to states and education districts that agree to drastically change or even shutter their worst performing schools.
Obama's move comes as many schools continue to struggle to get children to graduation, a profound problem in a rich, powerful nation. Only about 70 percent of entering high school freshmen graduate. More than 1 million students don't graduate each year. The problem affects blacks and Latinos at particularly high rates.
Obama described the crisis as one that hurts individual kids and the nation as a whole, shattering dreams and undermining an already hurting economy.
"There's got to be a sense of accountability," Obama said in announcing his latest get-tough school proposal at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The president's plan would seek to help 5,000 of the nation's lowest-performing schools over the next five years.
"In this kind of knowledge economy, giving up on your education and dropping out of school means not only giving up on your future, but it's also giving up on your family's future," Obama said. "It's giving up on your country."
Obama has been pushing schools - using federal money as his leverage - to raise their standards and prod them to get more children ready for college or work. It is a task that former President George W. Bush and Congress, along with many leaders before them, have long taken on, but the challenge is steep.
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