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O’Hara: Florida Chamber’s Scorecard Raises Flags About Jobs, Senior Tsunami

Originally Published in the Sun Sentinel by the Editorial Page Editor, April 12, 2017


If you like to paint by the numbers, paint storm clouds on Florida’s horizon because a gray tsunami is headed our way that’s destined to change our population mix and threaten how we are taxed for government services.

On the sunny side, numbers compiled by the Florida Chamber Foundation show we’ve made remarkable progress in high school graduation rates, averaging 80.7 percent statewide. Though one in five children still fails to complete school, it wasn’t so many years ago that graduation rates hovered around 50 percent.

But before we go puffing our chests, consider the high number of Florida children living in poverty — 23.4 percent, including a good number with disabilities — and you’ll see the biggest threat facing our state’s economic growth.

“If you take the poverty rate of kids under 18, and the high school graduation rate, if you could only give me two metrics to predict how well a county was going to do, I would pick those,” says Jerry Parrish, the foundation’s chief economist.

Parrish recently presented the state’s updated scorecard at the Broward Workshop’s 9th Annual State of the County Forum. I called him later to dig deeper into the numbers on the website,

“If you’re in poverty, your probability of graduating high school is lower than everyone else,” he says. Plus, poverty leads to more disabilities because of poor nutrition and lack of health care. “So if you work on child poverty and get more kids through high school, it’s highly correlated with economic success.”

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