WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama addressed the nation's school dropout epidemic Monday, proposing $900 million to states and school 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. Only about 70 percent of entering high school freshmen go on to graduate, and the problem affects blacks and Latinos at particularly high rates.
Obama said the crisis hurts individual kids and the nation.
"There's got to be a sense of accountability," he said in announcing his latest get-tough school proposal at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce during an education event sponsored by the America's Promise Alliance, the youth organization founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife, Alma.
Obama'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 using federal money as leverage to push schools to raise standards and get more children ready for college or work. It's a task that former President George W. Bush and Congress, along with many leaders before them, have long taken on.
Obama's 2011 budget proposal includes $900 million for School Turnaround Grants. That money is in addition to $3.5 billion to help low-performing schools included in last year's economic stimulus bill.