The founders of Discount Tire are chipping in more than $1 million toward a five-year drive to get a handle on Arizona’s high-school dropout rate, the second-worst in the nation according to the U.S. Department of Education.
The Bruce T. Halle Family Foundation has committed the money to the Center for Arizona’s Future’s dropout initiative, which will pay particular attention to Hispanic youths.
Paradise Valley resident Diane Halle, president of the foundation and Bruce Halle’s wife, said there are many reasons for the family’s interest in boosting Hispanic graduation rates, including the ethnic group’s sheer numbers that are expected to bring it out of minority status in a few decades.
"They’re going to be the major part of our population," she said.
The Halle foundation will contribute $200,000 a year during the next five years to the center, founded last year by Lattie Coor after he retired as Arizona State University’s president.
The center’s game plan starts with figuring out the scope of the problem.
As a policy paper released last month by ASU’s Education Policy Studies Laboratory points out, the federal government and other states use a variety of methods to come up with a dropout rate.
Part-time executive director Sybil Francis said her work with a group of about 20 local leaders to define dropping out should wrap up in a couple of months.
Coor said the center will develop strategies to attack the problem. "When there’s work to be done, we’ll find out if there’s a lead entity that’s doing it and if not, we’ll pitch in," he said.
The Halles are putting in another $150,000 for a oneyear study by the ASU-based Morrison Institute as part of the larger push.
This study will follow the model of a recent best-selling book, "Good to Great," said the Morrison Institute’s Mary Jo Waits.