As the dropout rate becomes the center-point in evaluating schools in Texas, the State Education Commissioner is calling on businesses to join in a voluntary ban on hiring high school dropouts. He hopes to take away the powerful incentive of take home pay in an effort to make staying in school more attractive to teens.

Dropout rates have recently been a thorn in the side of many good schools showing strong improvement in TAKS scores and expecting to bump up their academic rating. Even with Recognized or Exemplary test scores, some have dropped to Academically Acceptable or worse when completion rates weren’t high enough.

Commissioner Scott’s plan to have businesses to turn dropouts away is controversial. Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond issued a statement Friday, saying “a job can be the instrument of change necessary to get kids back into the classroom or on track to receiving a GED.” He added, “while Scott’s intentions might be good, closing the door on dropouts would not be.”

Meanwhile, the Texas Education Agency and others sort out how best to define and report high school dropouts. This year three student groups were added to the calculation of dropouts: those who failed exit-level TAKS, those who are working toward – but haven’t received – their GED, and those who enrolled in a fifth year of high school but didn’t show up. And even if a school’s overall graduation rate reaches Recognized levels, the school’s designation is tethered to the rate for each individual demographic group.

Though he calls the idea of shutting dropouts out of the workforce “hard-hearted”, Hammond pledges to work together to find a solution to the state’s dropout problems. In a reference to recent events in the news, he suggested sitting down with Commissioner Scott for a cold beer to discuss it.