NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A nonpartisan research group says Louisiana and its local school districts should measure the success of anti-dropout programs and budget money specifically for such programs to keep students from leaving school.

The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana released the results of its study of the dropout problem on Tuesday. PAR found that roughly 17 percent of students who entered Louisiana high schools as freshmen in 2006 dropped out.

PAR says state and local districts must keep close track of various anti-dropout initiatives and target spending on successful programs to make sure that — in times of tight budgets — the money isn’t diverted elsewhere.

The report said dropouts suffer higher unemployment, lower earnings, poorer health and higher rates of criminal behavior than those who finish school.

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