Monday, September 19, 2005

Educated Workforce = Economic Development

I stood in the campaign headquarters of Cleveland mayoral candidate David Lynch this past Friday, before a press conference he was holding to discuss his platform on education. I don't live in Cleveland, I can't vote for Cleveland issues, but I work here, I teach kids here, and am very much affected by the politics of the city. Cleveland's next mayor will be my boss.
I respect David for making education a primary topic in his candidacy.

For too long the city schools have been like the crazy relative the family doesn't like to talk about.
The problems seem so huge...insurmountable...embarrassing...our politicians would much rather talk about the exciting, do-able, project oriented topics. Lakefront development, convention centers, casinos, new shopping centers, arts and cultural attractions.
Creating new spaces and places is much more exciting than figuring out why 50 percent of Cleveland's students drop out of school, and how we can employ this huge demographic without high school diplomas.

Instead of fiddling with the numbers to change the city's status as the poverty leader, then rejoicing that another city has taken the lead, someone needs to take the bull by the horns and figure out how to create a workforce in this city that is educated enough to attract companies.
Tax exemptions didn't lure Toyota to Toronto, skilled workers did. Do companies want to locate in a city where 50,000 families are headed by someone who dropped out of high school?

Education reform and building a skilled workforce need to be this city's top priorities. The candidates need to concentrate on the following issues:
1. Lead abatement. The city of Cleveland has one of the highest concentrations of children with lead poisoning in any urban area. Lead poisoning leads to mental retardation. About 38% of the CMSD student population are identified as special needs. Anyone see a correlation here?
2. Improved discipline and learning in the classroom. New school funding strategies are essential to accomplish these goals.
3. Job training and adult education programs that will address the needs of the current population of city residents who are lacking the skills needed to pull themselves out of poverty.

Without education there can be no economic development. An uneducated population cannot sustain itself. When city leaders finally realize this and make educating Cleveland a primary focus, only then will we see jobs return to the city.

1 comment:

catfood said...

I'm a bit torn on this point, MB. I believe that students need skills that will get them jobs. But I'm also a liberal arts snob, and I believe that everyone needs general, primary knowledge of the world--including arts, sciences, and social sciences. So when someone says we need a better workforce coming out of our public schools, part of me goes eeeewwww... why don't we aim for a better/smarter populace and let the jobs take care of themselves?

I'm not sure that's been tried.