Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Education Matters

Cleveland (and not just the city), like most of the country, faces a "perfect storm:"
  • 4 years of No Child Left Behind has raised awareness (mostly negative) of school performance to a fever pitch
  • Property tax-based school finance is a century out-of-date and gets more and more intolerable for everyone
  • The ever-rising cost of quality education is slamming into fundamental economic constraints like regional property values, global wage competition, national debt, federal war and state medicare costs
  • One hundred years of educational improvement (e.g., high school graduation rates were 10% 100 years ago, 50% 50 years ago, and are now over 85%) have not been fast enough - by most measures, we're 15th-20th in the world and slipping
  • What students learn and how they learn is not well aligned with what we think we know about the needs and challenges of the emerging 21st century

Schools have been, since the days of the Pilgrims, been our most important community institutions. "Community" and "institution" both imply conservativism, as neither changes quickly. But fear of the storm has led too many of us to quit the battle, comforting ourselves with blasts at the special interests and rantings about the good old days. And others are comfortable with the conservativism, telling ourselves that the need for change is overblown.

Our region, more than most in this nation, needs to tackle its educational agenda with disciplined urgency. Taxpayers are rejecting operating levys, schools are underperforming, and our population remains under-educated even by American standards. My next post will suggest some directions I think we need to go.

This blog had brief beginning as "Politics that Matter." I didn't get very far, and I've refocused. I'll try again, but leave the original pieces because maybe they'll be of interest and spark some creative thinking.


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