Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What Are We Doing?

By J. Mac Holladay, Founder and CEO.

Last week as I flew back from Kansas City, I read USA Today as I often do on the road. I always review the “News from every state” to see what I can catch up on or to find a little piece of trivia about a client community. This time, however, the brief report from my state, from Georgia, stopped me completely.

Here is what it reported. The Atlanta public schools will cut 375 teachers, Gwinnett County schools 600, and Cobb County schools 350. Each will also add furlough days. So my question is: what are we doing? Every study tells us that smaller classes and great teachers are the number one factor in quality education and stronger attainment. So where is the outrage? Why is the business community in Metro Atlanta just sitting there instead of asking for revenue enhancement?

The State of Georgia , after years of working to improve our schools, has cut $2 billion from  the pre K- 12 education system over the last 5 years. So this is a state policy and local policy question. The number one issue today and tomorrow in economic development is the quality of the workforce. We cannot cut our way to prosperity. Quality and results have a cost. Yes, we should and must demand accountability, but we also must provide adequate resources. No one believes these huge cuts are helping our children.

The Great Recession has changed the world of economic development. The Atlanta region has suffered greatly and many of its economic drivers from banking to construction have taken huge hits. The jobs of the future will require more education not less. A high school graduate with solid basic skills is the beginning not the end.

Everyone in the community and economic development world needs to ask hard questions about the massive cuts to education across the country. Some say we can’t afford to restore the funding, my reading is the opposite. We cannot afford not to enhance our support for what will determine our future as a global competitor.