Education = Strong Economy

Friday, November 29, 2013
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Education is quite possibly the most important economic issue of our time. From school readiness and early-grade reading proficiency to strategies for college and workforce success, we should lay down a marker challenging ourselves to develop an education system that bridges the gap between school and work. It is our best opportunity to establish a foundation for a workforce capable of creating and expanding regional economic vitality.

Education statistics can be alarming, but they offer the information we need to address our education system shortcomings and build on our successes. This information is our guide to help us focus our efforts on improving education as a critical building block for improving our community conditions.

EconNSBC is looking at the big picture and convening citizens and key stakeholders to build an understanding of the nature of our education challenges and develop a collective approach to solving them.

It is estimated that 3 million-plus jobs in America remain unfilled, despite the continuing high unemployment rate. Employers point to the lack of qualified candidates as the major barrier to hiring, citing a lack of technical and soft skills needed to meet workplace demands.

If we are not effectively educating and preparing students for the realities of the workforce, we will continue to see our communities struggle with the issues that stand in the way of economic growth and vitality.

There is a direct correlation between an unprepared workforce and high unemployment, underemployment, overburdened social programs, and high crime rates. Magic answers are not going to come from Washington or Sacramento. Solutions will come when local business and education communities work as partners to identify needs and deploy limited community resources strategically to structure our education system to meet real world demands.

The strong bridge between school and the workforce is essential. Addressing the last piece of the education experience and workforce pipeline is critical for North County. We cannot simply stop at high school graduation. We must graduate students on time who are prepared for the rigors of the 21st-century workforce and higher education. When we are successful at developing and executing strategies that impact the three areas mentioned above, we can expect to see more young people succeeding in school, in the workforce and in life.

EconNSBC is convening people with passion, expertise and/or resources to make a difference in our community, through our Education/Workforce Development Initiative. This initiative is an important element of the sector-strategy approach of EconNSBC’s road map to economic recovery and vitality.

If you are interested in joining our Education/Workforce team, please contact EconNSBC at

Eddie Taylor is CEO of the Northern Santa Barbara County United Way, providing the Power Reading program in schools throughout our community. He is also the Education/Workforce Development Initiative director for EconAlliance.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

"Employers point to the lack of qualified candidates as the major barrier to hiring, citing a lack of technical and soft skills needed to meet workplace demands."

True. In the industry I work in, there aren't enough kids with the right skills in math or science so we drain the brains from other countries (China, India, Pakistan, Taiwan, etc.).

There are many contributing issues. But an interesting one is that science in the US has become de-popularized due to the politicization of science

Talk about shooting off your own foot.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
November 29, 2013 at 10:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

In general agreement, EB, and with Taylor's general point about education. I know a German BMW engineer who states even there they have a shortage of trained, technically-savvy people, and German outspends us heavily in education, and particularly in re-training vocational ed. Science has been de-popularized in the US, which is a terrible shame. Climate change skeptics abound, in our info age it's so easy to cut and paste bogus numbers and charts it seems pretty easy to obfuscate the thinkers, esp. when their scientific background is so limited.
I will say, though, that when "scientism" is on the rise, when scientists supported eugenics/bad science, when scientists supported the A-bomb development [though Oppenheimer recanted, but too late], when scientists ally with the 1%, they too do not help the cause of solid scientific literacy.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
November 29, 2013 at 12:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Why is no one holding anyone accountable for the billions of tobacco tax dollars dedicated to decades of First Five preschools, since school performance of our students has decreased and not increased as promised?

foofighter (anonymous profile)
November 30, 2013 at 11:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Junk science and down right superstition passes for science in America today, and surprisingly brings in a lot more money from the gullible than science itself.

This represents a major turning point for America because superstition today has replaced two former fundamentals in our society: science and religion.

Irony being so many rejected America's prior strong spiritual traditions (ethics and values that went along with it) because they claimed science cannot "prove" religion, but then substituted junk science with the same fervor that had been reserved for old-time religion with its flaws, woes, hypocrisies and benedictions.

America is in a spiritual crisis right now, as much as a rational thinking science crisis. The two spheres make up the whole; so rejecting one in favor of the other has never bode well for any civilization.

One can have religious beliefs and a belief in science with no contradictions whatsoever. Two parts of the whole.

Just go back and look at our founding documents in this country which represent the very best of rational thinking about the governance of a peoples and you see it unabashedly sprinkled with words of faith as well as reason and no small degree of cynicism about human nature as well.

I don't think we have as many well-rounded lives today as we did over 200 years ago. Our public "education system" which demanded we shed our spiritual side in favor of our rational side actually delivered very little in return. The amount of superstition today passing as "science" will be ruinous for several generations to come.

No wonder we have to import more well-rounded people from abroad who have not suffered such a systematic schism. One needs those who have wonder and awe about the unknowable, if one is to ever also have success in science.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
November 30, 2013 at 1:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

your first post, foo, does your typical change the subject stuff; whatever about the tobacco taxes [money & taxes always with you], and First Five has little place in this discussion, as usual you harp back on your tax theme.
I have respect for scientific research, the method, but no "belief" in it; I accept the theory of evolution as the best explanation for the origins of the myriad species, but do not "believe in evolution". You are correct about the spiritual crisis.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
November 30, 2013 at 2:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Foo is right. Let's not forget that 100 years ago we didn't have anywhere near the bells and whistles of today's technology and people still could become well-educated.

Often I hear teachers and their advocates insisting money is the problem when in fact it is methodology.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
November 30, 2013 at 6:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Recently reading David McCullogh's books 1776 and John Adams for a reminder of the life and times of our early days as country newly born and fought for; unlike any other country that had ever existed in western civilization.

In both these books, the education process is often described that led to those who became the successful Founders of the American Revolution: there was some degree of formal education at that time mainly to train for the clergy, but a lot of it was self-teaching and reading a small number of "Great Books", struggling with them until their lessons became integrated in thought, word and deed.

The Founders from the very beginning believed public education was critical duty of the state, if this new experiment of the American republic was to survive, let alone thrive. Irony today is we spend even larger amounts of money on public education yet voter turnouts are now embarrassingly small; for this, the birthplace of this new experimental form of human governance.

I commend both books for breezy holiday reading.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
November 30, 2013 at 7:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Is math, engineering and computer science being politicized? Because that's where the shortage is. It's like saying there aren't enough oranges because of bad apples. I'm no fan of the religious right, but to blame a shortage of domestic engineering and computer scientists on the controversy over the causes of global warming and creationism teaching is like kicking your dog because your wife is cheating on you.

Botany (anonymous profile)
November 30, 2013 at 8:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The subject matter is too complicated for me to grasp so I opt not to leave a comment here. I will leave it to my more erudite and esteemed colleagues to do so.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
December 1, 2013 at 12:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"EconNSBC is looking at the big picture and convening citizens and key stakeholders to build an understanding of the nature of our education challenges and develop a collective approach to solving them."
Great. I wait with hope for the solution! My impression of the nature of our education challenges is that we need better students, starting in kindergarten.

ErikKengaard (anonymous profile)
December 1, 2013 at 6:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

oh come on Bill, it isn't specifically or only "methodology"! Money and the lack thereof is a huge part of this [we need Prop 31!!], and also income-levels. Low-income/poverty-level children fare much much worse, so let's share the blame with the enormous inequities in our economy, the parents [to some degree], the teachers [though most are working valliantly!], and yes some with the methodology. Where I strongly agree with you, BC, is your lament that all the tech and bells&whistles haven't helped students at all: you are completely correct. E.g., the iPad craziness in LA and now coming to 4 schools here: waste of money.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 1, 2013 at 7:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Studies have shown that parents have much more influence than any other factor when it comes to the success or failure in school. Any big change in our children's education needs to begin there.

Botany (anonymous profile)
December 1, 2013 at 8:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Still missing is an adequate analysis of how a higher population density (and thus higher marginal costs for land, and thus higher public sector employee incomes), a greater proportion of low income families, diminution of local control of funding, changing demographics, Serrano I and II, smaller class sizes, greater school overhead, and other factors changed the budgetary situation in California from what it was in the 1950s to what it is today. Without adequate analysis, and consequent understanding, sound public policy is unlikely. For an interesting read on ineffective public policy for school funding, see the New Jersey Education Commissioner's (Christopher D. Cerf) 2012 report on school funding in New Jersey. ( Hundreds of millions wasted.

ErikKengaard (anonymous profile)
December 1, 2013 at 9:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

there's no doubt plenty of money wasted, don't hold it against the young students, however! Botany, the "influence of the parents" is important, and hey, I'm a parent, so obviously parents have a huge impact. But the socio-ECONOMIC level of the parents and particularly the zip code in which they live factors very heavily into your "parents-are-the-main-thing". Just compare Harding Elem. API scores (abysmal) with MUS and Cold Springs: would you argue that the wealthier parents in that 93108 zip code are "better" parents than those living in the 93101 Harding zip code area?? I know you've heard of the breakdown of the family in the last 40 - 50 years, the skyrocketing divorce rates etc etc. There are several factors impeding good parent influence on their children: the extraordinary economic IN-equalities in our country, growing very fast since 1970, also puts a terrific squeeze on many parents. It is simplistic to blame all the ills of education on the parents, or the kids, or the teachers. ErikK is correct that very poor public education policy leadership plays a big role as well and monies are wasted. Another upcoming e.g. is the ostensibly commendable Common Core S.S., which has become an enormous boondoggle in NY State and Kentucky.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 1, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

ErikK I've downloaded the Cerf study, 83 pp! Thank you. And yeah, NJ funds very well, but still, as a subchapter title indicates, "Despite New Jersey's Sustained Financial Investment in its Public Schools, New Jersey's Economically Disadvantaged Students Continue to Underperform." Thus amplifying a contention that WHERE students live in a state/community -- say on the lower Eastside or in San Roque -- has a HUGE impact on students' learning.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 1, 2013 at 10:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Only a strong economy can contribute in providing students with the opportunity and the chances that they require in order to triumph and excel in the field that they want to develop a career in. Moreover, with innovations leading to developments in online learning and programs these opportunities for students will further excel and grow

johnsonblake (anonymous profile)
December 1, 2013 at 10:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'll be the "Bad Guy" who will raise eyebrows with my politically incorrect views.

These discussions always degenerate into the issue of Hispanic kids not having support at home. In generations past, there were plenty of poor people with dark skin with little education, no English, and the shirts on their backs who came from Eastern and Southern Europe whose kids somehow managed to do better than the target "underprivileged" kids today. What happened?

A few decades ago, pressure groups demanded bilingual education for the kids and bilingual services for the adults, this had a two-fold effect: One, the self-esteem of the parents went down the drain as they felt the label of being less intelligent (and to be clear, I don't believe any race is more/less intelligent than another but when you keep being told you can't do what others are doing you FEEL as though you are less able) being applied to them/felt no incentive to assilimate into American culture; and B: resulted in lower standards based on lower expectations. This created a ripple effect, and now the excuse is that it's just too hard to educate "immigrant" (code for *Hispanic* immigrant) kids because of their background. Is there a solution for this, maybe not a total one, but a good move would be to simply say that while this country has had a history of racism, and yes, this area was once owned by Mexico, (the driving force of race-based guilt politics in this area) English is the common language and the U.S. has certain standards and that from now on all immigrants are held to the same standards and if one group falls behind the others than that group must strive to do better in this area or accept their lower academic achievements. I've run this through my head time and time again and there is no other way. Of course, those with a sense of entitlement, and those with a sense of guilt, will say that this is "racist" and that the issue is "complicated"--so much so that us non-academics simply lack the intelligence to grasp the issue.
Lower expectations=lower results, and it starts not simply with the parents themselves, but with how they are perceived and low-end workers incapable of doing better--hard as they may be for the "progressives" to grasp.

I've been to school board meetings on this issue, and I am here to testify that the public school system is infiltrated with Left-wing politics to the extent that I see it as very unlikely any of this will change in the near future, but like the gang problem, schoolyard shootings, road rage, and homelessness, addressing deep down causes--which really are not "complicated" at all, is too much to handle for most people so they'd rather curse the darkness than light a candle and effect a solution. Of course being someone who doesn't have a college degree and who barely made it through high school, what would I know of such matters? Apparently empirical knowledge is only compatible with having a sheepskin.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
December 2, 2013 at 1:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I forgot one thing: Santa Barbara has a deal where schools with "English Learners" get 35% more for each "English Learner" student. To repeat the adage "follow the money".

"Those who operate school districts are waiting with bated breath to see what Brown’s formula will look like after it gets sliced and diced by the Legislature. The premise is that districts will receive a “base grant” for each student equal to what they are entitled to this year. They will then receive an additional 35 percent of that amount for each English learner, low-income student, and foster youth (although foster children are already accounted for in the low-income number because they are eligible for free lunches)."

billclausen (anonymous profile)
December 2, 2013 at 1:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

too bad, BC, that you write how these education discussions "degenerate into the issue of Hispanic kids not having support at home." With "degenerate", there is no discussion, and your refs to "times past" means...well, that time is gone, Bill, can't bring it back. Worry less about left-wing and more about equality of opportunity.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 2, 2013 at 10:47 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I notice how when these points are brought up the other side shuts down the discussion as in "there is no discussion". Sorry DrDan, but the truth is the truth.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
December 2, 2013 at 3:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank goodness we have teachers' unions that put kids first, fight for less bureaucracy, embrace merit pay and promotions (instead of tenure based), are open to results based teaching programs and want to move more money from the administrators office to the classroom.

Oh, wait... unions don't want any of that? and the lib-dem pols who are in office due to unions don't want it either?

The solution is clear - keep voting lib-dem, so they can keep supporting teachers' unions, so they can keep money and solutions as far away from kids and as close to their pension funds and paychecks as possible.

realitycheck88 (anonymous profile)
December 10, 2013 at 10:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I can only agree with this part, reality: "embrace merit pay and promotions (instead of tenure based)". The teachers' unions are partly to blame, yes, but when you start writing about "results-based teaching programs" I smell competition, privatization, and too-much-testing in your thinking. Your association of "pension funds" and teachers means you really disrespect these professional instructors. What, they shouldn't care about their future, and when they're old, c'mon.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 11, 2013 at 8:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I totally agree with this and would like to contribute by saying that the government should pay close attention to the education sector specially the online education industry which can help eradicate poverty and improve the economy.

debrajackson620 (anonymous profile)
January 16, 2014 at 10:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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