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Friday, August 18, 2017

Between the 7’s

Strong economies compete on the basis of high value, not solely low cost. Yet in Arizona, growing economic disparity hinders the State’s ability to provide the high-value-added products and services necessary to compete in a global marketplace. The economic problems associated with unequal growth are stagnant wage growth and depressed market demand – in turn there is research that shows an increase in social problems, such as crime, drug abuse, gangs, reliance on government assistance, and family break-ups.
The most forward-thinking approach to solving these problems and increasing competitiveness is to equip today’s and tomorrow’s students with the skills and attitudes for economic and civic success in an increasingly knowledge-based economy. This is exactly what Roosevelt school district is starting to accomplish. The knowledge-based economy demands an increasingly higher set of skills and according to the 2007-08 AIMS scores, over 90% of the Roosevelt School District’s schools are now labeled performing or performing plus schools by the Arizona Department of Education. Consequently, the Arizona State Board of Education recently decided to let the District control its own destiny going forward into the new school year, rather than to put it into receivership.
At the District’s formal “Welcome Back” event held on August 1, nearly 750 teachers cheered in harmony when the news of Roosevelt’s success had been announced. School District Superintendent Mark Dowling commented, “A great weight has been lifted from the shoulders of the staff, teachers, and administrators.” He also noted “Roosevelt will be the district to watch as we continue to increase student achievement for all of our children.”
A fascinating body of research links primary and secondary education to economic development and growth. This research recognizes people as a type of economic asset – “human capital” – and shows that increased investment in skills, knowledge, and health provides future returns to the economy through increases in labor productivity. Education increases workers’ average earnings and productivity, and it also reduces the incidence of social problems such as drug abuse, crime, welfare dependency, and lack of access to medical care, all of which can weigh heavily on the economy.
It is time for the wider community to find out more about Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” and learn the story of the School District’s accomplishments. For example they were one of the few metropolitan Districts to pass a $60 million bond that will provide funding for a new technology center. They were also selected by Pearson’s Publishing (a world class organization) to be a pilot developing reading tests. Roosevelt also partners with the nationally renowned John’s Hopkins Center for Data Driven Reform in Education. They are one of only six locations awarded the privilege of hosting Teach For America’s National Summer Teacher Training Institute. Locally, the Roosevelt School District also works with the Arizona State University’s BEST program.
Today Arizona and its elected officials are faced with fiscal crises that sometimes lead them to cut the funding streams for these public programs and services. Over the long haul, however, our community will need to position themselves better by developing practical, long-term plans for sustained investments in education, workforce preparation, and retraining.
Investing wisely in education generates real, quantifiable results for workers, businesses, and society. If people are tied to low-paying jobs and unable to acquire skills needed by employers, productivity grows more slowly. If businesses do not have a workforce that is appropriately educated, they will be less competitive with their overseas rivals. If Arizonans do not have what it takes to succeed in today’s economy, they will feel threatened by economic change and are much more likely to recycle back and forth between unemployment insurance, welfare, and poorly paid, insecure employment.
Finally, the spreading number of low-paying jobs breaks a longstanding social contract under which most Americans work: “If I work hard, I will be able to keep my job, support my family, and enjoy a growing income.” Quality education is a critical tool for upholding this understood contract. Prevention is almost always cheaper than treatment. If we do not invest now, we most certainly will pay later. What is happening in Roosevelt School District is good for everyone in Arizona.
Congratulations to all the students, parents, teachers, staff and administrators of Roosevelt School District.

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