Working Harder and Smarter: A Message to High School Students and Others

Recently, the New York State Education Department released some disturbing figures. Better than three in 10 students in recent classes failed to graduate from high school in four years. These figures are derived from a study tracking students who entered the ninth grade in 2000 and 2001. "The problem is something that should focus the attention for everyone in this state," said education Chancellor Robert Bennett. And we strongly agree with Chancellor Bennett. To be sure, these data fail to provide a complete analysis of the many positive accomplishments occurring in our schools. Many of our students and our local schools have much in which we can take pride. And we commend them! But there is much yet which needs to be improved upon; and for good reason. Students assuming a greater responsibility for their own learning, educators enriching the instructional program and school districts finding ways to cut costs and creatively share services, these three... may be good place to start. There is no doubt that a strong educational system is advantageous for all...from the very youngest to the most senior. And among other great advances which come from a strong educational system, is the advantage that as is the condition of our current educational system so also becomes the state of the economy locally and over the long term.

Newspaper reports, including the OBSERVER, have highlighted that a strong economic growth period is in place. Non farm payroll employment increased by 193,000 in January, and the unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent. Job gains have occurred in several industries, including construction, mining, food services, health care, and financial activates. Overall, employment rates had ranged form 4.9 to 5.1 percent during most of 2005 and the 4.7 figure today illustrate the productive growth of the economy.

The above figures are a significant indicator that the health of the economy is on a steady rebound. Most significant is that with job growth, there is a record productivity growth. Economic development, as seen by Thomas L. Hungerford of the Levy Economic Institute, is any dollar-based in economic activity in an area, Such economic activity can occur through two channels, First, a given economy is able to produce a greater dollar value of output due to increased productivity; and secondly, an economy produced a greater dollar of output due by adding more inputs to it production processes. Improving the quality of education at all levels results in greater economic development through bother of these channels. President John F. Kennedy said it well when he stated "Education is the mainspring of our economic and social progress...it is the highest expression of achievement in our society, ennobling and enriching life." And President Ronal Reagan further reinforced that when he said "There are no such things as limits to growth, because there are no limits on the human capacity for intelligence, imagination and wonder."

And it's worth noting, the United States is producing record surpluses on services. These services are in highly educated competencies such as medicine, management, construction, engineering, production operation, finance, litigation and other high end professions. Statistical evidence shows that for every additional year of schooling, another million dollars of lifetime income will be earned. And this income is compounded over and over again.

Our society is demanding ever more literate workers and citizens. As technology advances and the growth in the American economy is increasingly knowledge based, individuals must be able to communicate at higher levels in order to be effective as economic and social contributors. Evidence suggests that the health and well-being of an individual drastically improves in relation to one's level and quality of education received. And further, there is a preponderance of statistical evidence which shows a positive correlation between the quality and degree of education of a population and the economic healthy and vitality of a region.

It is reported that six million students throughout America are currently at risk of dropping out of school. High school dropouts find it difficult to enter the workforce with necessary skills to meet the demands of the nation's global economy. Jobs that require advanced skills are growing; students who have attained a higher level of education will have better employment opportunities and certainly will contribute to the vitality and vibrancy of the economy. Thus, increasing the number of graduates with a quality education will raise national revenues and will reduce billions of dollars in pubic and private expenditures currently spent on rectifying the shortcoming of a failed education.

Unemployment data by groups support this assumption: high school dropouts have an unemployment rate of about 8.8% while those with a high school diploma have an unemployment rate of approximately 5.6% at the time this data was collected earlier last year. So it is clear, that in this global economy that without a reasonable education, it is more difficult to survive comfortably. The Chancellor of the State University of New York said, "Education can help to contribute within an individual a feeling of financial self-sufficience." And with that statement we certainly can concur.

Gordon Brown, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer state it well, "It is because education is the twenty-first century road to prosperity ant Britain much become the best educated, best trained, best skilled country in the world. Unleashing the potential of every individual in our country is going to be the key to economic success." And Jon Kyl, a well known US Senator from Arizona stated, "If we can get our education policy right in America, almost every other goal can be achieved...If we want to be strong, we need the best economy in the world. If we want to have a society free of crime, to the greatest extend possible, you educate people to grow up with skills to lead productive lives."

We believe that the Regents Master Plan of the NYS Education Department has it right when it says "The better educated a population, the more prosperity this state is gong to enjoy." Clearly, as we see it...as is the level of the educational experience of an area so intrinsically becomes the economic condition of that area. And that is how we see it FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE.