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The challenges facing Cleveland in the area of Education can be summarized as follows:

  • Deteriorating School Buildings: Learning is hard enough; but many students must also deal with the daily distraction of a deteriorated setting, windows leaking cold drafts, too little or too much heat, poor lighting or acoustics, outdated facilities, or the threat of collapsing roofs and ceilings. Not to mention the demoralizing message such things send.

  • Still Too Many High School Dropouts: With nearly 4,500 (or 17%) of the city’s 16-19 year-olds neither currently enrolled in school nor gainfully employed, Cleveland’s future competitiveness is by that much diminished, and social problems guaranteed, especially in neighbors where the percentage of young people who have removed themselves from the proven path of opportunity is high.

  • Few College or Professional Degrees: With only 11% of Cleveland’s population holding bachelors or professional degrees, putting it 96 th on the list of the 100 largest U.S. cities, it will be difficult to attract and hold new high-tech industries and well-paying jobs.

  • Alienated or Intimidated Parents: Many city residents who are now parents of school-age children themselves do not know how to help their children have a successful experience in school, or are uncomfortable entering the school building or engaging staff, because they themselves had a bad experience in school.

  • Lack of Community Support for the Educational Process: Some communities do not seem to really grasp the implications of their children’s success or failure in school for their future employability and success in life, or for the future competitiveness of the city or their own neighborhood. Rejection of recent school levies has forced the lay-off of hundreds of teachers, jeopardizing hard won gains. Extensive research has shown that hiring highly-qualified teachers, and lowering the teacher-student ratio, are key to success.

  • Charter schools draining desperately needed funds: According to The Plain Dealer, Cleveland’s charter schools, which are privately-run but tax-funded, “have sucked $150 million from the school district’s operating funds in the last seven years—and are expected to draw off another $324 million over the next four.”

  • Births to Underage or Teen Mothers: The failure of communities to seriously address the anxieties, unmet needs and self-destructive acting out of their adolescent members results in the removal of a growing segment of our youth from the path to opportunity, deprives the community of the educated workforce it will need to be competitive and prosperous in tomorrow’s marketplace, and multiplies the social problems that soak up precious resources.

  • Many Adults with Unmarketable Skills: Adult residents, or school dropouts, who find themselves with insufficient or outdated skills have inadequate resources to which to turn for the education or specialized training that would qualify them for well-paying jobs with high-tech and other emerging industries.

  • Real or Perceived Lack of Access to Educational Opportunities Beyond High School: Many public high school students have a real or perceived lack of access to area opportunities for higher education, and sometimes the resources to take advantage of, or fully realize, those opportunities. Some are intimidated by the whole idea of attending a university; for others, college is simply not a reality they can associate with their own lives.

  • Little Exposure to the “Work Culture”: For many school-age children, especially those with few role models and thus little first- or even second-hand experience of the “world of work,” the skills they are being taught in school have little connection in their minds with their own ability to succeed in life and have the things they want; career goals tend to be fantasy-fueled (rock star, TV actress, the next Lebron James) or inchoate. No mystery that clothes and having fun seem far more real.

  • Lack of Child Care: With more mothers with children under the age of six (that is, too young to attend school) forced to seek employment, there is a crucial—and growing—shortage of adequate child care, for which society, and individual communities, will eventually pay a bitter price.

  • Education: How well we “do Education” will directly affect life here in several areas:

    • Competitiveness : The level of education attained by the city’s workforce will, quite simply, be a crucial determiner (or limiter) of Cleveland’s (and the region’s) ability to compete in the global marketplace. In order to attract, and hold, new high-tech and emerging industries, the city must provide a workforce with the skills and level of sophistication required by these enterprises.

    • Quality of Life : The ability to qualify for and hold a well-paying job is also key, of course, to the quality of life enjoyed by individuals and families. The level of education attained by residents will therefore determine (or limit) the level of prosperity and opportunity not only of the individual involved but of those other family members who are dependent on that individual’s earning power, well beyond the year 2020. Nor can the needs of residents who are beyond their formal schooling years be neglected: The fight for quality of life, competitiveness, jobs with new high-tech industries, the ability of Cleveland residents to move up to more challenging (and better-paying) positions, begins with today’s adults.

    • Community Health & Stability : Undereducated adults are not only likely to contribute significantly less to the economic base that allows a community to provide the amenities and essential services that make urban life (and neighborhoods) vibrant, and attractive to new residents and businesses, they are more likely to require additional social services. High school graduates are twice as likely to smoke, much less likely to exercise, almost twice as likely to get divorced, as college-educated individuals, and more likely to be unemployed, trapped in low-paying jobs, or inadequately insured. Poor health, bad habits that destroy both individuals’ lives and families, crime, and neglect of property can be some of the consequences of inadequate income and unrealized potential. And all of them exact a cost that must be borne by the community, further depleting resources that could have been spent on other things. College graduates, on the other hand, are nearly twice as likely to vote, more than twice as likely to volunteer their time, and much more likely to give blood. The point is that education is vitally connected to almost everything else. (Source: TheNew York Times)

    • Needed - An Integrated Strategy : This is why the theme of connectivity is so critical to our efforts to revitalize the city’s Education picture. Just as other sectors—from local employers and to merchants and sports franchises—will be impacted by the success or failure of these efforts, so can they all do things that will help to make the difference. Health care providers, recreational and fitness facilities, universities and community colleges, churches, social service agencies and neighborhood centers, cultural institutions, our school buildings themselves all have important roles to play in the development of the healthy, thoughtful, well educated citizens—parents, voters, entrepreneurs, employees, managers, teachers, civic leaders and care givers—we will need to carry on the life of this community in the years ahead.

If Cleveland is to be truly competitive in the period ahead, each of these challenges must be addressed , as well as the opportunities that present themselves at the present time or loom in the near future—for it is in terms of the city’s future that we must all be thinking.

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