Executive Editor Frank Pine
Created: 05/07/2011 09:28:54 PM PDT
It’s hardly controversial to say that education is important.
Who would disagree?
At the same time, the public education system seems to have been embroiled in some kind of crisis for as long as I can remember.
In better economic times, the crisis might have gone to the methodology of teaching or to achievement gaps across social stratum, but today’s crisis seems altogether more urgent and more profound.
It’s also immediate, in the sense that it affects – or potentially affects – everyone, ranging well past families with children in public schools to anyone with an interest in the region’s, if not the nation’s, economic future.
So much has been written of the economic downturn, and more specific to this issue, the state budget crisis, that it really requires no introduction or explanation other than to say that government agencies at all levels are grappling with relentless budget shortfalls. As much as public officials and elected leaders have tried to avoid or stave off dramatic reductions in services, it now seems all but inevitable that such cuts will be necessary to balance the government books.
Or will they?
The issue of public education is so vast and complex that unless you’re involved in it – an educator, administrator, lawmaker or lobbyist – it’s hard to sift through the mountains of documents and endless political rhetoric to determine just how bad things really are and what might be done to address it.
I can’t pretend to have all those answers, but I can say with certainty that education is a topic that should be of concern to all of us, especially here in the Inland Empire.
Consider: An October CNN Money report on America’s Smartest Cities found the Inland Empire (in the report, it’s the Riverside metro area) had the lowest proportion of residents with college degrees – 19.2 percent. Other areas on the “Bottom 10” list were Las Vegas, No. 2 at 21.5 percent; Memphis, No. 3 at 24.2 percent; New Orleans, Detroit and Cleveland, all of which are apparently better educated than us.
So we’re No. 1 on the list of the most uneducated metro areas in the country. Nice.
There can, of course, be no doubt that quality K-12 education makes a difference in the high school graduation rate, the number of students who go on to college or a university, and ultimately, to the proportion of the population that has a college degree.
And do we really need experts to tell us that a more educated work force begets higher paying jobs?
San Jose, known as the Capital of Silicon Valley, ranks third in the top 10 (43.2 percent of residents have college degrees). Washington is tops, with 47.3 percent of residents possessing college degrees.
The median family income in San Jose is more than $100,000 a year. The unemployment rate is 10.6.
In San Bernardino County, the median family income is just over $52,320. In Riverside County, the median family income is $55,352.
The Inland Empire’s unemployment rate is 13.9.
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