A skilled and educated workforce is increasingly vital to a community’s economic vitality. Even when city officials do not play a direct role in governing their school systems, there are numerous ways in which they can exercise leadership to support public schools, expand alternatives for students who struggle in traditional educational settings, increase high school graduation rates, and promote college access and completion.
With or without authority over local school districts, municipal officials in both large and small cities across the nation are partnering with school districts and other community stakeholders to improve local public schools and enhance student academic achievement. High-quality education helps create quality cities by developing a skilled workforce, improving economic vitality, attracting and retaining families and residents, and encouraging an engaged citizenry.
Many of our nation’s high schools are ill-equipped to prepare students for work, college, and citizenship. Nearly one-third of students do not graduate from high school on time or at all. Among African American, Latino, and Native American students, approximately half graduate. Young people without a high school diploma have worse employment outcomes, lower average incomes and higher rates of criminal activity. City leaders can partner with school districts and community partners to expand options and alternatives for students who struggle in traditional high school settings.
In a 21st century global economy, a college degree or advanced training beyond high school is required for the best-paying and fastest-growing jobs. However, while postsecondary enrollment is at an all-time high, many students struggle to complete their education due to work and family responsibilities, lack of preparation for college-level work, and other obstacles. In an effort to attract high-paying jobs to their communities, municipal officials are playing leadership roles in efforts to boost postsecondary completion rates by coordinating assistance from a range of agencies.