America’s Mayors Weigh in on Education

September 8, 2017 - (3 min read)

Across the country, children are returning from summer break for a new school year. For cities, the back-to-school season means intensifying their work to ensure that youth are supported — both in and out of the classroom.

In their State of the City speeches this year, collected in our annual report, America’s mayors emphasized the importance of education in their communities. They acknowledged that challenges exist around early childhood education, technology in schools, and access to higher ed — while stressing that great schools are the key growing to economic opportunity.

Here’s what they had to say, in their own words, on several key topics:

Early Childhood Education

In Baltimore, Maryland, Mayor Catherine Pugh noted that excellent education starts in early childhood. “Our children are the foundation for the future of our city,” said Mayor Pugh. “What we do for them at their earliest age and throughout will influence their character and choices, which is why I am a big supporter of Judy Centers, educating our children beginning at 6 weeks of age and all day Pre-K gives our children a competitive edge as they pursue their education.”

Mayor Hillary Schieve of Reno, Nevada echoed that sentiment: “As Mayor of this city, I am proud to be a part of a Council that, when looking at future growth, schools have been one of our top priorities. I look forward to working with the new school board on educational initiatives as we soar to new altitudes.”

Workforce Development

“Our youth are also being supported in their aspirations to go to college,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in his well-received State of the City address. “Last year, the Detroit Promise made our city the first major city in America to offer two-year free college tuition to anybody who graduates from one of our high schools to go to two years of community college. […] The Detroit Promise is funded and it’s going to be here long-term. If you apply yourself, college is going to be available to any resident of the city of Detroit who graduates high school, it’s one of the privileges of growing up in the city of Detroit.”

The same theme of workforce development resonated in Kansas City, Missouri, led by Mayor Sly James. “Our city’s very lifeblood is the talent, creativity, and work ethic of our citizens,” said Mayor James. “That means we need well educated people. And no indicator is more critical to success in education than reading.”

Education Technology

In the Northeast, city investment in technology for students was a popular thread. “We believe that our kids should have the tools that they need to be prepared for the world that awaits them,” said Providence, Rhode Island’s Mayor Jorge Elorza. “That is why last year, we invested over $2M to purchase over 8,000 new laptops for our students; getting us closer to the magic 1:1 ratio of technology to students.”

And in New Haven, Connecticut, the home of Yale University, Mayor Toni Harp struck a similar chord: “New Haven is emergent as a desirable place for public school students to be prepared for college, career, and life. And to be honest, the timing couldn’t be more crucial. We have an obligation to help young people learn so they can separate facts from alternative facts, truth from bluster, and public service from public spectacle.”

Each year, NLC’s State of the Cities report offers insight into the issues that matter most to mayors — in their own words. For updates on State of the Cities 2018 and other reports, subscribe to our newsletter: The Weekly.