Mayors and Education: Improving Local Educational Outcomes
Speaking before a capacity-filled room of Senate staffers in the Senate Visitors Center, NLC's president, Mayor Chris Coleman of Saint Paul, Minn., spoke of the importance of education to the economic development of his city. "We cannot move forward without an educated workforce," he said. "And that means providing every young person with the best education possible."
Mayor Betsy Price of Fort Worth, Texas, echoed Mayor Coleman's words when she said, "Education is economic development." And Mayor Edna Jackson of Savannah, Ga., shared her view noting that employers in her city want educated workers whom they can depend on to get the job done.
The July 25, Senate staff briefing by the panel of mayors on the way mayors are improving educational outcomes is part of an ongoing effort by the National League of Cities to educate Congress about the need for educational reform and the important role that mayors play in their cities with respect to education, and to call on Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in such a way as to ensure the important balance that should exist between the federal, state and local governments.
The briefing was hosted by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) who also spoke about the important work that mayors are doing around education. Citing efforts in Saint Paul to address the emotional and psychological needs of St. Paul's youth, Sen. Franken made clear his belief that, as a nation, we must commit to educating our youth, to providing each young person with the best education possible, and to do it in a way that ensures that they are able to compete in a 21st century economy.
Each of the mayors spoke about the innovations they are helping to implement in their cities including after-school programs that are designed to enrich each student's educational experience and in-school programs that are designed to provide disadvantaged and disconnected youth with the tools they need to succeed in the classroom. In Fort Worth, the mayor is using her "bully pulpit" to involve the business community in the city's many local education agencies, and is focusing efforts on ensuring that every student has access to adequate nutrition, including those on reduced priced lunch programs, who often by the end of the month are unable to afford even the reduced price meals.
In Savannah, programs to develop better community schools is driving an effort to create school-centered neighborhoods where it is possible not only to provide each student with a high quality education, but also to ensure parental involvement, something that is often difficult for low-income households. Similarly in Saint Paul, efforts to bring together city, county, local school board, students and parents has resulted in better educational outcomes.
The ultimate message that the mayors brought to Capitol Hill is that education matters to mayors because the future of their cities rest on an educated workforce who can meet the job skills needs of a 21st century economy. Each of them underscored, in somewhat different words, that we need an education system that helps every young person succeed, and we as mayors can help ensure that this will happen.