Why Employers Support School Unification —Greg Justice

Received today from the Chamber. -jsq
Why Employers Support School Unification
By Greg Justice
Director of Manufacturing
Regal Marine Industries, Inc.

Look it up, states that rank among the highest in terms of quality of life and economic growth rank among the highest in terms of quality of education. Is this because these states have higher levels of education, or did they become attractive places to live because they have a focused approach to improving the quality of education? And does the same reasoning hold true for different nations?

It would seem we’re about to find out. In one generation, the U.S. has fallen from No. 1 to No. 9 in the number of people graduating with college degrees. We’re mediocre in education when compared to the other 34 industrialized nations. A 2009 study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in math – all lagging behind other leading industrialized countries.

It is hard to relate these statistics to our local schools,

And I thought business people liked hard work!
but one wonders how Georgia compares to other states? Although a report by Education Week rated Georgia eighth overall in policy and performance, it gave Georgia a D+ in performance for K-12 education. When looking at SAT scores, Georgia ranked 48th. State rankings get a bit skewed considering the percentage of students from each state who take the SAT. Still, regardless of “spin,” it doesn’t look good for Georgia. The SAT national average score for 2010 was 1,509 compared to the average score for Georgia at 1,453: Lowndes County at 1,473 and Valdosta at 1,343.

Local school officials recently said only 53 percent of students who entered Valdosta High four years ago graduated with the rest of their class last May.

One can expect the same concern in Lowndes County when the state releases the new formula for reporting graduation rates.

Although we’ve seen good improvement in both school systems, we can and should do better.

I know many wonderful, dedicated teachers, administrators and board members in both systems, and we’re blessed to have them. Our current state of affairs is not an indictment against them.

Our community is divided by two school systems and, unless something changes, we will continue to struggle in how we address our educational challenges.

This effort will truly require a communitywide approach where everyone works together under a unified school system and has a stake in academic successes and failures of all students.

As a business leader, I’m afraid that unless our community comes together and unites behind one school system, we will continue to struggle with improving the educational outcomes of our children and preparing them for future success. This means our community will flounder, our children will continue to fall further behind, and building a better qualified workforce will become more challenging.

Those who support a unified Valdosta-Lowndes County school system understand the consequences if the status quo in education continues. Hopefully, you will consider joining me in supporting a unified Valdosta-Lowndes County school system on Nov. 8.

Now some may choose to follow that famous educational expert Dr. Greg Justice, DoM, RMII, in his quest for “focus” on a hocus pocus connection between educational achievement and number of school systems which he never even makes a hand-waving attempt to establish. It’s rather like “here’s an orange (school performance), and here’s an apple (school “unification”), therefore ice tea (community involvement)!” You can believe it if you like, but I don’t. And if you like to believe things as silly as that, how about just stay home and don’t vote on November 8th?

I prefer the financial and educational views of Dr. Troy Davis, perhaps because he actually used real numbers about the real local school systems to demonstrate that “unification” would actually cause a masssive school budget shortfall that would raise taxes in both Valdosta and Lowndes County, and still would require cuts in services. That’s right, “unification” would make local education worse.

If you prefer facts to hocus pocus, please do get out and vote November 8th: vote No for the children. And if you live outside Valdosta, call your friends in Valdosta, and carry them to the polls.