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Education's role in job creation

On the eve of a new session of the Minnesota Legislature, the Legislative Committee of the Brainerd School Board had the opportunity to meet with local legislators to discuss educational priorities they believe require legislative attention.

• Local Levy Equity: Promoting a greater equity regarding local levy funding in districts like Brainerd Public Schools

• Repayment of the Shift: Seeking legislative commitment to full repayment of the shift and as timely a move as possible

• Adequate Early Childhood Funding: Requesting sufficient funding for School Readiness and all-day, everyday kindergarten

• State Leadership in Technology: Encouraging the advancement of technological skills and access for the state’s K-12 students

None of these priorities are unique to Brainerd Public Schools; however, each one plays an important role in meeting the objectives outlined in Brainerd Public Schools’ mission statement: “ISD #181, in partnership with the community, will ensure all students achieve their individual potential by providing the highest-quality programs & resources to prepare learners for an ever-changing global society.”

The saying of “Always begin with the end in mind,” couldn’t be truer than in education. As we look to best prepare our students for their future beyond Brainerd Public Schools, we know that we need to begin as early as possible. We need to include early introduction and continued enhancement and integration of technology in ways that change more often than we ever imagined. We need to provide as many opportunities for students as early as possible that will help them best identify their own skills and passions that will guide their futures, a future that we hope will exist right here in Minnesota.

Minnesota has long been a leader in business and industry, and we are proud to have the highest number of Fortune 500 companies per capita when compared to other states. Closely linked to this success is the emphasis on and performance of education in Minnesota. In fact, recently released rankings of how states’ primary education systems are preparing students for careers in science and engineering place Minnesota at #2 in the entire nation. The Science and Engineering Readiness Index (SERI) measures how high school students are performing in physics and calculus based on publicly available data including Advanced Placement scores, National Assessment of Educational Progress reports, teacher certification requirements by state, and physics class enrollment data.

Job creation continues to be a key priority for our state and nation. Educators across the state have shared a vested interest in our state’s job creation efforts. Therefore, we want to be certain education’s role in meeting this objective is not lost. Minnesotans have a proven track record in best preparing our students for their future careers. Public investments made in effectively preparing Minnesota’s students for their future careers are essential. They are, in fact, as important as those investments that sustain a vibrant local economy, which will employee these students, increasing the State’s economic potential with increased personal and commerce revenues.

Having the ability to not only produce, but also retain an educated and prepared workforce pays significant economic dividends on our State’s investment.

I am confident we are sending our legislators back to St. Paul with a clear understanding of the ongoing challenges we face in best preparing our students for their future. Beyond these challenges we need our elected officials to grasp the amazing opportunity they have to impact our students’ future employment prospects in our very own community. This can be accomplished with a continued focus on the direct link between high-quality education and a strong economic environment. With these priorities in mind, our legislators can best set their objectives to foster an even stronger environment for job creation in Minnesota.

STEVE RAZIDLO is superintendent of the Brainerd School District.