Editor's Note (The View From Here)

Alert: 2017 Ahead

Many are wondering what is in store for education as our new president takes office. While the debate may be about how to improve education, the real focus will be on who gets the funding.

At risk: early childhood educational support. In December, state legislators participating in the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) Capitol Forum discussed the question: Are early childcare and development programs an expense or an investment? While there is national concern about educational outcomes, many still question the cost and value of these programs. Brain science research shows that early experiences affect the development of brain architecture, which provides the foundation for all future learning, behavior and health.

Be careful what you wish for: school choice, vouchers and tax credits. Our new president supports privately run, publicly funded charter schools. School choice can help students trapped in a bad school. The concern is discerning and funding “good” charter schools. From a personal perspective, I have visited some great charter schools… along with some that are really frightening. Key to any good school, public or charter, are expectations (academic and conduct) that are clearly defined and measurable; a commitment by students, faculty and parents; and environments and curriculum that prepare students for life in the real world. Unfortunately, I have seen some of the privately run charters that were much better at marketing and profit margins than they were at educating students. Overcrowded classrooms, nonexistent technology and “teaching to the test” were the norm. While the test scores may have looked good, students were not being prepared for what comes next.

A need for higher education. Along with the focus on jobs, there needs to be a focus on workforce development. If the research done by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce holds true, by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the economy will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school. Health care, community services and STEM will grow the fastest among occupational clusters. But with the new administration in place, so will infrastructure. The Associated General Contractors of America reports that many firms have gone from concern about not having enough work to not having enough qualified workers. Without a workforce development plan, labor shortages could undermine broader economic growth.

There is no question that this is the start of an interesting year!

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of College Planning & Management.

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