A Richer Vision for Education & Economic Development – Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

A Richer Vision for Education & Economic Development

A Richer Vision for Education & Economic Development

High Hopes for Today’s Launch of the Commonwealth Education Continuum

There are high hopes for the work of the Commonwealth Education Continuum which was announced late last year. The meeting agenda describes the effort as a “multi-agency education initiative” and the objectives outlined suggest the focus will be to increase postsecondary attainment. A laudable and much needed focus for a state which ranks 4th in the nation for poverty and whose economy lags the nation considerably.

This key fact – was the focus of my address to our membership during the Prichard Committee annual meeting in 2019. The point was simple: our improvements in K12 education since the 1980s were undeniable, but we were clearly not achieving the original vision of a “path to a larger life” for more Kentuckians. Further, since 2015, we were starting to see signs of decline in key indicators of education progress. While poverty has never and will never be an excuse for lack of improvement, if we didn’t start to see increases in the incomes of Kentucky’s families – we’d likely hit a plateau in the grand experiment to pull ourselves from the bottom rungs of the nation. Kentucky’s next big play must be increasing overall educational attainment as measured by meaningful degrees and certificates, coupled with a richer vision for economic development: filling the jobs today and ensuring Kentuckians will be the job creators of our future.

The depth of poverty and our improvements in education are inextricably linked. We know education can break the cycle of poverty – if a degree or certificate is meaningful in the marketplace and there is a marketplace in which to utilize one’s skills and abilities. In Kentucky, we must focus on both – from the west to the east, the north to the south: preparing our people through education and ensuring our approach to economic development allows an individual to secure a job with a family sustaining wage and the ability to build wealth over time. A focus on postsecondary education as the nearest term strategy for beginning to break these cycles, and begin to move Kentucky, and Kentucky’s families, from the bottom rungs of our nation in poverty – is the EXACT immediate approach.

Ensuring we strengthen points all along the pipeline of education is critical for sustainability of our improvement and the exponential progress in the mid-term and the long-term necessary for Kentucky to improve its position in national standings. Following my 2019 annual keynote, we set to work on a new national rankings report, one that drives us toward the ultimate goal of improving the lives of Kentuckians. The Big Bold Future: National Rankings Report highlights our ranking as a state in each of the primary areas of our education system: early childhood, K12, and postsecondary. Our national rankings, which we’ll report to the public every year, goes one step further – to Quality of Life – as measured by educational attainment and median household income.

To truly make these improvements – at the state and local level – a targeted and intentional approach to various groups of individuals in our state is necessary. The first step is knowing how different groups are doing. In fact, we must approach all of this work through the lens of excellence with equity if we are to ensure we deliver for Kentucky’s families, Kentucky’s communities, and the growth of our state as a whole.

We have high hopes for the work of the Commonwealth Education Continuum and look forward to the inclusion of the myriad groups and voices outside of state government who can lend critical public and community knowledge and vision, to the conversation.

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