Time to Expand Public/Private Partnerships To Restore Our Educational Infrastructure
Kris Wilson, SCA President
There is a powerful link between the level of education and the strength of our economy. The need to help our kids become part of the workforce and community is even greater today, since Sonoma County must expand its workforce by adding 17,000 jobs — especially among those with skills needed to aid the recovery and rebuilding process. Investment in education is a major part of our recovery.
It will take public/private collaboration to make this happen. The Sonoma County Alliance represents a cross-section of the county through members representing business, labor, education and nonprofit organizations working with the public sector to focus on local issues. Together we can make a difference.
At our March 7, SCA general membership meeting, Jenni Klose, President of the Santa Rosa City Schools Board of Directors, said as the level of education improves, wages increase along with job satisfaction. From a societal viewpoint, as household income goes up, voter turnout is greater, community engagement is enhanced, crime decreases and people tend to develop healthier habits that can lead to a longer life.
She said having a sound learning environment based on high standards and low dropout rates is essential. Not only does this produce a workforce that earns more, having fewer dropouts contributes to a safer community. Statistics show that 80% of prisoners in jails today left school before graduation.
The fires resulted in 575 fewer students enrolled and attending Santa Rosa City Schools, and 1.5% fewer school employees. While 4,600 local high school students graduate annually, only 3,200 stay in Sonoma County. We need to retain them and convince those that left to return. Having a robust educational system is also a strong incentive for attracting professionals, having them stay and raise families.
Investing in education also gives us an opportunity to address pre-existing problems, such as housing, our infrastructure and environment, goals the Alliance wholeheartedly supports. Providing adequate funding for education is critical for success and also enhances career choice and college acceptance rates.
Over the past 3 years, our Education Committee, co-chaired by Mick Menendez and Craig Worthen, raised and distributed more than $40,000 to schools through the Bocce for Books event (set for May 26 at Taft Street Winery). We are also supporting the placement of mini-libraries throughout Sonoma County, with SCA logos and built by the Hanna Boys Center, where those without close access to public libraries can come and pick up a book they can keep. Mini-libraries will be auctioned off at the Jordan Winery “Reading Between the Vines” gala on April 14.
Other Alliance members are active with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs integrating academics with real-world lessons, as well as Career Technical Education and at the Maker Space projects at 180 Todd Road, providing tools and personnel to guide young people into critical occupations.
There are other ways to help, opportunities through tutoring, mentoring, providing internships and scholarships, and volunteering in schools, as well as by offering career insights and practical experiences in classrooms. You can also check off the $25 donation box for education on SCA’s membership renewal form.
The fabric of a viable, livable society is formed through partnering and personal involvement. I ask everyone to join with us in being part of the solution. Please contact our committee chairs to see how you can help, and let us know how — and what — you are doing…