Hell freezes over as I agree (in part) with the Chamber. My letter to County Commission.
As you know, I don't often agree with some folks at the Chamber about the best way to create jobs in Knox County.
However, on the subject of education and how it relates to economic development, I have to concur that making giant leaps in education is the single most important thing we can do for jobs in Knox County.
If we are among the first major school systems in the USA to provide every child in our school system with modern learning tools, we would generate a lot of great publicity nationwide---likely even be featured in national news stories if we do it right.
Executives who are looking for new headquarters will be motivated to move here. People will want to relocate to Knox County so their children can attend our schools. Property values will start rising. There will be so much BUZZ about Knox County Schools that we will have to close our borders to prevent the growth! (Okay, just kidding about the borders.) We don't necessarily want to grow too big but if we grow smart, we can pay off our debt as well as provide great services to the people who live here.
Also, think of the savings on textbooks and the way that electronic curriculum can be individualized to suit the way each child learns---easily monitoring and measuring a child's learning and reporting that information to teachers and parents. Why can't we develop our OWN curriculum for modern devices using the accumulated wisdom of our GREAT teachers? And then use the savings to reward our GREAT teachers the way they deserve?
Of course the devil is in the details, but as the owner of a technology business, I believe if it is imperative that we teach our children using 21st century tools. I am willing to donate my skills and time to help make sure we do technology the right way.
The dramatic third grade reading improvements at Pond Gap by children using iPads is just short of miraculous and I believe we can achieve those kind of results countywide with the right implementation.
The other BIG idea this money would help to grow is one that not only really works for our children, but has the potential to improve the lives of almost every Knox Countian.
Community schools, where the schools become the true center of the community because the buildings are opened up for a wide variety of uses, is a concept that I have seen firsthand in Cincinnati and it really works. It has transformed entire communities and has delivered measurable improvements, not only in grades, test scores and graduation rates, but also whole-community benefits such as reduced crime, increased economic activity, improved quality of life and community cohesion.
I strongly support this concept and am excited to see that some of the money will be going to expand the successes that this pilot program has already wrought in Knox County.
I know that some people are worried that raising taxes will be too hard on people who are struggling. But if this works, the school system in Knox County can be a true economic development engine that will create jobs and improve the standard of living for all.
If we fail, let the people whose job it was to do it properly resign their job or their office ---I'm talking about the School Board and the Superintendent, who is making the case for the extra funding. It's County Commission's job to fund the school system but it's the school system's job to make it work. If they can't, they should be accountable. I'm talking the-buck-stops-here accountability, which can be measured and which has consequences.
You were elected to make the hard decisions for all of us in Knox County, and I appreciate that this is a very difficult decision. I know you have all struggled with this, and like most controversial issues, you have been hearing good arguments from both sides.
But the bottom line is this---we aren't going to make any big improvements by doing the same thing we have been doing. Fully funding the school system's request is a way to make that giant leap that we need in order to make big improvements in results, but we also owe it to taxpayers to have true accountability for that leap of faith.
Thank you for taking the time to listen and for your consideration of this important issue.
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