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GOLIS: Schools, jobs and the future

  • This artwork by Nancy Ohanian relates to the complexity of fixing American education.

Hizzoner the mayor talked to Sonoma County leaders this month about the importance of education in economic development. Unfortunately, it wasn't the mayor of Santa Rosa or Healdsburg or Petaluma who was talking; it was the mayor of Nashville, Tenn.

Mayor Karl Dean of Nashville has made education and jobs — they go together — the No. 1 priority of his administration.

I know what you're thinking. In California, schools operate independently of cities and other government agencies (or at least they did before Proposition 13 shifted the power of the purse to the governor and the state Legislature).

But there is a growing awareness that education is too important to be left only to individual school boards. This new consciousness recognizes that education is not just a moral imperative. It's also the best available indicator of future prosperity for all of us.

Want to keep a firehouse in your neighborhood? Fix a pothole? Keep one neighborhood or another from sliding into decline? Avoid the blight of empty storefronts? What you need to know is that jobs pay the bills for all of us. Jobs pay taxes, and jobs put money in circulation, which, in turn, creates more jobs.

In Nashville, Mayor Dean said, his administration is dedicated to the idea that a trained workforce and jobs go together. Good schools, he noted, also attract companies whose executives want their own kids to get a good education.

Over the next 30 years, he said, the most successful cities will have the most college graduates. "You've got to have a thriving economy, and schools are a big part of it."

And so government agencies in his town are finding common ground to support kids and families. As an example, he cited a new partnership between city and school libraries.

At the Cradle to Career Sonoma County conference, the mayor of Nashville found an audience of government, nonprofit and business leaders pledging to embrace a commitment to shared responsibility and common goals. More than 375 people showed up for a morning-long conversation, organized by the Community Action Partnership with help from the county Health Services Department, the county Office of Education and others.

When it comes to collaboration, we don't make it easy on ourselves. Whether it's an alphabet soup of local, state and federal agencies, or a raft of nonprofits, our good intentions run headlong into our need to create a separate agency for every kind of assignment.


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