By: Bob Kittle
If it ain’t one thing, it’s another. Perhaps not the best way to start a blog that is ultimately on education, but as the economy hums along (despite some potentially scary headwinds with the recent GM announcement) education is the nemesis that Michigan (or at least Detroit) can’t seem to conquer.
The Detroit Regional Chamber recently released its 2018-2019 State of the Region providing economic indicators and critical areas of improvement for its 11-county region plus Detroit. The report overall offered an upbeat outlook on the region’s progress in many sectors, but underscored the importance in addressing areas in which the region continues to lag – notably education. In a spot-on Detroit News column by Daniel Howes, the education void is so dark and vast, its challenges may temper many of the positive gains made in the region and the state for recent years.
The good news is that Detroit is outpacing the nation in growth in real gross domestic product (2.7 percent vs. 2.2 percent nationally) and per capita income (4.3 percent compared to 4.1 percent nationally). That can’t be overlooked. Nor can the fact that Detroit was second in the nation in growth of median home values between 2013 and 2017, increasing by 42.4 percent (Seattle was number one). The high cost of living on the East and West Coasts makes Detroit attractive—a plus for companies aiming to boost and cultivate tech talent.
But contradicting these positive indicators are critical areas where Detroit is missing out, notably extreme poverty, low metrics on community well-being, and stagnant population growth. Yet the most pressing issue is the mediocre status of Detroit’s educational attainment—which was actually below the national numbers in 2017.
The road to resolving these issues is not an easy one (especially Michigan roads), but many of the answers lie in the value of education. If the region wants to compete with the likes of Silicon Valley and the world, educated human capital is needed to attract more 21st century talent, populate the city, and make citizens want to move to and live in a place where there are economic and learning opportunities, where they feel safe, and where they can have pride in their community.
I work with school districts around the state every day. The overwhelming majority are doing an excellent job, often with limited resources. They are now frequently not only educators but social workers – again, on extremely tight budgets. Education should be the making of Detroit, not its undoing. Come on leaders, let’s get going on this.