As our nation decides where to spend millions in economic stimulus funds, it is imperative we seek funding for innovative education models to protect taxpayer investment.
From kindergarten through high school, we invest millions in students’ education. But when those students with challenges face the decision of dropping out, we often resist investing in environments outside of a traditional classroom.
Too often we focus on undoing ramifications once students fail, rather than protecting our investment by creating situations where they thrive and graduate with their class. Add to the mix an economic crisis that impacts all of us, and we have a recipe for economic pull back – en from innovative models that get results.
Based on dropout rates, we know student demand exists for innovative education. What remains unknown, however, is the level of financial support educational models like Second Chance Partners for Education and other proven models will receive to extend help to more students, parents, businesses and schools.
Yes, we all are in this together. Many local businesses need an influx of skilled workers as baby boomers and their collective knowledge retire. Schools need options when they identify credit deficient students who, for example, might merely learn differently in a more hands on way. Not all students are bound for a four-year college. But all are bound for adulthood. These students need a meaningful education that will set them up for success as an adult.
Not long ago, we witnessed an innovative approach to filling a shortage of skilled welders needed by Bucyrus International Inc. chief executive officer Tim Sullivan. He partnered with Milwaukee Area Technical College to create a welder training program to fill the void. Without innovative approaches and support, financial and otherwise, this solution would not have existed.
If we don’t bring together parents, students, schools, businesses and government within innovative solutions to stem the dropout rate and enhance our skilled workforce, it won’t be a matter of if we pay, but when and how long we pay, for students allowed to fail.
Our Second Chance business partners, such as Generac, Waukesha Electric, Husco and others, are already playing a distinct role in successfully working with public schools in southeastern Wisconsin. During the 21 months our students spend working, learning and absorbing knowledge of seasoned employees, they develop marketable skills and often go on to bigger and better outcomes, including a diploma 90 percent of the time.
These businesses and others understand the bottom line. We support these students with proven educational models that get results today – or we support them with taxes for eternity. That’s the bottom line.
Stephanie Borowski is the executive director of Second Chance Partners for Education, an integrated education model that graduates 90 percent of some of the most disengaged students in southeastern Wisconsin. To contact her about the program, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.