Educated Workers Please Stand Up

- October 5, 2011

“If you think education is expensive~try ignorance!”

The success of our public and private schools is important to Santa Fe’s economy, quality of life and long term outlook.

We as a community deal with crime rates, unemployment, and economic stagnation. Business owners would love to create more jobs. We are unable to create additional jobs until these new employees have something to do. The feedback loop cannot be jarred out of its current pattern until we make education a priority in this city. I hear regularly that the job seekers in Santa Fe do not have the technological and critical thinking skills that are needed.

The 2009 class four-year graduation rate for the Santa Fe Public Schools was 60%, while the statewide rate was 66%, an increase for both Santa Fe Public Schools and the state as a whole over 2008. I have a hard time getting excited about this. Sixty percent? And then, only  68% of them attend college. And 42% of them actually graduate from college.

Let’s take a snapshot of this situation:

So, we have approximately 13,000 students in our public schools right now. If 60% of them graduate from high school, that’s 7,800. If 68% of them start college, that’s 5,304. And then we can expect 42% of them to graduate and earn a bachelor’s degree, that’s 2,228. Only 2,228 students from all of the kids in Santa Fe Public School system right now are expected to get a college degree. And of those 2,228, we can expect 50% to stay or return to Santa Fe. Others will settle in other parts of the country or the world. That’s 1,114 people with good skills entering the work force in Santa Fe out of this snapshot of the 13,000 in the current public school population.

The private school population represents much better statistics for high school and college graduation, but fewer of them are likely to stay or return to Santa Fe.Click here to see Santa Fe Prep’s slideshow on their efforts at making students truly prepared. Desert Academy prides itself on being an IB World School and preparing students for a global society. Indeed honorable and important, but concerning, as we realize that many of these well-educated young people will take their knowledge, skills, and abilities elsewhere.

Those among us with the responsibility of looking to our city’s future have some prioritizing to do. Our mayor, city councilors and business leaders need to think long and hard about what the educational statistics are showing us. Businesses won’t locate here, or grow much or stay here, if they can’t find people who have good critical thinking, writing and analytical skills.

If you are interested in seeing more data on how New Mexico as a state compares to the rest of the country in our nation’s report card, click here.

Another issue to consider is immigration policy. This week in Alabama, hundreds of Hispanic students are simply vanishing out of classrooms all across the state because their parents fear deportation. According to this article from the Associated Press on Sept 30, 2011:

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (AP) — Hispanic students have started vanishing from Alabama public schools in the wake of a court ruling that upheld the state’s tough new law cracking down on illegal immigration. Education officials say scores of immigrant families have withdrawn their children from classes or kept them home this week, afraid that sending the kids to school would draw attention from authorities.

This is a very real possibility here in New Mexico, if crackdowns continue on immigrants. This will affect everything from educational enrollment all the way through the entire current workforce and the next generation of workers.

“If you think education is expensive~try ignorance!” ~ Attributed to both Andy McIntyre and Derek Bok