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Education is economic development

By Staff
Rep. Ronald Grantland, Guest columnist
Alabama has a great track record when it comes to attracting major manufacturers to locate in our state. From aerospace to automobiles, well known companies are investing billions here and in the process, adding high paying and stable jobs to our economy. These companies come because our state workforce has an amazing work ethic, and have shown in companies like Mercedes and Boeing that they produce excellent products.
State government has played a critical role in attracting these companies. By organizing incentives, locating plant sites, coordinating local governments, and marketing the benefits of locating here, state government is key to bringing these jobs to Alabama. There are critics that say government should not be in the business of economic development. They are wrong. State and local governments have always been in the economic business by their role in public education.
People don't often think that a school is the biggest part of Alabama's economic development effort, yet it is true. Providing a high quality rigorous education is the best investment the state can make. Education prepares the next generation of workers not only for future jobs, but gives them the skills necessary for innovation and entrepreneurship, two critical qualities in future economic development. We are now competing against places around the world; our young people will have to be armed with knowledge and skills that will keep them ahead of the curve.
It starts with the basics, making sure every student can read, write, and do advanced math. Students must also be fluent in science, and know history and how our government works. We must make sure these fundamental skills are mastered; they are the foundation for everything that is learned later.
Computers have drastically changed the way we learn, communicate and do business with the rest of the world. It is hard to predict how technology will affect our lives in the next 10 or 20 years, but one thing is for certain: we must make sure that Alabama's school children are not left behind.
Students must be well grounded in technology.
Alabama's children will also need foreign language skills. For years, other countries have required their students to learn other languages, beginning in elementary school. If we want our children to be competitive, we must make sure that after they master English, they be given the opportunity and encouragement to learn a foreign language.
Then as students enter high school, we must provide advanced courses like trigonometry, physics, and English literature, and make available quality vocational education in areas like electronics, design and mechanics. Providing opportunities and ast the same time demanding excellence is a powerful combination. With hard work and commitment we can make sure our schools do this.