Our investments in education are paying off

Published 11:39 am Wednesday, October 25, 2017

There are many good things happening in our local schools.
West Side Elementary School was recently recognized by the Tennessee Education Department as a Reward School for its academic performance. T.A. Dugger was named a Focus-Improving School and overall, the Elizabethton School System received exemplary status from the state for its work in improving student performance and narrowing achievement gaps.
There’s a lot going on with students in our local schools — from academics to athletics and band and other programs that define students’ interests, such as FFA and technical education programs.
Often we hear about the achievements of high school athletes and the top-rate performances of our local band, but academic performances do not make the paper every day.
Education is important, and just as important is our public schools. Public schools, as we know them today, began in Massachusetts when, in 1827, the legislature passed a law making all grades of public school open to all pupils, free of charge. The idea was a simple one: A society that invests in and educates its children is a society that will grow and prosper.
Though public schools today are vastly different than those in Massachusetts of 1827, the goal is the same: to educate our children and prepare them for the future, and it takes a community to do that.
The educational challenges teachers face have multiplied and the costs to educate our children increase every year. The challenge facing every school district in America is to create an effective, cost-efficient educational system that meets the needs of students not only today, but in the future. How do we educate students to be what employers in this century are seeking?
One word: invest.
We invest in our students, in our teachers, and in our schools. The investment requires time, effort and finances in public education. Reforming and reshaping a system that recognizes the needs of today and tomorrow are unrecognizable from those of years past.
At one point in time — in America and in Carter County — a high school diploma was all you needed in order to get a good paying job that would allow you to own a home and raise a family. The Elizabethton rayon mills employed hundreds of people in the area, while other industries such as Tri-State Container and East Tennessee Undergarment provided jobs for others. The furniture industry was also a mainstay of the economy.
Also, the tobacco industry gave anyone with a few acres of land the opportunity to cash in on the demand for the flue-cured leaf.
Those industries have long been gone, as are the tobacco fields. Those days and those jobs aren’t coming back. That’s just a fact we’ve got to accept. In the place of the rayon jobs and the tobacco fields are jobs that require a more educated, a more technologically savvy workforce.
Many Carter Countians today work in the health industry. Others work in service industries such as banking, real estate, and insurance. Today’s school students must equip themselves with an education, and it starts at the local level with an investment of our tax dollars.
Making an investment in public education is the surest way to build up the regional economy and position it for stable, long-term growth. Investments can be difficult because returns can’t be seen immediately — they take time. It is not a burden to be born, but an investment on which the returns will come in tomorrow’s leaders in government, business, and industry.
It does us good to hear about the achievements of local schools and students. It is then we know that our investments in education are paying off.

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