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- About BDP Comments
Educational attainment is the single most important driver of regional economic development.
So, it’s no surprise that leading communities are starting to explore how to boost educational opportunities, as an economic development strategy. Last week, two important events took place. Both involve new types of scholarship programs.
Since its launch a couple of years ago, the Kalamazoo Promise has focused civic leaders on new approaches to create incentives for education. The initiative provides college scholarships to children in the Kalamazoo City Schools.
Watch a video briefing of the Kalamazoo Promise.
Educational incentives — directed toward people — have a direct impact on economic outcomes (higher incomes over a lifetime). Economic incentives directed toward companies generally do not work and are largely a waste of money.
PromiseNet 2008 brought together representatives from 75 communities across the country to explore college scholarships for city school children. The event marks the beginning of a national movement toward community scholarships. Read more: Kalamazoo PromiseNet conference to share programs’ expertise.
Early chlid education scholarships
In another event last week, I attended a conference at the Federal Reserve in Minneapolis for the Big Ten schools and the University of Chicago. We focused on the importance of education (human capital, as the economists would have it) to economic outcomes in the Great Lakes. Our major research universities are exploring new avenues of collaboration.
At lunch yesterday, Art Rolnick, an economist with the FRB in Minneapolis, briefed us on a new scholarship pilot that foucses on early child care. The scholarship program is remarkably simple: it awards parents of young children with a scholarship for early education.
This focus on early education as an economic development strategy has a strong foundation of evidence to support it. Read more. The prestigious Committee for Economic Development in Washington DC strongly supports this strategy.
The focus on early childhood development is closely connected to new learning in brain development. Here’s an excellent overview by Joan Stiles, a cognitive scientist at UCSD.
The situation in Cuyahoga County
The irony, of course, in Cuyahoga County is that the County has a leading edge early child care program (Invest in Children), but it is underfunded, needs to be expanded, and operates without significant support from the business community. Cleveland’s business leadership does not yet see investments in early child education as a core economic development strategy.
Now here’s the really sad part: Cleveland’s civic leadership is prepared to invest $400 million in public funds for a convention center — a strategy that does not work to create higher incomes. (Worse still, operating costs will drain County resources for decades. Convention centers compete in a very soft market with utilization rates under 20%.)
Cuyahoga County would be far better off if the County Commission took those public funds and created an endowment to support new scholarship programs for the county’s low income parents and children.
My guess: Few of the 20,000 people participating in Voices and Choices mentioned a convention center in Cleveland as a priority concern. They, instead, I think, talked a lot about education.
Last 5 posts by Ed Morrison
- Signing off - February 3rd, 2012
- "The current global development model is unsustainable" - February 1st, 2012
- Market opportunities for developing Chicago's green economy - January 29th, 2012
- Plain Dealer flubs its explanation for firing Tony Grossi - January 27th, 2012
- Linking and leveraging university assets to strengthen regional economies - January 27th, 2012