Yesterday (3/15) businesses and community leaders attended the second Information Session the Chambers in Collin County are hosting prior to our trip to Austin. The topic, which also happens to be a shared goal across the Collin County Business Community, was education and workforce development. We believe that this subject is the single biggest issue to the continued economic vitality of the North Texas Region.
An expert panel consisting of Chris Wallace, President of the Texas Association and Business; Susan Hoff, Chief Strategy, Impact & Operations Officer for the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas; Frisco ISD Supt. Jeremy Lyon; and moderator Candy Slocum, Executive Director of InterLink, discussed and debated the how our communities should help push higher expectations and higher outcomes for an educated workforce.
Some of the key take-aways from the panel include:
- Focus needs to be on early childhood education. Experts in education note that 90 percent of all brain development takes place in the first five years of a child’s life. That means what they eat, how they play, and their interaction with the world will shape their education career.
- Susan Hoff gave some alarming statistics relating to the challenges some families face in our community. Even in an affluent area like Collin County, not everyone has the same access to opportunity. She stated, “There are 27 food pantries in Collin County and one homeless shelter – Samaritan Inn, which turns away 50 people a week due to lack of space – one third of these are children.”
- She also stated that there is only one early childhood home visiting program in the county with 1300 families and children who qualify for and need that service. Currently 131 families are receiving services. While that sound low, it is quite an improvement after the State gave grant funding in 2015. Prior to that funding less than 20 families were being served. Twenty-five percent of the children born in Collin County had late to no pre-natal care.
- Supt. Jeremy Lyon believes that the biggest problem facing education and workforce development is childhood obesity. It affects learning which in turn affects a student’s productivity in school and later in the workforce. It also costs employers today $9.5 billion in employee healthcare costs.
- There was a discussion around the state’s A-F grading system, aimed at enhancing public schools accountability. Dr. Lyon said that ISDs need accountability metrics but disagrees with the methodology in how they are rating school districts. Chris Wallace, stated that the business community wants accountability measures and agrees that the current A-F system is too vague and needs clarification in the methodology to make sure that public schools are held to certain standards in performance and outcomes for students.
- Wallace also discussed TAB’s 2050 plan that places a high emphasis on education as a cornerstone to Texas’s continued success. Read more about TAB’s initiatives here. Also as part of the plan, TAB is advocating for their 65/30 plan - by the year 2030, 65% of workforce should have advanced training post high school.