The role of education in Rochester’s economy

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Of Rochester students entering 9thgrade from 2010-11 to 2013-14, 3,600 failed to graduate by the fall of 2018, although some were still enrolled, state Education Department records show. That’s 800 lives derailed every year.

Valued just at the difference in earnings from graduating high school, that’s an annual loss in earnings of $7.5 million for the 800 young men and women. On average, “some college” boosts that earnings difference to $11.4 million. A college degree drives it up to $25.5 million.

That’s just one year. Let’s do the math, summing all four graduation cohorts over 20 years. Just getting the diploma increases earnings by $500 million. Getting to that college degree would add $1.7 billion.

Is it any wonder that our economy isn’t growing as it should be when we are squandering so much human potential? Think of the impact on so many young lives.

The challenge of Rochester’s public schools has been the “elephant in the room” in every discussion of poverty and economic development for decades. Although persistent and concentrated poverty magnifies the difficulty of ensuring effective public education, the best anti-poverty program and our most promising economic development strategy is a good education for our city’s youth. 

The Rochester Beacon Solutions Forum on May 13, held in partnership with The College at Brockport’s Institute for Poverty Studies and Economic Development, will explore two levels of intervention: state action, such as establishing mayoral control or imposing some form of receivership on the district, and local initiative empowering individual schools. The free event will be held at the College at Brockport’s Rochester Educational Opportunity Center in downtown Rochester.

Bond, Schoneck & King is presenting sponsor of the event. Mengel Metzger Barr & Co. LLP and the Rochester Area Community Foundation are silver sponsors.

The keynote speaker is Christopher Cerf. In addition to teaching high school history early in his career, Cerf served as deputy chancellor of New York City schools in the Bloomberg administration, then as New Jersey commissioner of education. After leaving this post, the New Jersey Board of Education appointed him superintendent of schools for the city of Newark, a long-troubled district under the control of the state. As the district transitioned back to local control, Cerf resigned his post.

Respondents to Cerf’s remarks include Mayor Lovely Warren; Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Union; Rochester City School District parent Walida Monroe-Sims; and ROC the Future.  

The second panel looks at school level reforms, including:

  • Charter schools, discussed by Anna Hall of the Northeast Charter School Network
  • Community schools, discussed by Kirsten Barclay of the Farash Foundation
  • Magnet schools designed to attract a diverse socioeconomic mix across districts, presented by Don Pryor of Great Schools for All; and
  • New York State receivership, explained by Shaun Nelms, superintendent of East High School

Those who wish to attend the May 13 event must register here .

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