EDITORIAL: Job training, growth crucial to fighting poverty's impact on education

2017-11-13 | The Brunswick News

Nov. 13--The annual College and Career Ready Index scores for Glynn County Schools were mostly positive when viewed from overhead.

Overall, the county's score jumped by nearly a point to 77.7 out of 100. Last year's county-wide score was a 76.9.

That was good enough to be higher than the state average of 75, but there is still plenty of work to be done to improve, especially at the crucial elementary school level.

Out of 16 schools receiving individual scores, nine improved and seven dropped.

Some of the declines were negligible and not of any concern. St. Simons Elementary, for example, may have declined, but still earned a stellar 92.1, putting it among the top 10 among elementary schools in the First District Regional Education Service Agency, or RESA, which includes Coastal Georgia.

Schools with higher populations of low-income families did not fare as well, a sign of the challenges to education presented by poverty.

Burroughs-Molette Elementary -- where more than 95 percent of the enrollment is on the free and reduced price lunch program, a gauge for the level of poverty in a school -- scored a 46.9 this year, down from a 58.3 in 2016.

Goodyear Elementary, another school with more than 95 percent of its enrollment in the free lunch program, dropped from a 62.7 to 46.9.

Glyndale Elementary, a school with 82 percent of its enrollment on the free lunch program, scored a 69.5, which put it under the 70 mark that is considered passing.

The roadblocks to education presented by poverty are well documented. Working single parents, of which mothers make up the majority, often must work odd hours and multiple jobs to pay the bills, preventing them from being involved in their children's education how they would want. Low-income parents move more often, uprooting children from one school to another and keeping them from the stability that is so important to youngsters who are learning.

Then there is generational poverty, in which parents may not have learned the tools as children and young adults they need to help their own children succeed. This often stems from the challenges listed earlier.

Although the school system has services to address those issues at places like Burroughs-Molette and Goodyear elementaries, and teachers who work tirelessly to help their students succeed, the community as a whole must take a role in the root causes of poverty to make a real difference.

The economy is moving in the right direction after nearly a decade of tough years. Job opportunities are growing statewide and options are becoming more plentiful here in the Golden Isles.

To take advantage of them, we need more and more job training programs so there is a skilled workforce ready to take on the jobs new industries and businesses can bring to our community. Some are already available through places like Coastal Pines Technical College and College of Coastal Georgia and nonprofits like the Star Foundation.

But more can be done. We as a community must make job and skills training a priority. In doing so, economic developers have one more bargaining chip to use when trying to attract employers.

Landing a steady job with decent pay can be life changing for parents and their children. The more job opportunities well-trained adults have, the more likely it is their children will have a stable home life and succeed in school.