Monday, August 09, 2010

Kicking Kids To The Curb

Hobart Jenkins, retired president of Spokane Community College shocked us with these words, yesterday. He said, “eighty-five percent of the students that start the ninth grade fail to opt for higher education.” He went on to say, “of those students that either drop out of school, or are kicked to the curb at graduation, have no job skills and are looking forward to minimum wage work, if any at all.” According to Hazel Bauman, Coeur d'Alene Superintendent of Schools, about 1600 seniors graduated last June, of which about 1300 to 1400 kids haven't got a career track,nor plans to attend a school of higher learning.

Jenkins, along with the superintendents of three school districts, North Idaho College and local business and industry, are promoting the establishment of a vocational-Technical School on property both donated and purchased. The late Wayne Meyer donated ten acres and an additional ten acres adjoining it was purchased with donations. The Coeur d'Alene, Lakeland and Post Falls school boards unanimously approved scheduling a School Plant Facilities Levy Election for August 24, to ask voters to approve partial financing. Kootenai Technical Education Campus or KTEC is going to be a pay as you go operation. Taxes would be collected for just two years. Tax payers would owe no interest because of the pay as you go feature and requires a 55% majority approval.

If voters approve this issue, the facility could be open in time for the fall of 2013. Students enrolled in the program would attend regular classes at their home campus for one half day and the other at the voc-tech. Local industries have pledged donated equipment for the facility which initially will feature, Health Sciences, Welding, construction and Automotive. Additional programs in hospitality, tourism, drafting, manufacturing, information technology, airframe & power plant mechanics and painting could be added later, as capacity grows.

The three districts cite limited space and resources for these type programs. In some cases, the students will have the opportunity to acquire college credits, apprenticeships, and industry certifications. Jenkins went on to say, “Just as you experienced in the 1950's, a high school graduate leaves without any marketable skills. They aren't taught to balance a checkbook, manage a budget or have any skills needed for success. Nothing has changed, except we keep adding young people to welfare rolls because they are not ready to compete in the market place.”

A program that has seen great success is that of the Renton School District, in Renton, Washington. They have had a world class vocational school since the '50's and are still turning out workers sought by local companies such as Boeing and Pacific Car & Foundry. The economic health of a community depends upon a qualified workforce that can attract business and industry looking for trained personnel. Clover Park School District in Tacoma, Washington also has a very successful vocational school. Jenkins tells us, “We need to step up for manufacturing jobs, in order to compete with the west coast areas. The future of Kootenai County will depend on it.”

The relatively small cost is $35.00 per year for two years in the Coeur d'alene district, Lakeland residents would pay $50.00 per year and Post Falls at $55.00. Because Post Falls will be reducing other taxes, with levy approval, residents will not see an increase in their taxes. These estimates are bases on a home valued at $200,000. This investment in the future generations will benefit all citizens, remarked Jenkins, “even those that don't have school age children, since the workforce in North Idaho is aging fast, trained replacements will have to fill their shoes to keep the local economy healthy, plus it is another incentive to keep our youth from migrating to greener pastures. Not everyone is going to become a doctor, or scientist or any of the other professions. As in every economy, the trades are the backbone of a society. The schools need your support for this jump into the 21st century of diversified education.”

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