Education and our economic outlook--two hot topics on the lips of many. Wednesday, they merged into one for the 2011 Upper Great Lakes Economic Legislative and Workforce Development Summit.
It's the first time the two summits have merged into one. Many say this collaboration couldn't have come at a better time as Tuesday, the State Board of Education in Lansing voted students must score higher on standardized tests this academic year to reach a proficient level.
Some of the educators, business owners and economic development professionals at Wednesday's summit say that's a mistake.
"There are some students who will be able to succeed academically or overachieve academically, but we're here for everybody," says President of the U.P. Region I Michigan Association of School Administration and Gladstone Superintendent Jay Kulbertias. "There's so many different needs that we feel we need to address that we can't put every single bit of our attention just on academic test scores."
Low birth rates and a large number of people leaving the U.P. to look for employment continues to threaten many schools' funding due to declining enrollment. However, workforce professionals say there will be jobs here for students after graduation, specifically in mining and manufacturing.
"What we need to do is make sure that a lot of our retirees or baby boomers aren't walking out the door with all that knowledge," says Michigan Works! Job Force Board member Tony Retaskie. "We need to see that they're passing onto the younger generation. We have to make that connection, and I think the time is now."
With hundreds of millions of dollars cut statewide from the education budget, educators say they'll just continue to do more with less to attempt to give each student the aid they need to achieve their best scores and find a place in the community.