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Posted: Tuesday, October 22nd 2013 at 11:10am

Vision 2030 session leads to educational pleas

By Marc Eggers Staff
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Superintendent Dr. Merrianne Dyer
GAINESVILLE The Superintendents of the Hall County and Gainesville City School Systems were impassioned as they expressed their perspectives following guest speaker Matt Hauer's presentation at the VISION 2030 "Building the Best Workforce for Hall County" breakfast Tuesday morning at the Gainesville Civic Center.

Hauer is a demographer with the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia and was presenting the statistical data pertinent to efforts underway by the VISION 2030 Diversity Committee for preparing Gainesville / Hall County for business demands expected in the next decade.

Hauer's presentation used pie charts, bar graphs, and line graphs to compare various U.S. Census, IRS and other governmental data that showed, in summary, the expected population growth in Georgia, combined with current trends in education, will not be enough to meet the job demands of 2020.

As he pointed to one of his Power Point graphs showing anticipated job demand in the year 2020 compared to today, Hauer said, "What you end up with...is a gap. A gap of anywhere from a quarter-million to three-quarters of a million jobs in Georgia that will be open but there simply won't be somebody with the credentials to fill them."

"That's a huge amount of economic power that is simply not going to be harnessed," Hauer added. "We simply have to home-grow our talent. We have to improve educational outcomes within the state."

"What we have done is simply import highly educated individual into the state to fill that gap. We've brought tons of people into the state with educational credentials to address the gap that the state has had. Two-thirds of all the Bachelor Degree holders in Georgia are non-native Georgians, they're immigrants."

Statistical data presentations can often evoke somnolence, but that one graph motivated Hall County School Superintendent Will Schofield to rise during the question-answer session and share his experience.

"I'd like to speak to this slide," Schofield began, "because I think there is an elephant in the corner of this room that we don't talk about."

"Let's just be real honest: K-12 education in this county is a farm-system for a four-year liberal arts degree. What the futurists are telling us is that 75-percent of the jobs in the year 2020 that he is talking about need to have technical-skill degrees," Schofield said.

"Only about 25-percent of us need to have traditional four-year liberal arts degrees. And if we truly want to...make the 720,000 (expected 2020 jobs unfilled) turn into zero, we need to radically rethink what K-12 education could look like in terms of preparing young people for the jobs that are going to be available in 2020."

Schofield then said, "With all due respect, Beowulf and Chaucer is not what industry and the job market of 2020 is demanding. We need something radically different than what we are offering. We just assume we got to keep the same system and force more kids through it; that's a broken model."

Schofield's words vivified the nearly 150 guests as their applause provided an exclamation point to his comments.

Gainesville City School Superintendent Dr. Merrianne Dyer rose and augmented Schofield's thoughts by pointing to the barrier faced by children in families that are undocumented.

"The other piece of that, which no one will speak about because it is federal policy...a lot of students came here when they were two-, three-years-old and they cannot go to college. So why would you work so hard to graduate?" Dyer asked.

"As a school system, Hall County and Gainesville pour their resources into these children to prepare them for the workforce but then the doors are slammed," Dyer said.

"If they are undocumented or in the process of being documented there's five university systems that they cannot attend, including the University of Georgia," Marita Soto-Keen of the Fanning Institute at UGA explained.

"They can attend the others, but they must pay out-of-state tuition," Soto-Keen added. "They are paying at least three times what it takes an in-state student."

"The question is: 'How much do we really want to grow our workforce?' We say we want to but they are putting up barriers in policy that are just going to have to be addressed," Dyer said with evident conviction.
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