Tag Archives: Cincinnati

Bright Spots in Ohio Election Light Future Path for Early Childhood Education

Ohio map via Wikimedia

Early childhood advocates are understandably disappointed by Tuesday’s presidential election results. Many had high hopes that Hillary Clinton, who has made advocacy for children and families a signature of her long political career, would pursue bold plans to expand pre-k and help families pay for quality childcare — as her campaign proposed. With Donald Trump’s election, the prospects for significant new funding or federal action to expand access to quality early childhood education are much dimmer.

There is some good news about early childhood in last night’s election results, however. Even as Ohio voters selected Trump as President, voters in Dayton (see Issue 9, here) and Cincinnati (see Issue 44, here) approved new tax measures to expand access to preschool for those cities’ youngsters. Dayton’s Issue 9 increases the earnings tax to fund infrastructure investments and preschool for 4-year-olds. Cincinnati’s Issue 44 increases property taxes to generate $48 million in new revenue for public education, $15 million of which would go to subsidize preschool for low-income 3- and 4-year-olds.

These victories may be minor consolation for advocates who hoped that Clinton’s election would create the best opportunity since 1971 to build a more robust national system of early care and education. But they’re important on two fronts: First, they illustrate that progress on early childhood will continue regardless of what happens at the federal level. Second, they show that the core of action for improving learning opportunities and support for young children and their families over the coming years is going to be at the local level, when communities pool together diverse coalitions of early childhood, business, education, civic, and other leaders to support shared investments in kids. We’re going to see more of this progress in the coming years, in cities and communities across the country.

Open Letter to 2015 Grad School Graduates: Be a Big Fish in a Small Pond.

Dear Soon-To-Be Masters in Education, Business, Policy, and Law:

While the education world is all atwitter about a potential reauthorization of ESEA, you are likely preoccupied with the question of where to begin your career as a system-level education leader. Having coached hundreds of graduate students through career transitions, I can tell you that most of your classmates will plant their flags in preeminent cities like New York, LA, Boston, or Chicago. But I encourage you to consider smaller cities that might be just off your radar which may be more beneficial as you look to put a new degree to work.

Being a big fish in a small pond can accelerate your career while adding vital skills and knowledge to a city’s education brain trust.

As a San Franciscan, I understand the pull toward top-tier cities. World-class food, entertainment, sports teams, and cultural attractions create an unending array of opportunities. The rich racial, ethnic, linguistic, and political diversity that one can witness on a cross town bus ride is at once humbling and stimulating. And a robust ecosystem of companies, government institutions, and nonprofit organizations provides an abundance of career advancement opportunities.

Not surprisingly, smaller cities struggle to attract people like you. Often perceived as isolated, less ambitious, or short on professional opportunity, they can be hastily canceled out from career equations. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Cincinnati area, for instance, is home to more Fortune 500 company headquarters per capita than New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago making for an economically vibrant region with a generous philanthropic community. Nashville is a hotbed for live music, home to two professional sports teams, and was ranked one of Outside Magazine’s Greatest Places to Live in the US in 2014.

On the education front, many smaller cities are undertaking ambitious efforts to dramatically increase the number of high-quality schools within their limits. The Cleveland Plan (part of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District — a current Bellwether client), for example, is deliberately pursuing a city-wide portfolio model that aims to increase the number of high-quality district and charter schools, close down underperforming schools, transfer authority and resources to schools, phase in high-leverage system supports, and create an entity to uphold quality and accountability. Few plans like it exist in the country, even among big cities.

As I work with leaders and organizations in smaller cities around the country, I’m starting to think that lasting reform may have more potential in urban areas where the need for gap-closing schools is just as great but the distance between an idea and impact is shorter.

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