When Two Worlds to Collide: Education and Government

How can city government play a greater role in improving local education…and should they?

Of course, education is a concern for everyone in the community.  Education ensures the future of our children and communities.  More and more, government officials are being urged to play a greater role in the education system, and they are making education initiatives the platform for their campaigns.

But how easy is to bridge the gap between government and the education system?  Here are eight tips for aligning education and government to help both groups unify and form better school initiatives.

1. Talk about the good.  Though budget cuts, larger class sizes, and school official salaries make for easy target practice, it is important to focus on what schools have been able to accomplish—often with so much less: less funding, fewer teachers, and a smaller amount of resources.  By doing this, government is acknowledging there is a gap between what needs to be done, and what is being done; then recognize this gap isn’t solely a product of school administration.

2. Let the issues be known. Council members and officials should take advantage of their position to talk about schools and make it an issue for the entire community. This builds support, awareness, and eventually, resources for school causes.

3. Form partnerships.  When school leaders, government officials, and the community all ban together, they can make things happen.  By creating a shared vision and asking for help from the local businesses, the community can band together to leverage resources.

4. Get the conversation started.  Engage with council members, city officials, parents, local experts, teachers, and school officials to brainstorm ideas for improvements, hold discussion sessions, talk in community forums.

5. Get the facts.  Know your school’s record, graduation rate, drop-out rate, and funding issues, and compare it to other schools in the area, the state, and nationally.  It doesn’t hurt to know the school’s football record, either.   This builds trust and credibility when it comes time to implement change.

6. Understand that change takes time.  Getting to know each other and earning trust are all part of the process.  Change doesn’t happen overnight, and quality school programs take time, trust, and lots of conversation.

7. Measure results and take accountability.  Track programs and analyze data to follow up on any programs that are implemented.  This will not only earn credibility for future projects, but also keep current projects top of mind.

8. Don’t get caught up in rich versus poor.  Officials sometimes get hung up on demographic information.  Just because a school is poor or has a particular demographic, does not mean it has to fail.  This is where city officials can make the most impact.  Officials have the opportunity to examine how zoning, police protection, and community programs are impacting children and the schools in particular areas.

With careful conversation and the right amount of concern and sympathy on both sides, government officials and school officials can come together to find solutions that work to create better schools.

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