Education: The second E

May 15, 2014


Continuing the week-before-the-primary-election discussion of the priority planks in my platform, let’s look at the second letter E: Education.

It’s easy to remember the five priority areas. Just think of the chorus to Old MacDonald. E I E I O. Those letters stand for economy, image, education, infrastructure and open government.

Education and economy go hand in hand. If Ballard County attracts a high-tech company with high-paying jobs, that company will need educated employees who are able to learn and apply the skills the company needs.

I was proud of our Ballard County schools when I was having a really good time being in them. That feeling of pride was justified later when I discovered just what a great foundation the schools gave me to be successful in college and later as an employee. My pride has never diminished.

We sometimes think of our schools as places where our kids go to learn, and maybe give us a little peace and quiet while they’re about it.

But especially in small counties, a school is much more than a bunch of classrooms.

At their best they serve as unifying institutions that can draw county residents together with a shared sense of community. Athletics can do this. Plays and programs and graduation ceremonies, these things bring us together and give us joy and a warm feeling because we know that our kids and our neighbors’ kids and even kids we don’t know are learning and performing and growing toward the women and men they will become much too quickly.

Our schools may very well be the most important institution in our county. We give to them, sure, when we pay our taxes, but they give back to us as well. And they give back in many ways.

Education is a valuable asset to people who pursue it.

A report a few years ago revealed that over an adult's working life, high school graduates could expect, on average, to earn $1.2 million; those with a bachelor's degree, $2.1 million; and people with a master's degree, $2.5 million. People who earned doctoral degrees earned an average of $3.4 million during their working life, while those with professional degrees did best at $4.4 million.

More recently, a report found that a high school diploma is worth less than it was some years ago but a college degree yields much more earnings than before.

According to that report, college graduates ages 25 to 32 earn about $17,500 more each year than young adults with just a high school diploma ($45,500 vs. $28,000); those with a two-year degree or some college training earn $30,000.

Even though the earnings value of a diploma is down, the diploma lays the foundation for a college degree so it remains an important part of the education process. Of course, not all young people choose to go to college after high school. Some go directly into the work force with a significant loss of earnings over their lifetime, and some choose to go to vocational school. Different people have different goals. Whatever the goal, education is an important component of the process to achieve the goal.



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© Joe W. Culver