Dumbing down our schools won’t attract the jobs we want

The dumbing down of western Nevada County’s largest high school continued recently as administrators announced Nevada Union will drop German and one of two AP Calculus offerings from its curriculum.

Supervisors get an “F” in economic development

District officials cited the lack of interest in the courses and the need to address the needs of the 40 percent of students who “come from low socio-economic status backgrounds, are English language learners, foster youth or homeless youth,” in the words of Superintendent Brett McFadden.

Such students made up just 15 percent of the school’s population 10 years ago, according to McFadden. They’ve become more numerous in part because more affluent, better educated families have left the area seeking good jobs with a future.

As McFadden told The Union, the district has faced “17 consecutive years” of enrollment decline. “We’re over 50 per cent smaller than we were 20 years ago,” he said.

Economic development–or rather, the lack thereof–is the root cause of this downward spiral. While California’s dynamic economy has grown to become the fifth largest in the world, Nevada County just stagnates, its population growth remaining unchanged as it grows older.

Meanwhile, the elected leaders of the county, the Board of Supervisors, prefer to don the green eye shades of the auditor rather than assume the mantle of leaders that would require them to think boldly and actually make an investment in the economic future of the county.

While others bemoan the lack of economic growth in the county, the supervisors prefer to focus on what is always their No. 1 priority: “Maintain the county’s financial stability and core services.”  (I always assumed that was part of the basic job requirement that doesn’t have to be restated annually.) Economic development? That’s a priority B item in the board’s list of objectives for 2019, with a major emphasis on hustling money from other sources.

The board’s idea of economic development involves parceling out money to the various Chambers of Commerce in the county, and “investing” in the Economic Resource Council.

Funding that goes to the chambers is akin to the political patronage handed out in bigger communities, with each supervisor delivering economic goodies to his or her district. But the money is spent to promote tourism, the source of unstable, low-paying jobs with no real future. We already have too many of those jobs.

The ERC, which is supposed to attract new industry and jobs to the county, has been ineffective in that role, and there appears to be little or no desire to improve that situation. The ERC has not had a permanent executive director since Jon Gregory left in June of 2017. It currently lists Tim Corkins as interim executive director. Since his other job is CEO of Z.A.P Manufacturing, it’s unclear how much time he can devote to the affairs of the ERC.

But he does have plenty of people giving him advice. The 19-member board of directors includes an 8-member executive committee that does…what? (By the way, the ERC’s web site says board member Jason Fouyer is a member of the Grass Valley  City Council, a job he gave up a while back.)

A lot of people want to believe our quaint, little communities will be magnets for well-educated couples seeking a Norman Rockwell-like setting to raise their kids. Besides, they say, the rise of the internet means that people in knowledge industries can work from anywhere.

But there’s plenty of evidence to show that the small high-tech companies we covet prefer to stay in areas where there are heavy concentrations of the workers they need. Our lack of high-speed internet service (another area where the supervisors were content to sit back and do nothing) means a lot of people aren’t interested in working remotely from here, and families are looking for communities with good schools–not schools that are cutting back on AP courses.

Grass Valley has come up with a new logo that describes the town as “A place to live and thrive.” They should include an asterisk that states: “You’ll thrive as long as you’re independently wealthy, retired, or bring a job with you.”

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This entry was posted in Economy, Education, Government, Nevada Joint Union High School Distirct, Public Policy, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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