The economy, heath care, and public safety are hot topics across the nation, and the Virgin Islands is no different. Locally, the critical discussions generated around these issues will ultimately shape our future and will reflect to the world what we value as a community. At the Foundation, we believe that at the end of the day, a strong economy, excellent hospitals, and safe streets are all extensions of an educated populace, which is why we have been such staunch advocates for the remodeling of our struggling educational system.
Every year, when reports are released on how our children are faring, we immediately begin to assess the degree to which our community is paying attention and taking decisive actions to address those challenges facing our youth. What we often observe, beyond the valiant efforts of our key education stakeholders, is chronic apathy.
All the while with each passing year, the pressure increases- pressure on our families who must contend with a weak economy and higher crime rates; pressure on our education leaders to meet existing mandates and adopt new national standards like Common Core; and pressure on our public school teachers to implement those standards, which will likely challenge our students and educators beyond their current capacity.
So, today as we strive to mobilize our community to stand with us in a decisive push for revolutionary reforms in our public schools, we thought we would take a moment to restate some of the stark realities that motivate the Foundation to keep raising awareness and advocating for our children, for our teachers… for a brighter future for this Territory:
- 70% of 11th graders on St. Croix cannot read at grade level (VI DOE 2012-13).
- 59% of 11th graders on St. Thomas/St. John cannot read at grade level (VI DOE 2012-13).
- 50% of incoming kindergartners did not have the language skills they needed to learn and express themselves at school (2013 Kids Count).
- 34% of kindergartners did not have the basic cognitive skills for counting and using numbers and logic (2013 Kids Count).
- 614 per 100,000 of our young people committed violent crimes in 2011. US national rate: 225/ 100,000 (2013 Kids Count).
- 2 out every 3 children who drop out of school in the Virgin Islands are young men (2013 Kids Count).
- Nearly 7% of Virgin Islands teens ages 15-17 were not enrolled in school in 2010, compared with 4% of teens nationwide (PRB Report: Children in the US Virgin Islands).
- 88% of public school graduates enrolling in UVI are required to take remedial English (UVI).
Did you know that education equals a strong economy?
And, just a few reasons why we believe that education is the key:
- In less than 10 years, more than 14 million new jobs will open or be created in the United States (Georgetown University). 2/3 of these jobs will require a high school diploma, and at least one year of college or vocational training will be required mechanical trades (Georgetown University).
- Education reform can improve a nation’s GDP by 36% (Education First).
We know that all stakeholders are working tirelessly to improve our public education system. Our final conclusion, however, is that the pace and precision of educational reform here in the VI is far behind that of most states and industrialized countries around the world. With these harsh realities and the future of our Territory in our hands, we ask all our candidates who are touting economic development plans this question: “For whom are we developing our economy if our children are unprepared to participate?”