Nutter, Mayors Tout Partnership, Accountability at NBC's Education Nation
October 3, 2011
Conference of Mayors Vice President Philadelphia Michael A. Nutter led a mayoral panel “Going Local: What a City Can Do for Its Schools” as part of NBC's 2nd Annual Education Nation Summit in New York on September 27. The Summit engages parents, educators, students, and political and business leaders on the progress made in education, on both the local and national level. This first-ever local leadership panel focused on the challenges mayors face in their communities and what they are doing to improve education and workforce.
Joining Nutter were Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, City Year CEO Michael Brown, America's Promise Alliance President Marguerite Kondracke, and National School Boards Association President Mary Broderick. Panelists spoke of the different educational programs and successful partnerships they have established that enhance the quality of life and schooling within their communities.
Nutter stressed the importance of forming partnerships to improve graduation rates, specifically with organizations such as Philadelphia's Project H.O.M.E., a non-profit that supports social and educational need of the area. “Everyone has a role to play and we all need to stay focused on the children and improving their lives,” said Nutter. “There's no Superman – it's what our super efforts collectively bring together that help support educational outcomes – everyone has to be on the same page.”
“You certainly need outside organizations, but we also need partnerships with the federal government. We spend a lot of time doing outreach with families and targeting specific students,” added Rawlings-Blake. She emphasized the importance of identifying problems at the early stages in a child's development and explained the data analysis process in her city. “We know who is born to be a drop-out in third grade – what do we do about it? You have to invest in programs and partnerships that allow our children to stay in school. The failure is that once we have the data we're not doing anything about it.”
Booker outlined the progress of his city's Challenge grant, created through the $100 million donation from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to help overhaul the city's school district. The grant allowed Newark to make considerable investments to support the superintendent, expand school days, and invest in a teacher innovation fund. Booker added, “The greatest national security threat to this nation is the fact that we are lagging in comparison to our competitors. This is a time to say there is a crisis – all hands on deck – everyone should be involved, there is too much tolerance of mediocrity and failure.”
Berry asserted, in terms of education, what matters the most is the partnerships you have, making sure each person holds the other accountable, and being vertically integrated through the entire process. He described his city's partnership with foundations and the community college to work on technical education programs to help educate more individuals in technical skills and trade professions. “It is very much an economic issue,” said Berry. “If you have high earning individuals, things will be better for everyone and more resources will be available to invest in the city. The better and more we can do to raise the average wage through education, the more our collective boats will rise together.”
In February, in the face of a severe budget shortfall, Taveras fired almost 2,000 teachers, allowing the administration greater flexibility to hire back high-performing teachers and release those who were underperforming. “Teachers felt underappreciated and disrespected and I've been struggling with that. I appreciate the work they do and understand. We can't reform education in this country without the support of teachers. The action we took was related to the finances of the city,” Taveras explained.
The panel also discussed accountability and the pressure being put on city hall when the mayor doesn't have ultimate control. Booker stressed the importance of not passing the buck and making sure accountability is in places where it needs to be. Berry added that everyone needs to work in a bi-partisan fashion across party lines, stop the pettiness of finger-pointing, face problems and have an open dialogue.