Follow-Up to the 2015 Smith County, Texas Education Report

Follow-Up to the 2015 Smith County Education Report, by JD Meyer

The Smith County 2015 Education Report by Tyler Partnership for Education http://www.tylerareapartnership4education.org/ was held on Tuesday, October 20 at the Rose Garden–starting with an address by Mayor Martin Heines. This unprecedented collaboration between various groups, all local school districts, and the like is to increase post-secondary education credentials in this part of East Texas. Unfortunately, poverty reduces chances for success and Tyler, the county seat, and Chapel Hill are doing the worst for childhood poverty in Smith County. As a former teacher, who has taught in all grades at least as a substitute, and a Developmental English instructor at the college level, I’m in a unique position to share my observations.

My initial reaction was to recycle my publication about Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) at the University of Texas at Austin from 2010 as a solution to Tyler’s Industry Growth Initiative (IGI) Strategy #1: Increase money generated per college student. The IE program has special popularity with minorities and first-generation college students. Moreover, Tyler has a branch of the University of Texas and a global education program–GATE. http://www.creativeclass.com/rfcgdb/articles/Intellectual%20Entrepreneurship%20at%20The%20University%20of%20Texas.pdf As you’ll notice from the URL, my article found a home at the University of Toronto’s Creative Class website, directed by Dr. Richard and Rana Florida.

Post-secondary education isn’t limited to degrees or certifications; apprenticeships are a time-honored alternative. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed an executive order in 2013 for state agencies to consider contractors that participate in accredited apprenticeship programs or hire in high-unemployment areas. https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/marylands-procurement-process-aiming-to-create-more-stable-employment

Lately, I’ve been investigating the “Eds & Meds” (Education & Medicine) concept of economic development–the hallmark of Tyler, Texas. Sure enough, the results for this model are mixed, as it’s not a panacea, particularly in mid-sized cities without much research.

But let’s start on a positive note: the new physical therapy assistant program at Tyler Junior College. http://www.tylerpaper.com/TP-News+Local/225926/tjc-offers-new-physical-therapy-assistant-courses “Texas is the second largest employer of physical therapy assistants in the nation. There is a large utilization of physical therapy assistants in the area and definitely job opportunity,” Dr. Christine Melius, TJC department chair and program director, said.

In “Where Eds and Meds Could Become a Liability,” by Richard Florida http://www.citylab.com/work/2013/11/where-reliance-eds-and-meds-industries-could-become-liability/7661/, Dr. Florida notes the rise of the MOOC on-line college courses, as well as cost-efficient big hospitals in larger cities being a draw for Wal-Mart as a place to send its sick employees.

In an earlier article, “Why Eds and Meds Alone Can’t Revitalize Cities,” http://www.citylab.com/work/2012/09/eds-and-meds-alone-cant-revitalize-cities/3292/ Richard Florida warns about the skyrocketing costs of health care and education. Furthermore, regions with larger population of the elderly have a greater demand for health care, so there are more health care occupations and less workforce in other productive activities. Isn’t Tyler a Senior Welcoming City? Dr. Florida cites Charlotta Mellander whose studies showed the fields associated with greater economic prosperity: (1) business and management, (2) science and technology, and (3) arts, design, media, and entertainment. Could this indicate that there are lots of CNA’s cleaning house for the elderly at minimum wage in some cities?

On the other hand, Dr. Florida points out big cities that can thrive with Eds & Meds: Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Boston (biotech firms), and Houston–home of the world’s largest medical center. The shift to education and medicine was understandable with de-industrialization, suburbanization, and the aging American population.

Aaron M. Renn goes further on the downside in http://www.newgeography.com/content/003076-the-end-road-eds-and-meds “The End of the Road for Eds and Meds” by pointing out that hospitals are typically non-profits that don’t contribute to a city’s tax base while he also notes that college prices are spiraling upward out-of-control.

I saved the best “eds and meds” effort for last! The Cleveland Foundation is an initiative that helps local residents “become owners of new businesses that serve a cluster of hospitals, universities, and cultural institutions on the city’s struggling East Side, including the famed Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University.” The Cleveland Foundation collaborates with Ted Howard of Democracy Collaboration at the University of Maryland to create the Evergreen Cooperatives: (1) Cooperative Laundry (environmentally friendly), (2) Green City Grower Cooperatives (giant greenhouse for vegetables/fruit), and (3) Evergreen Energy Solutions (photo-voltaic panels and weathering improvements). https://www.guernicamag.com/daily/jay-walljasper-how-to-revive-low-income-neighborhoods/. I should recycle an article of mine on Urban Gardens (relevant to Cleveland #2) and it has lots of links https://www.academia.edu/1084754/Urban_Gardens Plus, I’m sentimental about this article because I interviewed the middle school teacher while I was in intensive care with a COPD exacerbation before my Medicare/Medicaid era.

However, let’s not oversimplify the Smith County economy as just “Eds & Meds,” for oil and gas production is a significant employer too, according to “Counties with Highest Concentration of Employment in Oil and Gas Extraction.” http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2015/counties-with-highest-concentration-of-employment-in-oil-and-gas-extraction-june-2014.htm Only 21 states have counties with twice the location quotient (over 1), an industry’s share of employment in the oil/gas industry. Five of the ten biggest counties are in Texas. Washington County, Oklahoma is in first place with 139.8 while Upton County, Texas at 126.9 is in second place. Both Smith County, Texas and neighboring Gregg County (Longview–county seat) have a 5.1 quotient–solid if not spectacular.

The hospitality industry–restaurants and motels–is really strong in Tyler too. http://www.tylertexasonline.com/tyler-texas-hospitality-jobs.htm Restaurants seem to follow an “Eds & Meds” economy. Moreover, restaurants are getting more popular as a national trend. http://www.kltv.com/story/30311898/report-shows-americans-spending-more-at-restaurants-than-on-groceries#.VilW8SET4DA.facebook Fewer people know how to cook, and home economics courses have been discontinued, observes a chef at The Cork. Tom Mullins, Director of Tyler Economic Development Council, notes that restaurants do especially well in Tyler. Nationwide in the past year, restaurant sales have increased 8.5% while grocery sales have gone up only 2.8%. Undoubtedly, Tyler going damp in December 2012 has helped the economy and many local businesses.

Tyler and Smith County is enjoying a home construction boom, despite the national dip, ever since 2008 when the economic recession ended, according to Tom Mullins—Director of Economic Development. Texas overall is issuing thousands more building permits than California and Florida. It’s a situation that brings in high-skill jobs. Prices for land and homes are less expensive as well. Nevertheless, there’s less development in local rural areas. http://www.kltv.com/story/28527392/home-construction-booming-in-e-texas .

“Demand is on the rise—especially for high-end homes ($300K +)–but housing inventory is dwindling, creating a tremendous opportunity for builders in East Texas.” The average new house in Tyler sells for $238K. The median days for a new house on the market is only 42 days, the lowest in 20 years and under half the ten-year median average of 90 days. http://blog.hbweekly.com/tyler-prepares-for-a-building-boom/. Thanks go to Wes Hart for alerting me to the home construction boom.

On a more controversial note, I sent a summary of my research on Bilingual All-Level Academic Vocabulary to some civic leaders. Spanish subtitles for Limited English Proficiency (LEP), aka. ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) children after elementary school is normally considered a damnable heresy in education–even though most secondary textbooks contain Spanish and English glossaries. Simply, the major roots of English are as follows: Informal-German, Technical-Latin, and Formal-French. The latter two are in the Romance languages with Spanish, so we could do a search for cognates with our students! This link branches into three, including the outline at my WordPress site. https://www.academia.edu/1744169/Bilingual_All-Level_Academic_Vocabulary If the newcomers have just learned how to ask where the cafeteria is located or lament, “Mr. Meyer is complaining again,” then they need cognate awareness for science and social studies. Just imagine, “inundacion” is the Spanish word for “flood,” and “inundated” is a really advanced English word! The booklet from the 2015 Smith County Education Report (pg. 13) observes that the Hispanic child population is larger than the total Hispanic population here (29% vs. 19%) while the Caucasian percentage is declining (60% vs. 48%) and African-Americans are remaining constant (18% vs. 19%).

College readiness, retention, and completion are the thrust of the Smith County 2015 Report on Education. Catch the Next was one of three winners in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Academic Advising Challenge (2013). It’s “a non-profit organization focusing on college readiness and completion.” Catch the Next is based on the Puente Project of University of California at Berkeley–an interdisciplinary program–focusing on Language Arts, Counseling, Mentoring, and Professional Development. CTN has several partners in Texas–including four colleges and the University of Texas at Austin’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, a group affiliated with their Intellectual Entrepreneurship program! A staggering 83% of developmental education students complete their remedial classes with help from CTN. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/texas-college-success-program-a-winner-in-gates-foundation-competition-for-educational-innovation-225263752.html

Well, I’ve written enough for now. We’ve examined the Intellectual Entrepreneurship program at University of Texas at Austin, some pros and cons about the “Eds and Meds” economy model, other Smith County industries (oil/gas, restaurants)and Bilingual All-level Academic Vocabulary (BALAV), and the CTN retention program. By the way, I bet a major reason for Developmental English/Writing courses in community colleges and open-admissions colleges is the over-emphasis on literature in high school. Stay tuned.

For the long version, go to https://bohemiotx.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/follow-up-to-the-2015-smith-county-2015-education-report-by-jd-meyer/

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