Thursday, September 23, 2010

Guest blogger: E.K. Emery

Education leads the way
to economic recovery
By E.K. Emery
I am running for Lake County Commission because our future depends to a great extent on what path we travel today. We have a new Comprehensive Plan, intended to guide us as we evaluate proposals presented for approval. The new plan recognizes that land use decisions affect our economy and quality of life; specifically: transportation, utilities, public services, water resources, existing land uses, and education. It is critical that the plan be implemented, not ignored.

I began to be involved in issues in Lake County at a time when few  recognized the need for co-ordination between land use changes and classroom construction. The Comprehensive Plan of 1991, which I had some involvement in, is silent on education issues. That plan is still in effect today, although the School Board and County Commission have built a framework of cooperation in an attempt to avoid the mistakes of the past.

I joined with other citizens to bring about some of the changes needed. In fact my daughter, a graduate of Eustis High School and now at UF, attended her first School Board meeting as a baby in my arms. It took intense lobbying and overwhelming citizen involvement to stop subdivision approvals until there was classroom space for the students. It has taken the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars to build the schools that were needed.

We fought hard to get schools built. We continue to fight to get everyone to recognize the importance of a high quality educational system to our economic competitiveness. The employees of the Lake School District are a major part of our economy, as well as a major part of our economic development strategy. There is virtually no way for us to attract new businesses to our community without an educated workforce. High quality businesses, capable of adding to our tax base, will not come to Lake County unless high quality schools are available for employees' children.

As a friend of many teachers, and a parent of two students, I realize that the great teachers my kids have had over the years consider their work more than just a job. But it is a job, and we used to offer some security in exchange for the relatively low salaries. I disagree with those that claim that job security is a great threat to teacher performance. I also disagree that a single test score measures anything of value. This past Summer my kids and I were honored to join teachers in protesting Senate Bill 6 in Tavares, and we will continue to lobby for reforms that actually help teachers perform better in the classroom.

There is not enough space here to cover other important issues, such as safe routes to school and other transportation issues I have worked on over the years as a member of various appointed committees. The fact remains that there are many ways the County Commission impacts schools and I look forward to the opportunity to make a positive difference. My youngest child will graduate from Eustis High School at the end of this school year. Like many parents, I hope that when he completes his education he will have an opportunity to return to, and prosper in, Lake County. For more information please visit www.egoremery.org

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