GUEST OPINION: A NEW GREEN ECONOMY NEEDS EXPANDED PUBLIC EDUCATION

Every Somerville student who wishes to participate should be guaranteed placement in our after-school programs


The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that global temperature increases are accelerating underscores the urgency with which Somerville and cities worldwide must transform our economy to be free of fossil fuels. Along with concerted efforts to transition to renewable energy (cleanchoiceenergy.com), increase energy efficiency (masssave.com), and transition our buildings and vehicles to all electric (masscec.com), we must prepare our students and workforce for the green economy of the future. This means increased resources for our schools and expanding public education to guarantee after-school programs including extra courses in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), as well as life-long training opportunities for in-demand job skills as we transition to a greener economy.

Our commitment to public education needs to grow with our economic needs. Our investment in green infrastructure means we will need skilled tradesmen to build it. There are also hundreds of thousands of jobs in STEM unfilled every year. After-school programs and continued adult education could help thousands of Somerville residents find and maintain employment in those fields. For perspective, Somerville Public Schools used to have twice as many students enrolled compared to today, so Somerville could potentially educate thousands of additional residents every year. This would help ensure that Somerville residents have the best opportunities to succeed in the workforce, find apprenticeships, and continue their education.

Every Somerville student who wishes to participate should be guaranteed placement in our after-school programs. Investment in education is the single best investment cities can make leading to higher employment for residents, and greater tax revenue and lower costs for cities over time. Much of this opportunity is in STEM, including in healthcare, life science, and green tech. After-school programs are an opportunity for students to get extra practice in STEM, complementing instruction during regular school hours: any student motivated to learn, can learn. This will give Somerville students an advantage when entering the workforce, continuing their education, and making the right decisions as it pertains to our public health and maintaining greener households. After-school programs also give working parents more flexibility to balance careers and childcare.

Every Somerville resident deserves access to life-long, free, quality public education as well. Somerville can do its part by resourcing adult education, English as a Second Language (ESL), and training for in-demand job skills at our new high school in the evenings. Somerville can also create learning centers through partnerships with local businesses, expand the technology course offerings through the Somerville Media Center-Somerville Public Library partnership, and utilize the FabLab at Somerville High School to support local trades. Continued workforce development is critical to our transition to a greener economy and to helping workers maintain steady employment. Oftentimes, many jobs require only one or two job skills, rather than a more costly, specialized degree, so targeted investment in adult education can pay for itself by increasing employment, helping local businesses, and growing our economy. Educational excellence can help us achieve greater economic equity.

Somerville should lead by example in its transition to a greener economy. Somerville’s investment in green infrastructure, expanded public education, and workforce development could inspire similar actions in other communities. The future of our climate and our economy depends on our successful efforts today: let’s create that future one city and one student at a time.

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