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home : opinions : your opinions August 1, 2014


WITC

8/14/2013 1:34:00 PM
Give youngsters the tools they need
Heinz Eller, Rice Lake


Two significant decisions loom in the near future of Rice Lake. One is the school bond referendum to provide financing to update the antiquated science and technology labs; the other upgrading of the outdated library building. These two issues may seem separate questions but, in fact, they are very closely related and similar issues.
One similarity is the fact that both are mid-20th century facilities striving to meet 21st century needs. In neither case is management ingenuity able to overcome the shortcomings of the physical plants.
The second is the impact of economic globalization on all regions of America, and in particular the Midwest, which has been hardest hit. Not to belabor statistics, but millions of jobs have already been outsourced, and economists estimate that 10-20 million additional jobs are at risk over the next 10 years. Rice Lake has not been immune to this global change and will not be in the future. We have hundreds of manufacturing jobs that could easily be sent to Mexico or Asia. Newton, Iowa, and Kalamazoo, Mich., were both striving cities with manufacturing jobs provided by locally owned employers. Newton was the face of the Maytag company; Kalamazoo of GM and Upjohn; those jobs have all left in the past few years. The same is true of Muncie, Ind., (Ball canning jars); Dayton, Ohio, (National Cash Register), not to mention the disaster in Detroit. And more locally, let's not forget Janesville, Beloit, Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee, Thousands of jobs have been lost in those cities and with them much of their tax base. Worse yet, today in Wisconsin we have unfilled jobs for lack of qualified candidates.
What does Rice Lake have to do to prevent good-paying manufacturing jobs from leaving or replace them if need be? The answer is the education of a workforce properly trained and with the technical qualifications to meet the requirement of the 21st century global market. The job losses in Kalamazoo were so severe that it now finances the college education of any qualified high school graduate so inclined. Newton is attempting to do the same. That is very expensive. If Rice Lake can be proactive by upgrading the high school labs and the library infrastructure today, it is likely such draconian measures will not be required down the road in our town.
Most Wisconsin communities similar in size to Rice Lake already possess the high school and library facilities designed to cope with 21st century requirements. It is time for our city to step forward and meet the challenges of the global market. We will be unfair to our children and grandchildren if we put our heads in the sand and hope the problem will go away. It won't. The education system that prepared us for life 20-50 years ago cannot do the job in the 21st century. What was good enough for us is not good enough for today.
When the bond referendum appears on the ballot, I implore the voters to vote yes. When the City Council addresses the library issue, I implore them to move the building upgrade forward.
A positive response to both issues will be a vote for Rice Lake and a vote for our children and grandchildren.
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