Unexpected Messengers

CSAThis is the first in a series of blog posts by the Council for a Strong America highlighting creative partnerships between communities, boards and school districts.

By Barrie Becker,  Council for a Strong America

These days, it seems it’s hard to get anyone to agree on anything.

Democrats vs. Republicans. Teachers vs. parents. Rich vs. poor.

This is why it is refreshing to see so many unlikely allies working together to secure smart investments in at-risk children and youth:

Police chiefs speaking out in support of investments in after-school programs and school discipline reform. Retired four-star generals reading books to preschoolers to highlight the importance of high-quality early education, and encouraging kids to be physically active and eat healthy. Fortune 500 CEOs expressing their opinions about the skills gap in the U.S. workforce and exploring possible solutions such as home visiting, STEM education and Linked Learning.

At a Council for a Stronger America , we activate Americans from different backgrounds to share their unique perspectives on how research-based investments in children and youth strengthen our nation. CSA is the parent of five sibling organizations comprising pillars of American society: law enforcement leaders (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids), retired military leaders (Mission: Readiness – Military Leaders For Kids), business leaders (ReadyNation), faith leaders (Shepherding the Next Generation), and athletes and their coaches (Champions for America’s Future), all working toward the common goal of preparing young Americans for a life of productive citizenship.

Here in California, CSA predominantly works with our law enforcement, retired military, and business leaders. We directly engage these unexpected messengers to disseminate research, policy and best practices to policymakers, practitioners, and the media.

For example, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is an anti-crime organization of nearly 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, and violence survivors. These law enforcement leaders take a hard look at research-based programs that prevent kids from becoming criminals and share that critical information with policymakers, their fellow community leaders and the general public. One such message our law enforcement leaders broadly disseminated was that in the hour after the school bell rings, the prime time for juvenile crime begins. Our law enforcement members advocate for smart, research-based investments in after-school programs that connect children to caring adults and provide constructive activities during these critical hours. By doing so, they promote a powerful tool for preventing crime.

Mission: Readiness – Military Leaders For Kids is the nonpartisan national security organization of over 500 retired admirals, generals, and other retired senior military leaders calling for smart investments in America’s children. Currently, more than 70 percent of 17- to 24-year olds in the U.S. cannot serve in the military, primarily because they are too poorly educated, too overweight, or have a serious criminal record. Retired admirals and generals understand that whether young people join the military or not, we must increase strategic investments so that all young people can get the right start and succeed in life — whatever career path they choose.

If current education and labor market trends continue, by 2025, California will face a deficit of 1 million workers with bachelor’s degrees to fill open jobs that require a degree.

Many young Californians lack the basic skills and qualifications to serve in today’s military. Currently, more than 1 in 5 students do not graduate from high school on time and 24 percent of those who do graduate and try to join the military do not score high enough on the entrance exam for math, literacy, or problem solving to be able to serve. We know that high-quality preschool programs can make a dramatic difference in a young person’s progression towards achieving a high school diploma and our retired military leaders continue to be a prominent voice calling for the early childhood education resources needed to ensure a bright future for all of California’s youth.

If current education and labor market trends continue, by 2025, California will face a deficit of 1 million workers with bachelor’s degrees to fill open jobs that require a degree. At the same time, there will be a shortage of another 1 million workers to fill middle-skill jobs—those requiring more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree.

This is where the business leaders of ReadyNation step in. Over 1,000 business leaders — from Fortune 500 executives to small business owners — are continuously working to strengthen business through better policies for children and youth. Many of our members have personally educated policymakers and the public about effective investments like, Linked Learning career academies, that will help businesses compete in today’s global marketplace. In doing so, they are building a foundation for lasting economic security and helping children get on the right track towards success in school and in life.

Council for a Strong America understands that school leaders are on the front lines of shaping our future. As you plan, implement, and assess smart investments and research-proven strategies that can make the biggest difference in the lives of your students, you can rely on us as a resource and proceed with confidence knowing that a volunteer army is literally standing beside you – along with police chiefs, sheriffs, district attorneys, and chief executives – all ready to support your mission to ensure the future success of students across California and the nation.

Barrie Becker is California State Director, Council for a Strong America

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