Great schools are good for business.
Billings community and business leaders highlighted that strong connection between excellent education and a thriving economy Wednesday as they announced initiatives to improve local schools.
The Billings Area Chamber of Commerce has joined an effort started by developer Steve Corning and banker Lyle Knight.
Knight said they started out asking: “Is there something we can do to make education better in Billings, particularly in K-12?”
Over the past several months, they have assembled a committee for Education 2020, including Billings Superintendent Terry Bouck, Billings Mayor Tom Hanel, Jeff Greenfield, Karen Fagg, Karen Sanford Gall, Krista Hertz, Todd Buchanan, Jim Duncan, Steve Loveless, Jock Michelotti, Dale Getz, Ron Yates, Mike Gulledge, Greg Kohn, John Brewer and Bruce MacIntyre.
The first step is spurring more community engagement with the school board. The Chamber will present a free school board candidate school on the morning of Jan. 29 and again on the evening of Jan. 30.
“We need to encourage the community to become more active in the school board,” Chamber President John Brewer said.
The Chamber and SD2 are working together to communicate school issues to state lawmakers. The Chamber’s short list of key issues states, in part: “Despite significant increases in students annually, funding is not correspondingly increased to meet the increased population. Modifications to the formula need to be made.”
Bouck said specific funding changes are needed to be fair to all students.
Another business-supported initiative will be a school safety forum to be held sometime in February. Bouck said he is working on that program with Police Chief Rich St. John and has invited input from the Billings Catholic Schools administration as well as superintendents from outlying school districts.
“Safety is paramount in our schools,” Bouck said, adding “we’re not backing off” when outrage over the Sandy Hook School tragedy fades.
With local leaders from business, health care, education, finance and government working together, lawmakers will hear important information about schools as an economic driver. However, this isn’t just a Chamber issue; it’s a community issue.
We applaud Corning and Knight and Chamber leaders for re-energizing business involvement with our schools.
We encourage all residents to learn more about their local schools and become actively involved in working for quality education. Volunteer. Run for school board or talk to a good potential candidate about running. When you communicate with your state lawmakers, ask them to support your schools.
Regardless of whether we have K-12 students in the family today, everyone in Billings will depend today’s students as future workers and leaders. Let’s teach our kids well so they can take good care of us when they grow up.