Bloomberg News

Mayors Say Post-High School Education Needed for Jobs in Future

March 02, 2012

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, listens to Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard at the panel discussion in Washington. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, listens to Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard at the panel discussion in Washington. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The economy of the future will require most students to get post-high school degrees, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the mayors of the three most populous U.S. cities said today.

Even truck drivers need computer skills, said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who appeared on a panel at American University in Washington with Duncan and Mayors Michael Bloomberg of New York and Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles.

“As a country we’re going to educate our way to a better economy or we’re going to struggle,” Duncan said.

Most jobs are going to require students to take post-high school courses, whether they are in vocational education, a two- year community college, or a four-year school, the mayors said.

Bloomberg and Emanuel have received assistance from private companies to develop curricula that will prepare students for the jobs of the future.

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), the world’s largest software maker, is one of five companies helping the city of Chicago set up high school curricula that also include two years of additional study -- a six-year program focusing on technology skills, known as “grades 9-14.” International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), another of the five, also is funding a grade 9-14 technology high school in Brooklyn.

A study by the College Board found that 42 percent of Americans from ages 25 to 34 in 2008 had at least an associate’s degree, 12th among 36 industrialized nations.

Skills Training

In his State of the Union address Jan. 24, President Barack Obama talked about the need to help community colleges “become community career centers, places that teach people skills that businesses are looking for right now.”

At a White House summit on community colleges in October, he called for federal aid to help the two-year schools and criticized Republican budget-cutting plans that include education.

“China is not slashing education,” Obama said at the conference. “India is not slashing education. We are in a fight for the future.”

Post-secondary education emerged as an issue in the presidential campaign last week when of Republican contender Rick Santorum criticized Obama’s efforts to encourage more students to go to college.

“What a snob,” Santorum said of the president in a Feb. 25 speech in Troy, Michigan. “He wants to remake you in his image. I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his.” Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, is a parent of home-schooled children.

Vocational Education

Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership next week will recommend a national focus on vocational education to produce workers capable of running modern equipment in factories, and hubs where universities and companies can collaborate on new technologies, the group’s chairman, Dow Chemical Co. (DOW) Chief Executive Officer Andrew Liveris, said in a Feb. 28 interview.

Liveris said his company has trouble finding enough qualified people to work in its research laboratories and factories.

Obama proposed in the fiscal 2013 budget he sent Congress last month $850 million for his Race to the Top program to improve school performance, a $301 million increase from fiscal 2012.

At today’s event with the mayors, Duncan said cities, as well as states, can apply for the federal grants.

The mayors also talked about their efforts to hold principals and teachers accountable for their students’ progress, and to provide information to parents so they can see how well schools are educating their children. Accountability efforts also include bonuses for administrators and teachers who excel, and efforts to remove those who fail.

“We’re going to make sure we keep the best teachers and remove the worst teachers” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at

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