Knapp: Good teachers could be key to SC economic development

The State
January 31, 2016

If we hire a good teacher for every classroom, that will mean better-paid consumers in every rural community

We can frame rural education improvement instead as a rural economic development issue and put our Department of Commerce in charge Columbia, SC

In her Jan. 19 column (“Key to improving poor schools: a good teacher in every classroom”), Associate Editor Cindi Scoppe makes the important case for South Carolina to invest in making sure that our state’s poorest schools have a good teacher in every classroom.

This approach addresses another long-term problem for South Carolina: economic development in our rural areas. The state has struggled to find the key to bringing jobs to our low-income counties. Recruiting businesses in these areas is a slow, laborious effort that fails most of the time. And small businesses in these counties struggle due to a lack of consumer spending.

Solving the public education problem in these counties by infusing them with good teachers could produce an immediate boost for these local economies. Teachers with higher pay will create demand for goods and services, small local businesses will have new customers, and the demand for other products and services, such as entertainment and housing, will create new small businesses. The long-term impact will help our economic development recruiters, who can offer more vibrant communities and a better educated workforce to entice bigger businesses to these areas.

Providing taxpayer money to attract bigger businesses to our state is an often-used tool that is rarely questioned by our Legislature because the issue is economic development. So maybe we should re-brand the debate on investing money in good teachers to solve our rural public education problem. We can frame it instead as a rural economic development issue and put our Department of Commerce in charge. It would provide a shot in the arm to local small businesses, create jobs, make these communities more attractive for bigger businesses and, yes, provide a more than minimally adequate education as a side benefit.

Frank Knapp
S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce

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