Children at Risk and Shell USA, Inc. joined forces to convene their annual Education Summit. This year’s summit, titled “Educational Pathways to Progress: Celebrating Diversity, Promoting Access and Empowering Leaders,” brought together a distinguished panel of experts to explore the challenges and solutions in education. The conversation provided takeaways on various aspects of the education system.
Dr. Bon Sanborn, President and CEO of Children at Risk: Investing in Public Schools
Dr. Bon Sanborn emphasized the importance of investing in public schools to improve their overall quality. He addressed the issue of underpaid teachers, calling for investments in teacher development and leadership programs. Sanborn pointed out that a significant portion of Texas’s future population is made up of low-income students, children of color, and emergent bilingual students. To ensure a bright future for the state, he stressed the need to pay attention to this diverse group of children and prioritize public school improvements.
Dr. Frazier Wilson, VP, Shell USA Company Foundation Manager, Workforce Development & Diversity Outreach Shell USA, Inc.: Education and Workforce Development
Dr. Frazier Wilson shed light on the critical link between education and the workforce. He highlighted the importance of investing in teachers, as they play a crucial role in shaping the lives of students and preparing them for the workforce. Wilson shared insights from interviews with managers, revealing that a significant portion of graduates are not adequately prepared for the workforce. This under-skilling of the workforce, according to Wilson, can lead to increased productivity when addressed early on. He cited a 2018 economic study by the Fast Growth School Coalition, indicating that Texas’s rapidly growing school districts have contributed $70.5 billion to increased economic activity.
Dr. Lupita Hinojosa, Superintendent, Spring ISD: Recognizing Teachers and Funding Challenges
Dr. Lupita Hinojosa discussed the unique challenges faced by the Spring Independent School District (SISD), a mid-size district with 34,000 students representing 74 different languages. She highlighted the district’s transformation and progress, especially among its diverse student population. Hinojosa stressed the need for recognizing and compensating teachers for their hard work, particularly in addressing learning gaps during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also drew attention to the funding disparities in public education, noting that Texas public schools have not received additional funding since 2019, while inflation continues to rise. Hinojosa called for increased funding per student to ensure that public schools can continue to provide a quality education.
Jonathan Feinstein, State Director for Texas, Education Trust: Addressing Inexperienced Teachers
Jonathan Feinstein raised concerns about the prevalence of inexperienced and uncertified teachers in Texas schools, particularly in schools with a high percentage of Black and Latino students from low-income backgrounds. He emphasized that many students of color end up with novice teachers during their academic journey. Feinstein’s remarks underscored the urgent need for recruiting and retaining qualified and experienced educators to ensure all students receive a quality education.