By Paul Gorski
Last week, in “Better health care and education will spur job growth, part one” (Sept. 5-11 issue), I introduced the idea that investing landfill tipping fee monies into health care, education and training would help lay the groundwork for economic development.
Using tipping fee monies to pay companies to come here might work sometimes, but we’d be better off using tipping fee funds to prepare our children for good-paying jobs and to inspire them to create businesses and the jobs new business brings.
I’ve used the term “health care,” but I am actually referring to the Coordinated School Health Model (CSHM) for improving student health and learning in our schools as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The basic components of this strategy include: Health Education; Physical Education; Health Services; Nutrition Services; Counseling, Psychological and Social Services; Healthy and Safe School Environment; Health Promotion for Staff; and Family/Community Involvement. These components are described in detail at http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/cshp/.
Our local health department, schools and social agencies offer many of the services encompassed by the CDC strategy. What we lack is a coordinated effort that ties all these activities together with a focus on economic development. The state of Oregon’s Healthy Kids Learn Better Partnership (HKLB, http://www.hklb.org/) is an example of an effort that coordinates activities of a professional education and development group, a technical assistance program to meet the goals of the CDC’s CSHM, and a coalition of community and government groups that engages in public health and education policy.
I suggest we adopt the Oregon HKLB model and expand it to include career education for our school students. We lost a valuable career-training program when the local Junior Achievement office closed a few years ago.
Junior Achievement (JA, http://ja.org) is an organization dedicated to introducing our youth to sound business strategies and market-based economics through hands-on learning. More than manufacturing training, training students how to be business leaders. We should work to bring back JA or an equivalent organization to Winnebago County and add it to our list of Healthy Kids Learn Better partners — our own HKLB-JA program, perhaps with a better acronym.
I’m not suggesting we re-invent the wheel. The county should take the lead on coordinating the existing efforts of the health department, schools and social agencies, a new Junior Achievement team, and the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, using tipping fee dollars to coordinate our HKLB-JA economic-development programs. We need to pull together the resources and document what is working and what isn’t in terms of these economic development efforts.
A good first step would be to save the health department budget. The county health department relies largely on grants to provide essential services. An effort to cut the county’s portion of the health department budget by $300,000 failed last week. Board members may try to put the cuts in place when they vote on the new budget in two weeks. Ask your county board member to support the health department and to vote against any cuts to its already meager budget.
Paul Gorski (http://www.paulgorski.com) is a Cherry Valley Township resident and a former Winnebago County Board member.
From the Sept. 12-18, 2012, issue