Jim Nichols’ Speechwriting Samples
Financing the Midwest Energy Transition:
Innovation and Infrastructure
Keynote address by Cleveland Foundation President and CEO Ronald B. Richard
To the 3rd Annual Globalization and the Midwest Conference
Monday, October 18, 2010
The City Club of Cleveland
· Speech objective: Underscore the criticality of advanced energy to global and regional health and prosperity, and inspire collaboration among Midwestern policymakers and thought leaders to make the region a global leader.
· Strategy: We’ve done it before and can do it again. Good cop/bad cop – the dire consequences of inaction vs. the tremendous opportunities of assertive action.
Thank you, Dick, and thank you to all of you for attending.
I’m honored to be here. I’m also proud that a grant from the Cleveland Foundation has helped underwrite this very important discussion of the future energy economy of our globe, and the Midwest’s place in it.
It’s appropriate for us Midwesterners to gather here to discuss the next frontiers for energy, because the last revolution in energy occurred right on our turf.
Barely a hundred miles east of here, some visionaries in Titusville, Pennsylvania let a genie out of a bottle in 1859 when they drilled the world’s first oil well.
Right here in Cleveland, a guy named John D. Rockefeller became a household name and a somewhat wealthy man by building an empire based on finding, refining, and transporting petroleum products better than anyone else.
Right up the road in Michigan, the internal-combustion engine and some manufacturing and marketing geniuses combined to create the automotive capital of the world. Detroit’s cars and trucks changed our lives and our landscape in ways more profound than history had ever seen. And Cleveland, while playing second fiddle to Detroit, was still a major part of the automobile manufacturing orchestra.
The Midwest industrial manufacturing economy rose on the back of coal from the Midwest, burned in factories and power plants that produced the vehicles that everyone wanted to buy.
Indeed, history shows us that this great Great Lakes region was sort of the cradle of the fossil-fuel economy – and all of the wonderful and horrible things it has brought us.
My hope is that later in this century, historians will look back on this particular time and see the gestation of the next great revolution in energy: the sustainable-energy revolution.
That can happen if we in the Midwest recognize that clean energy is the engine for the rebirth of our economy and the key to the revitalization of the Midwest as the central force in the American experiment.
If the so-called Rust Belt can become the advanced-energy belt, we will see our fortunes rise as surely and as fast as they did when the automobile gave rise to the world’s biggest, fastest-growing middle class. And, we will see the U.S. retain – perhaps regain – world leadership, with the Midwest as being the powerhouse for the renewed vigor of the American destiny.
And as I welcome all of you here today, I also welcome you to become a part of that movement.
In fact, I challenge you to become a part of it.
Several years ago, I worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. There I read what we called a “threat book.” It was a meticulously researched treatise on the gravest emerging threats to America’s national security. Way up near the top of that list were climate change and oil addiction.
Now, as we gather here today, this is clear: Changing the way we produce and use energy over the next 50 years is without a doubt one of the most important challenges humans have ever faced, and ever will face. If we fail to unchain ourselves from our carbon-based economy, our world will become increasingly polluted and our climate increasingly unstable.
We will likely face war and strife over dwindling carbon-fuel and water resources.
We may face famine, epidemics of deadly disease, and catastrophic changes to our physical world. It’s possible that, with continued unabated reliance on fossil fuels, we will cross the brink into deadly geopolitical pandemonium within the next few decades.
And yet we face something just as profound in the other direction: opportunity.
On a global basis, we could see a world where healing begins. Our politics, our national security, and our global security would no longer be at the mercy of despots or potentates. Our environment would become cleaner and our people would live longer, healthier lives because they wouldn’t be breathing in such polluted air or ingesting poisonous mercury. Our climate may be centuries away from recovering its natural balance, but at least it would begin to tip back.
Here in the Midwest, we can lead that recovery. We have the minds, the tools, and the history of innovation and industrial capacity on our side.
I just returned from the Basque region of Spain, where a group of us went to study a remarkable conglomerate of worker-owned co-ops, called the Mondragon co-ops. They’ve been growing over the last 50 or so years. Today, there are more than 100 industrial, retail, and financial firms in that co-op conglomerate employing some 100,000 workers. The region currently has a 9-percent unemployment rate, compared to 24 percent in the rest of Spain.
Why? Because the cities in the Basque region worked together. They knew that if they didn’t help each other, no one else would help them.
We need to do that. We need to push the Midwest’s assets together, so that the East and West coasts – or China or India – don’t wind up reaping all the rewards of this next energy revolution.
We need each other, because we have many challenges. They are challenges of policy, technology, and capital.
You’ll hear the brilliant panelists that the Chicago Council on Global Affairs has assembled for this conference elaborate on those challenges. You can read about those obstacles in great detail in the fine study the council produced in 2008 called “Embracing the Future: The Midwest and a New National Energy Policy.”
This new energy revolution will be very capital-intensive, and no one knows where that capital will come from yet. It’s imperative that the private markets, the public sector, and even philanthropy work together to innovate and create new vehicles to capitalize these emerging industries and the research and development they need.
It will not happen here if we do not adopt policies on a global, national, state, and local level to drive it. Those must include incentives to reduce energy consumption, and incentives to develop new energy-production technologies.
And although this may be unpopular for those wedded to the past, those policies must include economic penalties for clinging to the old ways.
We in the Midwest must find ways to make ourselves cool and appealing again to the best and brightest young minds, and get them to flock here the way they did when Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and other Midwestern cities were leading the world in innovation and production.
Our great universities, including the Big Ten schools and our many other world-class institutions, such as Case Western Reserve here in Cleveland, must collaborate, not compete. And we need to reinvent our education system, from preschool to post-grad, to make our region the best producer of ingenuity.
But perhaps the greatest obstacle we must overcome is the failure to convince enough of this nation – enough of our own pivotal region – to take action on our two colossal imperatives: moving off of oil, and reducing carbon emissions.
There are still far too many Americans, including far too many of our Midwestern neighbors, who are still skeptical. They aren’t convinced – or refuse to believe – that fossil-fuel supplies are finite and that their combustion is causing potentially catastrophic, perhaps even irreversible, harm.
Too many don’t understand that we’re funding both sides of the war on terror. Too many don’t grasp that there’s much more at risk than some self-centered version of the so-called American way of life.
We simply must get past the yawns and the suspicions. If we cannot persuade Americans with science – and the science on these questions is clear in its overall direction, if not completely understood in all its nuances – then we must try inspiration. We must sell opportunity.
Shortly after I moved to Cleveland, I visited Copenhagen and saw its massive wind turbines installed in its downtown harbor. If you’ve ever been there, you know it’s quite a sight: magnificent, beautiful, inspirational, and a source of civic pride.
Propelled by steady winds, it was generating
clean electricity and helping wean
It inspired me to move our foundation to make the exploration and support of a regional wind-energy industry one of our top priorities.
Why a priority? For three fundamental reasons:
· First, and most important, there’s the opportunity to create an economic engine. A new and lasting supply-chain manufacturing base could revitalize our region. We want to vigorously support Cleveland being a major part of an exploding wind energy industry with some $10 billion in annual sales in North America and growing at about 40 percent per year.
· Second, to provide a source of zero-emission electricity to the region – versus today, where we rely almost 90 percent on coal-fired power.
· And third – and this is more important than it might first appear – as an icon to re-brand the city and the region as something newer and better than a Rust Belt or the city where the river caught on fire.
Seattle has the Space Needle. St. Louis has the Arch. Why can’t Cleveland have something cool like that? Why can’t Cleveland have wind turbines twirling over Lake Erie as a symbol to the nation and the world that we are a 21st-century city competing strongly in the global economy?
If hundreds – or maybe even thousands – of wind turbines can be installed throughout the Great Lakes in the coming decades, and we manufacture their components, it will mean thousands of jobs for us.
That was the genesis of our advanced-energy thrust here in Cleveland. Since then, my foundation hired a visionary named Richard Stuebi, whom you’ll hear from later today, to get us moving.
Richard has been a key driver of a remarkable and fast-developing movement here. Under his leadership, we have made progress on all three challenges: policy, capital, and technology.
Richard helped form a broad coalition that persuaded the legislature to pass a bill that requires that at least 25 percent of all electricity sold in Ohio come from alternative-energy sources by 2025. That policy breakthrough is already driving an exciting new market, and our foundation helped create a worker-owned solar-power company to help major institutions, such as the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and Case, and homeowners adopt solar so that we can meet the new state standard.
Then Richard and our foundation helped to build a broad public-private alliance to develop and finance a wind farm that’ll appear off of Cleveland’s Lake Erie shore within the next two years. Our partnership, called the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., is successfully meeting the capital challenge even in this tough economic climate. That is because the private sector has begun to see the vision that we in the nonprofit and government sectors have been pushing.
The first five turbines will power thousands of homes. But they’ll also power that new Cleveland brand I spoke of – the brand of a powerfully progressive, forward-thinking community taking on a great challenge.
That offshore wind farm will be a proving ground that drives progress in overcoming technological challenges. Engineers from GE, Bechtel, and other partners will, I am sure, overcome the issues that currently make offshore wind power too expensive.
Richard and our foundation have worked closely with a Cleveland-based industrial economic development organization called WIRE-Net to build our region’s supply-chain capacity for wind energy, through an effort that is now globally recognized as a leader in supporting the needs of wind manufacturers, as reflected by its name: the Global Wind Network.
Our foundation also invested $3.6 million to create the Great Lakes Energy Institute at Case Western Reserve University. There, brilliant scientists are studying new ways to generate and store power, and ways to curb its consumption.
We still encounter barriers. The main barrier we face today in the transition to an advanced energy economy is as true as when we first proposed the idea. New forms of energy tend to be more expensive – at least initially – than the incumbent forms of energy that we depend upon.
So, why should we bother?
The answer is simple: just because it’s more expensive today doesn’t mean it will be more expensive tomorrow.
Conventional forms of energy are likely to become more expensive, as a natural consequence of tightening supplies, increasing demands, and environmental pressures. In contrast, new forms of energy are only on a path of lower cost, with continued technical innovation and economies of scale as adoption occurs.
The transformation of the Midwestern economy can happen – and arguably will only happen – when its energy sector transforms. That will occur with innovation and adoption, which in turn requires capital – lots of it.
That’s why we’re here today, and I’m hopeful today’s discussions will help catalyze the formation of more capital directed towards the Midwest energy transition.
I hope we can source that capital from within our own region, and attract it here from elsewhere too, to make the Midwest a center of advanced energy excellence and activity – converting ourselves from the Rust Belt to something that will make those old so-called “glory days” seem pale.
When that happens, Cleveland and the Midwest will be able to bask in the warm economic breeze and know we’re helping to save the world – again – just as our industry and labor did during World War II.
Philanthropy: A City’s Saving Grace
Address to the Estate Planners Council of Cleveland
By Ronald B. Richard
President and CEO, the Cleveland Foundation
At the City Club of Cleveland, Jan. 11, 2011
· Speech objective: Inspire estate planners to encourage their clients to give to the Cleveland Foundation; and burnish speaker’s stature as thought leader on education reform.
· Strategy: Portray philanthropy – and estate planners’ role in it – as a heroic undertaking that makes participants feel good; touch lightly on the many important undertakings they can, and do, help to underwrite.
· Special requests: Play up the estate planners’ importance by underscoring that one of their own created this great institution.
Good afternoon. Thank you, Jennifer and Eleanor, and thanks very much to all of you for inviting me to speak to this illustrious group.
My colleague and yours, Marie Monago, suggested I talk to you about the state of philanthropy in Greater Cleveland, and the Cleveland Foundation’s role in it. And as I considered that, I thought of an old parable. I think it’s one of Aesop’s Fables.
In this story, as I recall it, a father came upon his sons just as they were debating among themselves who is the strongest, and who could get the most work done. The sons then began making their cases to their father, with each one hoping Dad would proclaim him the strongest.
The father listened for a moment. Then he walked a circle around the sons, stooping over to collect an armful of sticks.
He gave each son a stick and told each, in turn, to snap it. They did so easily.
Then the father bundled the rest of those sticks together and told his sons in turn to break the bundle. They all failed.
“You are those sticks,” the father told his sons. “Together, you have far more strength than any of you possess alone.”
That, I am here to attest, is the secret to Cleveland’s philanthropic greatness. Our city has many strengths, and many strong individuals. But we achieve our greatest strength, and our greatest accomplishments, through unity. And if there is a resounding theme to philanthropy in Cleveland today, it is unity – unity, partnership, and collaboration. No single individual, and no organization – public, private, nonprofit – can truly move the needle of need alone. Yet together, we are unbreakable, and incredibly powerful.
That idea of cohesion is one of the core values and founding principles of the Cleveland Foundation. And the need for unity has never clearer or greater than it is today.
I believe that together, we in Cleveland can have a brilliant future. I’m sure most of you believe that, too, because when you chose to focus on estate planning, you obviously assumed Clevelanders will continue to build wealth and need your services.
You are in a position to brighten the future of this great place we call home.
You – every one of you – can be a part of re-imagining a new Cleveland – a Cleveland with a vigorous economy, revitalized neighborhoods, engaged youth, an even more vibrant arts scene, and rejuvenated schools.
You’re in that position because you know the power of generosity. I know that many of you exercise that power already, by encouraging your clients to give back to this great community we all call home.
I hope you feel good about that.
But if you really want to feel good, don’t just think about what you or your clients are accomplishing individually. Think about what your profession is accomplishing – how all of you together form an absolutely profound force for positive change by partnering with my foundation and other philanthropic leaders.
Let me assure you: There is no more noble accomplishment. On behalf of the Cleveland Foundation and every one of the thousands of Clevelanders we serve, I offer you my deepest respect and gratitude.
(Cleveland Foundation History)
I’d like to talk to you about the philanthropic sector’s activity now, and how we are planning change for the future. But before I do that, let me tell you a little about the Cleveland Foundation’s past.
A century or so ago, Cleveland was teeming with inventors who pioneered new technologies in electricity, chemicals, petroleum, metals, paints, and machining.
Amid all that industrial innovation and invention, a banker and lawyer named Frederick Harris Goff invented something as profound as anything coming off the drafting tables or factory floors. He called it a community foundation – the Cleveland Foundation, and he unveiled it 97 years ago this month.
Mr. Goff was an estate attorney who counted John D. Rockefeller among his clients and close friends. Mr. Goff left his law firm in 1909 to lead the Cleveland Trust Co. There, he continued to study, draw up, and litigate the wills and trusts for many of Cleveland’s elites. He also did much of the revolutionary research that led in 1913 to the creation of the Rockefeller Foundation.
His experience with estates taught Mr. Goff to loathe inflexible provisions of certain wills and trusts that eventually, and unintentionally, stifled their charitable power. Too often, he saw overly restrictive provisions setting aside money for some charitable purpose that later became irrelevant. And too often, there was no mechanism to put the assets to better use.
He saw wills that provided funds forever for diseases that were passing into history, or for the orphans of Civil War veterans, or for the care of public watering troughs for horses and other causes that were obsolete, or headed toward irrelevance.
Mr. Goff called this choking power “the dead hand,” saying it reached from beyond the grave to choke off good.
He was also troubled to see another increasingly common problem of the day: Many wills and trusts assigned the donor’s heirs to administer and distribute the proceeds, and for one reason or another, more and more of those heirs weren’t interested.
Fixing these problems in any estate was a difficult, if not impossible, ordeal that involved great expense and much work in probate court. Fred Goff invented a way to avoid them – and to do great good in the process. He created a perpetual grantmaking machine – a way for the people of Cleveland to give back to their great city, together – and forever.
The community foundation encouraged people of all means to pool their philanthropic monies into one permanent trust. These donors together would be able to do what only billionaires could do alone: identify great social ills and attack them with great resources.
The Cleveland Foundation would be directed by the Cleveland community – by a board of prominent local citizens appointed by respected public officials. Those citizens would have latitude and authority to redirect financial and leadership assets to timely causes as old intentions became irrelevant and new needs arose.
So Mr. Goff designed a living entity, flexible enough to respond to the needs and opportunities of any era forevermore. And he achieved one of his prime goals in life: He buried the dead hand.
Yet I doubt that even Mr. Goff fully understood, by the time he died nine years later, what kind of impact his fledgling creation would have.
(TCF and community foundations: What we are)
Today, more than 1,000 community foundations dot the globe. In the United States, some 650 community foundations exist in cities, suburbs, and rural areas in all 50 states. Together, we hold more than $31 billion dollars in assets, and we give away about $2.6 billion dollars in grants every year. We all raise our funds locally and distribute them locally. We provide the channel through which our donors can thank, and nurture, the place we all call home – the place we care about most.
The generosity of Clevelanders over the last 97 years has grown this community’s endowment to $1.8 billion dollars, and made our foundation Ohio’s largest grantmaker.
We make about 3,000 grants each year, totaling about $80 million, to nonprofits that work for the public good. Those grants total more than $1.4 billion dollars since our founding.
(TCF: Beyond grantmaking)
Now, 20th-century American writer and social critic Dwight MacDonald once wryly described a foundation as “a large amount of money completely surrounded by people who want some.”
Yet Mr. Goff foresaw more than doling out dough. He designed the community foundation as a force for shaping public policy and driving a progressive civic agenda.
Each time any of us enjoys the Cleveland Metroparks, we should thank him. Why? Not just for the money to buy land for the park system, but for the very idea of an “Emerald Necklace.”
You see, back in its earliest days, the Cleveland Foundation produced a study that forecast the rise of American leisure and a corresponding demand for preserved wilderness and recreational land. It led to the creation of the Metroparks.
Another of our earliest studies shook up a corrupt and “Dickensian” justice system. Still another spearheaded sweeping public-school reforms, and gave support to the radical notion that girls were worthy of equal education.
Since then, the foundation has firmly reinforced its commitment to serve as a proactive and visionary agenda-setter, not just a grantmaker. We spark conversations about solving our community’s problems, and form partnerships with government, academia, business, and the nonprofit sector. And we help turn conversation into action.
That action and the grants our donors make possible have touched millions of lives over 97 years. Now I’d like to tell you about some of the ways our philanthropic partnerships are touching lives right now, right here – together.
Some of the most innovative examples of the power of partnership and the foundation’s role as a community catalyst have been blossoming in University Circle and the urban neighborhoods around it. We call this our Greater University Circle Initiative.
We began to increase our focus there about five years ago because we saw a unique opportunity: By catalyzing rebirth in the University Circle area, we could stimulate economic development and job creation that would benefit all of Northeast Ohio.
We have been at the cutting edge of a movement in philanthropy toward stimulating economic development. The reason is simple: If our region prospers – if more people can find sustaining, fulfilling work and build the foundation for stable lives – then more and more of our community’s basic needs will be met. And meeting those needs is the ultimate objective of philanthropy, isn’t it?
Also, we believe that greater prosperity will enrich all of us culturally and fill the higher yearnings of human nature – yearnings for art, culture, education, and spirituality.
University Circle is, of course, the cradle of our great arts and culture heritage. But it is also a gigantic engine of economic growth. It hosts a world-class “eds and meds” cluster as home to Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Clinic, and University Hospitals. Those institutions are some of our biggest employers. They draw tens of millions of dollars in research funding to Cleveland, and that translates into jobs.
Moreover, in today’s global, knowledge-based economy, those institutions are crucibles of creativity and innovation. They are our most promising powerhouses of prosperity. We believe those institutions are the seed beds for a host of spinoff companies that someday might employ many, many more Clevelanders and attract capital and highly educated newcomers to our region.
We call them “anchor institutions” because they are permanently anchored here. Our corporations come and go. But our eds-and-meds institutions are never going to relocate.
So we’ve been bringing those anchor institutions together with the city of Cleveland, the state of Ohio, and other civic players to rejuvenate University Circle and the neighborhoods around it. We’ve been opening channels of communication and building trust.
In the past few years, we’ve seen unprecedented levels of cooperation and collaboration among the anchor institutions.
One exciting product is the collaboration to establish new cooperative, employee-owned businesses. These Evergreen Cooperative companies fulfill some of the institutions’ procurement needs by providing niche goods and services.
They are located in the neighborhoods around University Circle, and they hire workers from those neighborhoods. Those workers earn a living wage and no-cost health benefits. And they earn an ownership stake in their companies.
It’s a way to bring wealth-building and neighborhood-building opportunities to areas that need the most help. We hope someday to see hundreds, or even thousands, of worker-owners at dozens of co-ops reshaping their destinies, and renewing our city.
(Other Greater University Circle-related efforts)
We’re also funding many specific projects that we hope will pay off big for our community.
We’ve invested millions of dollars into new research facilities at Case. We gave $6.5 million to help the university establish its Center for Proteomics, where researchers are studying new ways to manipulate proteins to treat and cure disease.
We also helped create the Great Lakes Energy Institute, a research center of excellence studying new ways to generate, store, transport, and conserve energy.
We’ve worked with Case and University Circle Incorporated toward creating Uptown, an exciting hub of activity and development at the heart of its campus. Uptown’s first phase is now under construction. The $44.5-million development will feature more than 100 housing units and 56,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.
Next door to Uptown, the Museum of Contemporary Art is building its dramatic new home.
Case and many other philanthropic partners are also investing $26 million dollars toward transforming the venerable Temple Tifereth-Israel into a performing arts center. A unique partnership between the university and the temple will allow the renovated facility to continue serving occasionally as a place of worship, while serving as a cultural and academic core of students’ life.
We’re proud to have catalyzed these exciting interactions, and we will continue our support of University Circle as progress and prosperity unfold, inevitably and beautifully.
(Arts and culture)
We’re also proud to be part of the tremendous legacy of philanthropic support that has elevated so many of Cleveland’s other cultural institutions to world-class stature.
Philanthropy here is working to secure the long-term health of some of the most prominent among those institutions. Over the last few years, for example, the Cleveland Foundation provided millions of dollars in special planning and development grants to the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Play House, Apollo’s Fire, the Community Partnership for the Arts, Cleveland Public Theatre, Opera Cleveland, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, and Playhouse Square.
And many philanthropic partners are cultivating and educating future generations of artists and art lovers through outreach programs. One is Young Audiences, which brings the beauty of music to schoolchildren through in-school programs that reach 256,000 students across the region. Another, called Joyful Noise, provides free music lessons to needy Cleveland kids. The Cleveland Museum of Art is embracing youth from surrounding neighborhoods and immersing them in the beauty of the visual arts.
You and your clients are a part of growing these remarkable strengths and opportunities in our community, together.
(Wind turbines coming/advanced energy)
Now, let me talk about another area where the foundation and other philanthropic-sector leaders are catalyzing opportunity through grantmaking and leadership. That area is our region’s emerging advanced-energy industry.
We all know how vital Lake Erie has been to Cleveland’s proud heritage. Our lakefront location helped make us a manufacturing mecca, a transportation hub, and a recreation capital. Today, that windy lake is ready to bestow upon us another new industry, one that could help change our world: freshwater wind farms.
Next year, we hope, Clevelanders and visitors to our city will see 5 wind turbines spinning away off downtown’s shoreline.
They’ll generate megawatts. But their real power will be in generating a large number manufacturing, R&D, and service jobs here.
You see, we believe they will be only the first 5 of what someday will be thousands of wind turbines rising above our Great Lakes, and lakes and seas worldwide. We aim for Clevelanders to lead the way toward putting them there, and profiting from it.
Listen: Whether or not you believe that humans are responsible for climate change, the simple truth is that our planet’s current dependence on fossil fuels is simply not sustainable.
As demand outstrips supply, the price of our current energy systems – in both dollars and environmental impact – is going to rise dramatically. We’re already hearing near-term predictions of gas at $4 to $5 dollars per gallon.
So it’s inevitable that we will need new sources of energy. People in many places are going to make fortunes by innovating to meet that need. We want to capitalize on that opportunity right here.
Northeast Ohio missed out on the information-tech revolution. Our region – and our nation – simply cannot afford to miss the energy-tech revolution.
So for six years now, we and many public, private, academic, and nonprofit partners have collaborated to lay the foundation for an advanced-energy future. Together, we’re working to discover, develop, and perfect new energy technologies, and bring them to market.
What will success look like? We’re already seeing it. Our state has had hundreds of new jobs spring up in wind and solar energy just in the last few years. New and established manufacturers here are feeding the supply chain. I foresee engineers and designers coming here to be part of something new and exciting. Specialized ships and crews from Cleveland would ply the Great Lakes to install and maintain turbines. And we would export our expertise to customers all around the world.
(Other economic-development efforts)
Yet we know that no single industry can revive our region. We need a diversity of innovative new industries and employers who can compete in a knowledge-based economy.
So the foundation is a major funder of several regional economic-development nonprofits that work hard to grow smart, innovative new companies from the ground up. These dynamic nonprofits each have different but often complementary niches and roles, and I believe you’ve heard of them.
BioEnterprise helps young firms in the biosciences. BioE takes advantage of a distinctly Cleveland opportunity to capitalize on the wealth of institutional research going on within our hospitals, universities, and medical schools.
JumpStart connects entrepreneurs across a wide range of market segments to funding, and to an enthusiastic network of mentors, advisors, and experts.
NorTech, in addition to driving our wind-energy sector, is developing job-creating, wealth-building clusters of expertise here in flexible electronic display screens and other tech sectors our region can dominate.
And Team NEO, another major economic-development nonprofit, is recruiting foreign capital investments here and opening foreign markets to Cleveland’s goods and services. Team NEO is an arm of one of the foundation’s most valued allies, the Greater Cleveland Partnership.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, we support a wide array of community-based nonprofits across Greater Cleveland.
These agencies bring music to children and the elderly. They provide health care to the poor. They fight foreclosure, and support neighborhood revitalization.
They help people living with AIDS, and they rescue families from domestic violence or economic catastrophe.
They feed the hungry, and engage city children in healthy alternatives to street life.
However, over the past eight years of toiling in the trenches, I have become increasingly convinced that the issue at the root of almost all of the problems facing Cleveland – and the factor that will most determine our city’s and nation’s ability to succeed in the future – is education.
There is no greater drain on our collective well being and prosperity than failing schools and dropout factories. The failure of Cleveland’s schools touches every one of us, no matter where we live.
Poor education correlates with chronic unemployment, higher rates of crime and incarceration, higher dependence on social services, and an exasperating cycle of poverty. We all pay.
And if you talk to business leaders around Greater Cleveland – your clients undoubtedly among them – you’ll hear a recurring theme: They need more trainable, reliable workers with decent high-school educations. Cleveland’s schools are failing our businesses, even as the schools fail our children.
On a global basis, our failing public schools are the main reason our nation is losing its competitive advantage. We used to lead the world in developing innovative, creative, contributing citizens and leaders. Now our education system has fallen to the middle of the pack of industrialized nations. If we continue to fail in education, we will put our prosperity, our democratic civility, and even our national security in dire jeopardy.
Yet on the flip side, no greater single opportunity exists for all of us to reinvent our nation, and our city, than the transformation of our public schools.
Education is the great liberator: It can erode economic disparity and replace despair with hope and prosperity. So we and other grantmakers have focused heavily on education opportunities and reform all across Northeast Ohio.
We have devoted substantial resources to strengthening schools, from inner-city charters to dynamic collaborations among suburban schools. We’re fostering new ideas and helping schools test them.
We’re working with leaders all over Ohio to build an infrastructure to support schools that specifically stress science, technology, engineering, and math – the STEM disciplines, in which our state underperforms.
We’re supporting after-school programs, in Cleveland and the suburbs, that engage children in a learning culture, stimulate their intellects, and inspire their imaginations.
Yet our biggest emphasis is in the area of the greatest need, and the greatest chance for dramatic impact: Cleveland public schools. For the Cleveland Foundation, reforming the Cleveland Municipal School District is Priority No. 1.
More than five years ago, a coalition of philanthropic, corporate, civic, and academic leaders joined the school district’s leadership on a quest.
Given the unwarranted low expectations for our city’s school children, we decided that we needed to prove this concept: If we could provide these kids with an invigorating and excellent education, they could achieve at a high level and go on to college, despite the other strikes against them.
We wanted to start by creating pockets of excellence, and then take that excellence to scale across the entire system.
To date, the Cleveland Foundation has directly invested in the development of 11 innovative “opportunity schools” that offer a broad range of choices for children and their families.
Among them are single-gender pre-K-through-8 academies; high schools that focus on STEM; a K-through-12 International Baccalaureate school; and the one nearest and dearest to my heart: the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine in University Circle.
I chair the board of directors of that school, and it is an inspiring success story I could talk about all day. We brought together the neighboring eds-and-meds institutions, the district, the students, the parents, and the staff. That partnership has accomplished something truly remarkable.
In its four years, that school has earned the highest rating from the Ohio Department of Education. U.S. News and World Report ranks it among the top 6% of the schools it evaluated. And last June, every one of its first class of seniors – all 78 of them – graduated. But that’s not all: Every one won acceptance to a four-year college or university – schools that include Princeton, Stanford, Case Western Reserve, Bowdoin, Ohio State, Cleveland State, Xavier, and Miami of Ohio.
All of the new opportunity schools are not yet excellent, but most are on the path to excellence. As a cohort, these schools compare to many suburban districts, and they outperform other Cleveland schools on almost every measure.
And I think that it is fair to say that these opportunity schools – along with other high-performing district schools and charter schools such as E-Prep, Citizens Academy, and the Intergenerational School – have proved the concept we set out to prove: If you put give kids a school with a great principal, deeply engaged community partners, excellent teachers, more flexible class times, and a rigorous and exciting curriculum, they can succeed. That’s true even if the students come from broken, impoverished homes in unstable neighborhoods.
We still have a lot of kids to save, though. The transformation of this district has just begun. Sustaining the momentum and bringing reform to every school will be a team effort demanding patience and relentless focus.
We’ll have a lot of challenges. The most pressing one at the moment will be finding dynamic and committed replacement for Dr. Eugene Sanders as the district’s chief executive officer. The academic transformation plan he put in place is a strong one. A new CEO must execute it fully, and improve upon it as needed – but not soften it a bit.
And we must overcome the obstacle of adults who work within the system, or who make their living off of it, and who are more concerned with own interests than our kids’.
But the good news is that we’ve reached a tipping point that once seemed unreachable. We can commit to taking our success to scale. Or we can let the schools tip back the other way. It has taken a strong coalition to get to this point. If we do not build that coalition and demand further reform, those schools will tip back to failure. And they will drag our whole city toward failure with them.
So when you hear about the Cleveland Foundation, or the Gund Foundation, or KnowledgeWorks, or the national giants such as the Gates Foundation, committing so heavily to education reform, you can now see the value – and the power of moving forward together.
If you want to move a mountain, you do it with a whole lot of people, a whole lot of shovels, and some well-placed blasts of dynamite. That’s true with a lot of the challenges our foundation takes on. They take teamwork.
(Call to action/conclusion)
We at the foundation, and all of us in this community, need you and your clients on our team.
Over the next few decades, at least $185 billion in wealth will transfer from one generation to the next in the foundation’s primary service areas of Cuyahoga, Lake, and Geauga counties.
The people who control that wealth know that it can do tremendous good, and the vast majority of them are well inclined toward philanthropy already.
So in closing, I ask you, and your clients through you, to do a bit more of what you do so well already: Commit to the power of philanthropy. Commit to growing this community and tending to its greatest needs and aspirations.
I’d like to offer this thought: People think of first responders – our police, firefighters, and emergency-medicine crews – as our community’s lifesavers and heroes. And they are, to be sure.
But I would add that our city’s current and potential philanthropists are another kind of first responders. They can, and do, come to the rescue of some of our neediest, and their care can put people on a long-term path to survival, health, and thriving.
The generous ones among us can truly save lives – not just one or a few in a lifetime, but hundreds, or thousands, over generations.
And you all can be this community’s dispatchers. You can direct those first responders to where they and their resources are needed most. Your clients trust you more than anyone. They entrust you with their wealth. You have the power to leverage that trust into something truly good for this community – the power to be heroes yourselves.
I hope you will. Thank you.
Education: a Moral Imperative
Address by Ronald B. Richard
President and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation
Delivered at the City Club of Cleveland
Friday, December 10, 2010
· Speech objective: To lay the justification groundwork for a concerted, collaborative statewide and national push to improve teacher quality by changing seniority/tenure laws and policies; and to build support for urgently needed reform by proving that success is possible – and happening already.
· Strategy: Raise the alarm about America’s and Cleveland’s educational failures; show that those failures have far-reaching socioeconomic effects; and inspire hope by showing evidence of success to discredit cynicism about reform’s prospects.
Good afternoon. I am deeply honored to have been invited to speak here today at this most venerable and intellectual establishment, the City Club of Cleveland.
Because many of you listening today may not be that familiar with our foundation, I would like to begin my remarks by providing a brief overview of the Cleveland Foundation and our wide array of philanthropic endeavors. Then, I would like to share my views on what I believe is the most important issue facing our city and nation, in both the short and long term: education.
I have chosen to focus on education today because it is a key factor affecting most of my organization’s work and, moreover, this entire nation’s critical problems and future opportunities.
The Cleveland Foundation is one of the nation’s largest foundations and the world’s oldest community foundation. Frederick Harris Goff, the city’s leading banker of the early 20th century, established the foundation in 1914. His invention has had significance far beyond Cleveland, because it represented the birth of the community-foundation field. Today, there are more than 1,000 community foundations across the globe.
Community foundations, unlike national foundations, raise all of their funds from a local community and make their grants back into that local community. So while the wonderful Gates, Rockefeller, and Ford foundations can make grants all over the globe, our foundation makes its grants in the Greater Cleveland area.
We have assets of $1.8 billion, and we make grants of about $80 million each year. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for all Clevelanders now and for the future. We do much more than write checks. We convene, lead, and facilitate, and we partner with key governmental, corporate, and nonprofit entities, such as the city and county; our chamber of commerce; local banks and industrial companies; our eds-and-meds anchor institutions, including Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Cleveland State University, and many others.
We support the arts, economic development, social services, education at all levels, neighborhood revitalization, the promotion of an advanced-energy industry here, and the globalization of Cleveland.
During just the past several years, we have led the charge to establish NewBridge, a bright and shining new center for after-school arts programs aimed at keeping at-risk kids in school, and for sophisticated adult training programs for low-income citizens.
Working with our marvelous Cleveland anchor-institution partners, we have begun to establish a series of for-profit, employee-owned cooperative companies for low-income residents of Cleveland. We call them Evergreen Cooperative companies, and they include a green commercial laundry, a solar installation business, and, coming soon, the largest urban greenhouse in the United States.
We have also played a leading role in promoting advanced energy and creating the public-private partnership that is working to construct a significant wind farm on Lake Erie. We hope this wind farm will help us to generate not just megawatts, but also a large number of R&D, manufacturing, and service jobs in the region.
Last but not least, we make about 3,000 grants per year, both large and small, in response to requests from a wide range of community arts, social-service, and educational organizations.
We are proud of the impact that our foundation and its partners are having in the community. And we believe that in so many ways Cleveland is moving in the right direction.
However, over the past eight years of toiling in the trenches, I have become increasingly convinced that the issue at the root of almost all of our problems, and the factor that will most determine our city’s and nation’s ability to succeed in the future, is education. So it is worth spending the rest of our time today on this topic.
Allow me to begin, however, by sharing with you my personal biases, so you will know where I am coming from and won’t misconstrue my comments. I come from a family of teachers. I think teaching is among the most noble and important professions on earth. And I ardently believe that effective educators should be revered by our society, as they are in other nations. In Japan, for example, the same honorific title “Sensei” is used for both medical doctors and teachers. So a brain surgeon and a kindergarten teacher are addressed in the same highly respected manner, and their salaries don’t vary to anywhere near the degree that they do in the United States.
I also come from a pro-union family. In my opinion, there is no question that there was a time in our nation’s history when unions helped to save American capitalism. Indeed, during the dark days when communism was in fashion, this economic system was never really a threat to the United States because our labor-union movement had corrected most of the excesses of capitalism in other nations. Of course, there remains a need to respect and protect labor in order to maintain our all-too-critical middle class, which appears to be on the verge of becoming an endangered species. And I would like to remind the audience that the vast majority of our brave sons and daughters fighting for this nation in two wars at present hail from our middle class.
In my current job, I witness every day the problems that affect our city: how we are struggling to maintain our world-class arts organizations, how we are grappling with gang violence, teenage pregnancy, high crime, homelessness, unemployment in the face of thousands of job openings that can’t be filled for lack of properly educated applicants. All of these issues stem from, or are severely exacerbated by, the state of our city’s public education system over the past four decades.
Before homing in on Cleveland, let’s just quickly review the state of K-12 public education nationwide and its impact on higher education, society, and the economy.
The bottom line is that we are in peril – absolute peril – as a nation. Our standard of living is at risk, our global leadership is at risk, and even our democracy itself is at risk, because our education system is failing our children, especially in our major cities. And this will, if not fixed, ultimately lead to America’s economic and social collapse.
But this is not a news flash. Way back in 1983, 27 years ago, the U.S. government’s landmark Bell Commission report, “A Nation At Risk,” famously stated: “If an unfriendly power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”
Nearly three decades later, we’ve lost, rather than gained, ground.
Whereas we used to be ranked No. 1 in the world, America’s educational performance now ranks no higher than the middle of the world’s industrialized nations. Our 8th-graders rank 17th in reading, 26th in math, and 20th in science. These scores are as unacceptable as they are pitiful!
Two of every three new jobs today – and 90 percent of the jobs in the fastest-growing high-tech fields – require education beyond high school. Yet we can’t even get nearly one-third of our kids through high school. Our national graduation rate is only 70 percent, and it’s much lower in urban systems like Cleveland’s, where barely half of the students graduate. Compare that to Denmark’s 96-percent graduation rate and to Japan’s 93-percent graduation rate. And in Poland, a developing economy, the high-school graduation rate is 92 percent. Only 34 percent of our adults aged 18 to 34 enrolled in college. In South Korea, that rate is 53 percent. That country, which is the size of Ohio, is churning out more college graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math than all 50 of our states combined.
So what are the national ramifications of this American educational performance that is so poor, in both absolute and relative terms? In short, the rest of the world is about to eat our economic lunch, breakfast, and dinner!
Forget the developed nations like Germany; even the developing world is building new and better education systems to try to catch up and surpass us – and they’re having success. From Scandinavia to Singapore to China, nations are setting very high standards for every student and teacher in every school. They’re adapting their education systems to this century and the global marketplace.
It’s not just our economic health that’s at risk. Our national security is too.
Poor education systems are the main reason why three-fourths – that’s right, I said 75 percent – of our nation’s age-eligible young people can’t qualify to serve in our country’s armed forces. One of every four is ineligible because of a lack of a high-school diploma. Among high-school graduates who seek to enlist, about 30 percent get rejected because they can’t meet the military’s most basic reading and math requirements, which should tell us that our educational performance is even worse than what we think it is based on graduation rates alone.
Richard Clarke, the anti-terrorism czar for the last Bush administration, recently published a book called “Cyber War,” in which he demonstrates how our adversaries are developing cyber-attack technologies that could have a Pearl Harbor-like impact against our military and civilian infrastructure. Our power grid, communications, banking, transportation, and even military and intelligence systems, are utterly vulnerable, in part because we have fallen behind in science, engineering, and math education.
Finally, and most tragically, we’re frittering away naturally talented human beings, the most precious capital of all. How can we as a country ever fulfill our potential, or even just maintain our democracy and standard of living, when so many of our citizens are unfulfilled and unable to engage in meaningful and interesting work? How can we maintain our moral compass as a nation in such circumstances?
Our schools should be lifting our citizens out of persistent poverty and breaking down racial disparities in education and income, and eliminating all of the other stubborn vestiges of 2 ½ centuries of slavery. But, because many of our urban school systems are dysfunctional, the rich are getting richer and the poor, especially minorities, are getting poorer. And the middle class is shrinking fast – an economic state of affairs that has led to some very bad outcomes for a number of empires and nations over the course of world history.
A University of California economist quantified the explosive growth in earnings disparities in a shocking study last year. In it, he demonstrated that from 1993 to 2007, the top 1 percent of Americans had come to possess half of the nation’s overall economic wealth. Now, I’m a corporate guy and a true believer in private enterprise, but I find this fact to be alarming.
Given these various dismal statistics, you may wonder why the debate over public education in America has been proceeding for decades with little improvement. We have known for quite some time that our current system of education is not working. It needs to be completely reinvented in our urban, rural, and even suburban districts. But why has it been so difficult to create change?
· First, unlike high-performing countries such as Singapore and Finland, we have neither a national system of education nor a national teacher-preparation program here in the United States. There is no single point of control.
· Second, Americans have allowed themselves to be duped by the pernicious myth that low-income, minority students cannot achieve academic success at very high levels. What President Bush once described as the soft bigotry of low expectations has crippled our ability to achieve true reform, particularly in our urban schools.
· Third, we have faced the tyranny of highly organized entrenched interests. As Joel Klein reflected upon leaving his post as chancellor of New York City’s public schools, teachers unions and other unions, bureaucrats, vendors, and politicians, who have benefited from our deeply fractured system, continue to aggressively resist change, while the opposition – parents, concerned citizens, and companies that need skilled workers – has been, up until now, completely unorganized.
· Fourth, the public has developed a deep level of mistrust in the current system due to a long track record of broken promises and marginal progress. And many parents and students have abandoned the community altogether by fleeing to the suburbs in hopes of better educational opportunities – a phenomenon that has helped to hollow out our once-thriving urban cores.
· And finally, media – meaning television, radio, movies, and video games – have poisoned our citizens, especially our children, with anti-intellectual and anti-education messages that predispose them to undervalue education and learning, and to disrespect the very people – teachers – who can provide them with the tools they need for a lifetime of success. Hollywood may think it is liberal, progressive, and caring because a few movie stars go to Africa to help with AIDS, or to New Orleans in the wake of Katrina to raise funds. But the damage that Hollywood has done to our nation by inuring our kids to violence, sexual misconduct, and racist and misogynistic attitudes is incalculable. Yes, you folks in the media bear responsibility as well for the nation’s educational performance!
However, there are national signs of hope. The growing movement for change, and the political will around education reform, are arguably at their strongest moment in recent history. The past decade has brought with it courageous leaders, new laws, innovative ideas, and a much deeper understanding of the problem.
So, what are these signs of hope? The following are the five brightest beacons of hope, from what we can see:
· One: The federal government, under Presidents George W. Bush and now Barack Obama, has begun to play a significant role. The White House and U.S. Department of Education have framed education as a national problem that could cripple our entire country. Education reformers aren’t alone anymore.
· Two: The discussion around a national curriculum is moving forward. Ohio, 40 other states, and the District of Columbia, have come together to create common academic standards and assessments to measure student progress.
· Three: Whether or not accountability measures should be in place, both in and out of the classroom, is no longer a subject for debate. There is consensus that superintendents, principals, and teachers must be held accountable. This marks significant progress. The real question now is: How should accountability be measured?
· Four: Competition has finally gotten its foot in public education’s door. Entrepreneurs are creating models that work outside the typical education space. Teach for America, for example, is attracting the best and the brightest to the field of education. New charter models, like KIPP and Green Dot, have had unprecedented success with low-income students. And let us not forget philanthropic giants, like Bill and Melinda Gates and Eli Broad, who are not only contributing in a big way financially, but are also willing to take big risks.
· And Five: At the local level, we see a group of men and women who are excited to lead and help turn around some of the worst-performing districts in our country. Although they have distinctly different styles, they have all managed to achieve some level of progress while becoming household names: Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York City schools; Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of District of Columbia schools; and Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education.
So what is the current state of public education in Cleveland, and what roles have the Cleveland Foundation and its key allies – the George Gund Foundation, the Greater Cleveland Partnership (our chamber of commerce), and numerous other local organizations – been playing in this key sphere of public life?
Like all urban school districts in the United States, the current performance level of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District can best be described as abysmal. Last year, 70 percent of our schools were rated in academic watch or emergency, the equivalent of a D or F grade. Of every 100 Cleveland 9th graders, 54 will graduate from high school in four years, 25 will go on to college for a short period of time, and only seven will graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree. Stated another way to drive home the point: 93 percent of our kids will not go on to earn a college degree!
Over the past 10 years, the district has lost 31,493 students, a 40-percent decline in enrollment. They have voted with their feet. At the same time, costs have risen, primarily because of negotiated increases in salaries and benefits.
Five years ago, the Cleveland and George Gund foundations partnered with the school district, the teachers union, and other community partners to begin to ameliorate this situation. Our goal was to create new, innovative schools that operated differently from typical urban public schools and got much better results.
Given the unwarranted low expectations for our city’s school children, we decided that we needed to achieve proof of concept that if you provided these kids with a great educational experience, they could achieve at a high level and go on to college. We wanted to work with the district and others to create pockets of excellence, and then take this excellence to scale across the entire system.
To date, we have directly invested in the development of 11 innovative schools that offer a broad range of choices for children and their families, including single-sex pre-K - 8 academies; high schools that focus on STEM – science, technology, engineering and math; and a K - 12 International Baccalaureate school. These schools are supported by a designated office within the district – the Office of New Schools and Innovation – and operate under separate agreements with the teachers union that provide greater autonomy at the building level, including control over hiring.
While these schools are not yet where they need to be, most are on the path to excellence. As a cohort, these schools are outperforming other district schools on almost every measure. All have been rated in continuous improvement or above. These schools are drawing in new students, helping to retain current students, and attracting new teachers and talent. These schools are places where parents are welcome, and teachers can collaborate, problem solve, and focus on the needs of their students.
Of all of the schools we have helped create, the one that is dearest to my heart is the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine. I serve as chairman of the board of this school, which prepares students for college and careers in medicine and health care. Through its unique partnership with Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, the Cleveland Clinic, and University Hospitals of Cleveland, the school exposes its students to a rigorous, state-of-the-art science curriculum.
When the Cleveland Foundation and its anchor-institution partners helped create this new public school four years ago, we had a hard time finding enough students. We had no test to get in. Most of the students told us that they had chosen this school because they thought they would be physically safer there than at their neighborhood high school. They were not saying, “I want to be a doctor.”
We had 100 slots and could only recruit 78 kids. But after just four years, the School of Science and Medicine has earned the state education department’s highest possible rating: excellent. Its test scores put us on par with the best high schools in the best suburbs. It ranks among the top 6 percent of all schools that U.S. News and World Report analyzed in its “America’s Best High Schools” rating.
Last June, this school graduated its first class of seniors. One hundred percent of the kids graduated, virtually all poor minority kids, and all of them were accepted to a four-year college! They were accepted at some schools that you might have heard of: MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Bowdoin, Case Western Reserve, the Ohio State University, Cleveland State University, and more.
I think that it is fair to say that these opportunity schools, along with several high-performing local charter schools such as E-Prep, Citizens Academy, and the Intergenerational School, as well as a handful of other high-performing district schools, have proved the concept that if you put low-income urban kids in a school with a great principal, deeply engaged community partners, excellent and committed teachers, more flexibility in terms of class time, and a rigorous and exciting curriculum, anything is possible, and even probable.
Through this work, I have come to realize that we have a deeply committed mayor, and one of the nation’s best and most courageous school-district CEOs in Dr. Eugene Sanders. We are also blessed with many superb and very hard-working teachers, principals, union officials, and central-office staff.
But as I mentioned earlier, our intention was to create and then work with the district to bring these highly successful educational innovations to scale across the entire district, so that the other 90 percent of our kids could also receive a high-quality education and go on to a life of success. You might ask: “How’s that going?” Well, frankly speaking, despite important gains, not as well as we had hoped.
On the plus side, the district’s transformation plan, adopted earlier this year, has set challenging and critical five-year goals, including raising the high-school graduation rate from 54 percent to 90 percent, and ensuring that 100 percent of district schools receive a rating of continuous improvement or above, with half of those in the effective or excellent categories. I also believe that the plan lays out a rational strategy for getting us from where we currently stand to where we need to be.
The district is moving forward with key aspects of the plan. Central office is being reorganized from top to bottom. The district is putting in place a performance-management system designed to hold everyone in the system accountable for results. The district has put in place a school-by-school improvement plan, giving more support and oversight to the lowest-performing schools.
Despite unfounded warnings of impending chaos and violence, the district very successfully closed 16 of the chronically worst-performing schools. Finally, the district has moved forward with growing its portfolio of innovative schools. It opened three new schools this year, and just issued an RFP to charter schools to partner with the district. CMSD is the first Ohio district to adopt this approach, a strategy that has been used successfully by districts in New York, Denver, and elsewhere.
On the minus side, there are several developments that have threatened both the scope and pace of transformation. I would like to briefly touch on three of the most troubling.
· First, the transformation plan called for the radical restructuring of 22 persistently low-performing schools, which included a new academic program, a new principal, and replacement of at least half of the teachers. The teachers union objected to this course of action, saying the CEO did not have the right under the current contract to reassign staff. The union won. Consequently, only eight of the original schools are being significantly overhauled. What a tragedy. What a travesty.
· Second, earlier this year, the district and teachers union signed a three-year contract. While some real salary and benefit concessions were made, the contract does not fundamentally tackle many critical barriers to change, such as tenure and seniority, inflexible work rules and assignments, and pay based on longevity and credentials rather than on performance.
· Finally, as is often the case with large unsuccessful systems, pockets of success are resented rather than revered. I am just going to tell it like it is when I say that there is a growing and pernicious tendency to try to discredit the success of the innovative schools in Cleveland. So instead of becoming the shining example of transformational success, Cleveland remains an example of how hard it can be – even with a highly supportive mayor and a world-class superintendent – to put the interests of our children first and achieve fundamental change.
We have made progress, both nationally and here in Cleveland. But it hasn’t been nearly enough. And the fact remains that we’re still in peril. Looking forward, what should we be doing in Cleveland over the next two to three years to ensure success?
· One, we must advocate for needed changes in state law and policy, such as abolishing seniority-based layoffs and lock-step pay systems, and creating alternative teacher certification that would open up Ohio to Teach for America. In addition, we need to support Ohio’s collaboration with other states aimed at strengthening academic standards and assessments.
· Two, we must accelerate the development of new schools and new school designs that challenge outdated ways of delivering education. We need project-based learning, not boring lectures. We must figure out ways to expand the reach of our most effective teachers. We can, and must, take better advantage of new technologies.
· Three, we need to restructure the district’s human-resources department, moving from an almost exclusive focus on compliance to one that focuses on talent recruitment and development. All managers must celebrate and support excellence, while at the same time being able to terminate, more easily and cheaply, poor and mediocre staff.
· Four, we must craft a radically different union contract with teachers, as well as with other unions. We need to eliminate seniority and tenure, not just in state law but also from the contract, and move to performance-based pay systems. Work rules need to maximize flexibility in schools. I believe that the best teachers in the system support this concept.
· And finally, we will need to do more with less. Our district faces a minimum $54 million deficit in the coming year. And more than a $100 million deficit the following year. This does not take into consideration the state cuts we expect are coming. A balanced budget will require significant cuts as well as new revenue, most likely through a levy, which I believe voters will support if – and only if – they see radical systemic change. In balancing the budget, we must make the necessary changes in cost structures. This will not be easy, but it is essential.
I’d like to conclude today by saying that this great nation – which I believe remains, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “the last, best hope of earth” – cannot endure unless we fix our education system. It is the key to our future economic prosperity, national security, social cohesiveness, and moral authority in the world.
This will require great change, and change is not easy. It involves conflict and compromise. It requires sacrifice. It creates winners and losers.
But we will all be victorious if we preserve our nation, society, and our American culture. It will take all of us – superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, students, elected officials, business leaders, nonprofit leaders, and the media – to ensure that our education system opens the door for all our children.
And, if the task seems too daunting, just remember that our nation triumphed over the Great Depression, fascism, and communism. We can meet this challenge as well.
The bugle has been sounding. It is now time – way past time – to heed its call.
Thank you very much.