Our county has experienced dramatic changes, and nowhere is it reflected better than in our school system.

 We are now the 14th largest school system out of about 14,000 school systems in the country. We have been growing by about 2,000-2,500 students, the size of a new high school, every year for the past eight years – about 23,000 students. However, our seniors over age 65 are the most rapidly growing population by percentage of growth. Our students of today will be our taxpayers and work force of tomorrow.

Our demographics have also changed dramatically. Our school system’s largest co-hort is Hispanic, and students come from 157 countries speaking 150 languages. We attract the best, brightest, hardest working and most resilient people from around the world. Our foreign-born residents have multiple language skills and cultural proficiencies. They know how to collaborate across lines of background and border. They know how to use critical thinking skills toward advancing goals. This makes us an incredibly attractive sight for international business locations, as is evidenced by interest from Amazon.

To bring in the highest paying jobs, we must ensure that our residents have the educational foundation and job training they need to fill them. By maintaining and targeting these priorities we raise our presence as a metro area standout. That’s where the focus needs to be going forward. We must create optimum conditions for social mobility, educate and train a highly qualified work force, and share the gifts of our county with the world.

We must attract and support more incubator spaces. Support small business growth through streamlining permitting, and grandfathering regulations. Connect more businesses to WorkSource Montgomery. Support partnerships with local banks to expand business loan availability. Review with businesses what is working now, and what they would like improved. By growing economic opportunity we will increase revenue to be able to fund more needs, and with stable, higher wages, more families will have less needs for services and contribute more to the economy.

We must construct a robust public transportation infrastructure for increased connectivity, grow our affordable housing stock, expand certifications and dual enrollment, stack credentials beginning in high school, and grow partnerships for small business loans and job training.

In addition, we must tailor partnerships with development to better benefit our schools and communities. We must get our fair share from the state – taxing online sales, getting the lottery money we were promised, closing corporate loop holes and possibly taxing cannabis.

Our level of poverty has also increased dramatically. We have about 55,000 students who are impacted by poverty – more than all the students in the DC public school system. Strategically supporting social mobility is going to be critical to raising the revenue we need to maintain our quality of life, sustain services, support independence and foster the dreams of our residents. We can support social mobility by growing economic opportunity, supporting academic excellence, beginning career training in high school, and nurturing stable communities through access to affordable, reliable public transportation, and safe and affordable housing.