The First Day of School

The first day of school is all about the future.

It’s about challenges and opportunities. It brims with optimism, confidence, and hope — and maybe some nerves. Most of all, it’s about taking what you know to, literally, the next level.

That’s not just true for students heading back to class this month. It’s also true for our great state and the 28 million people today, and 38 million people in 2036, who make Texas home. We all have a lot riding on how well we’re teaching kids who are starting school this year — and those coming after them, too.

And for all the progress we’ve made, Texas is not where we need to be.

There are many education-related statistics that should catch your eye — the number of students from low-income families is rising faster than enrollment overall, just 44% of eligible 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds enroll in public prekindergarten, only 41% of third graders meet standards on state reading assessments … the list goes on. All of these statistics speak to the challenge our schools and teachers face in preparing students for success in Texas’ 21st century economy.

But nothing should be quite as jarring for every single Texan — at least, the ones who care about jobs and prosperity — as the gap between the jobs we need to fill and the people available to fill them.

By the Texas bicentennial in 2036, Texas will need more than 7 million new jobs to keep up with our population growth. And more than three-quarters of new U.S. jobs will soon require a two-year degree, four-year degree or nationally recognized credential or certificate.

But right now, more than half of Texans between 25 and 34 have not completed any form of postsecondary education.

The good news is, we know where we are and where we need to be — and collectively, we can figure out how to get there. This is what Texas 2036 is all about: identifying how we as Texans got to where we are today, defining where we need to be to ensure a strong and prosperous future, and bringing Texans together to get us there.

So let’s put summer behind us, look forward to the task ahead, and start figuring it out.

… Just like it’s the first day of school.