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Opinion: Is Springfield making progress toward our community goals?

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In several past articles, I referenced the importance of postsecondary education attainment. Opportunities beyond high school that leads to a person furthering their education or obtaining a higher paying job is still the best pathway for our community. Our 60% postsecondary education attainment goal by 2025 is very doable, especially with the state’s new Fast Track program.

There are two ways we measure our community goals: 1) the Lumina Foundation’s Stronger Nation Report and 2) the U.S. Census American Community Survey Report. In Lumina Foundation’s 2017 report, the national average for postsecondary attainment was 47.6%, and the state of Missouri was at 42.9%. According to Lumina Foundation, Missouri’s overall educational attainment has increased by 8 percentage points since 2008. Greene County’s postsecondary educational attainment rate was 40.3% at the end of 2017.

The nation, state of Missouri, city of Springfield and Greene County are all working toward 60% attainment by 2025. Lumina Foundation’s Stronger Nation Report with 2018 data has not been released.

However, the U.S. Census Bureau has released its ACS five-year estimates, and we are pleased to report the city of Springfield’s poverty level was reported as 24.8% and Greene County’s was 15.5%. At the end of 2017, the poverty level for Springfield was 25.7%.

As we move into 2020, I want to thank the business leaders and others in the private, public and social sectors who worked together to enhance the lives of those who call the Springfield area home. Key leaders in our community addressed policy issues, barriers and provided intentional access to individuals to address inequalities throughout our community. Our key leaders aligned with a focus to address underemployment and do what is best for our community.

I applaud the individuals who took advantage of various programs offered in the community and at their places of employment to enhance the quality of life for their families.

Working with over 300 community and faith-based organizations, businesses, elected and appointed officials, and everyone who has stepped up to say, we can do and be better, I applaud you. Springfield has a level of synergy in our community that I strongly believe will carry forward into 2020 to continue the work and have the tough talks to grow our community. Thank you Springfield.

I also dedicate my last article of 2019 to my father, Ralph M. Douglas Sr., who laid the framework for me as a child that led to how I operated in my own businesses, as well as with employers. He called that foundation the “Six Ps” – Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. I do not know if he was the original inventor of the “Six Ps” – I do know that I am the businessperson that I am because of the foundation and consistency of practice that he put in place throughout my life. For this, I am forever grateful.

Happy holidays, from Prosper Springfield.

Francine Pratt is director of Prosper Springfield, a poverty reduction initiative led by Community Partnership of the Ozarks and United Way of the Ozarks. She can be reached at fpratt@cpozarks.org.

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