Local News

Bragg, community brainstorm on improving schools

Posted December 3, 2014 5:30 p.m. EST
Updated December 4, 2014 6:00 a.m. EST

— One in five students doesn’t graduate on time from high school in the United States, a statistic that the military says is alarming and should serve as a wake-up call to educators.

Many graduates can't qualify for military service because they can't pass the entrance exam, have a criminal record or are out of shape.

“It’s all about the dollar, and I think that’s very sad. If they can’t go into the military, what are they going to do in the civilian sector,” said retired Maj. Gen. Bennie Williams, who is also a former chief of staff for Baltimore public schools.

Williams participated Wednesday in a panel discussion on education at Fort Bragg. The discussion was aimed at finding ways to improve schools, especially near military bases.

Fort Bragg currently injects $11 billion a year into the local economy. With another round of base closings looming in 2017, military leaders are telling educators to improve schools or face the loosing troops and the economic boom they bring.

“You can look at it as a threat or an opportunity from the standpoint of reinforcing the economic viability and vitality of our communities,” Fort Bragg Garrison Commander Col. Jeff Sanborn said.

Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Frank Till has watch military impact aid dry up. He says while soldiers continue to make Fort Bragg their home, federal money to help educate their children in local schools is all but gone.

"As we’ve been looking over the years at our budget reductions, you can attribute that to low wealth,” he said. “If we got that low wealth money every year, we would not be struggling with some of the things financially we’re struggling with.”

Military officials say improving school systems near bases strengthens national security and secures the future of high-tech jobs in the U.S.