The Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce welcomed Delray principals and teachers back-to-school during the annual Champions of Education Breakfast.
Educators, parents and community leaders filled the Delray Beach Golf Club to learn more about how to support the city’s schools, especially when it comes to making sure students are reading on or above grade level.
This year’s key note speaker was Tony Carvajal, the executive vice president of the Florida Chamber Foundation.
His focus was on how to impact a child by third grade. There is a state-wide goal, which is supported in Delray, of working to get kids reading on or above grade level by third grade.
Currently, only 58 percent of students are reading on grade level in the state. Less, just 54 percent, are reading on grade level in Palm Beach County.
The goal is to have 100 percent of students reading on grade level by 2030, he said.
Carvajal called it “great by 8,” which is the average age of a third grader or “3,000 to launch” because it takes about 3,000 days of a kid’s life to reach the third grade.
His space like comparison was a theme throughout his address to the audience. With the focus on Apollo 11 this summer, he recapped how America was struggling in the space race behind Germany and Russia.
“The early years of space were not marked by our dominance,” he said of America.
But then President Kennedy issued a challenge to send a man to the moon and safely return him to earth. From the time he made the statement to when Americans landed on the moon, it took about 8 years to carry out the mission, he said.
“Eight years is the same time to make a third grader,” he said. “Eight years is what it takes to move an 8th grader into the business world.”
And if a student isn’t reading on grade level by third grade, he said statistics indicate that student is four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma.
“It’s a critical time,” he said of the early years of learning. “You’re learning to read and then you’re reading to learn.”
To address the business folks in the room, Carvajal shared some information about what the market will look like in 2030.
As the state of Florida grows in population at a rapid pace, he said by 2030 there will be 26 million Floridians living in the state. To accommodate the growth, he said the state needs 1.5 million new jobs. And by then, 48 percent of the jobs that exist today will be disrupted.
“Many of the jobs of tomorrow haven’t even been created,” he said.
As a call to action, he suggested businesses invest their dollars in early education. He said it’s estimated that every dollar invested in quality early education yields a savings of anywhere between $2.50 and $17, according to the Federal Reserve.
“Today’s child will be in the workforce in 2030 and beyond,” he said.