Schools first

Education still cornerstone of future success in state.

As another year comes to a close, it's been a time to look back on the many headlines in Garden City and the region.

The last of The Telegram's annual Top 10 news stories of the year is featured in today's edition. The final 10 and ranking were determined by Telegram staff.

Local stories deemed most newsworthy ranged from those involving business news a new retail development started taking shape in Garden City, for example to economic setbacks: the closing of the local Beef Products, Inc., plant due to controversy surrounding its manufacture of lean beef trimmings, and drought that continued to exact a costly toll would be two such stories.

Of local news events on the Top 10 list, it also should be no surprise to know that a significant happening on the education front was among the top stories of the year, if not the decade, and No. 1 for 2012.

The opening earlier this year of the new Garden City High School was more than a move to a facility better equipped to accommodate a growing student population. It also signaled the start of a new era in local education, in a setting divided into learning academies designed to better meet needs of students today and tomorrow something the crowded, outdated former high school couldn't achieve.

At a time so much attention has been focused on creating jobs and fueling economic success stories, it's important to acknowledge our greatest economic development tool: good schools.

One question, however, is in how much this community and state could lose in the midst of a controversial tax-cut plan endorsed by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Should resulting revenue losses from tax cuts end up shortchanging education and considering the makeup of a Legislature sure to rubber-stamp Brownback's agenda, that's likely the state could be headed in reverse.

Economic growth is tied directly to an investment in education, be it at the K-12 or college level. The Kansas economy cannot grow, and businesses in the state cannot compete without a well-educated workforce.

That's something all policymakers had best keep in mind as we head into 2013.