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Public/Private Partnership To Assist In K-12 Economics Education

December 10, 1998

Thousands of young people throughout western Wisconsin will receive expanded education on basic economics through a new partnership formed between public higher education and private enterprise.

A new Center for Economic Education at UW-River Falls was announced during a regional breakfast for business and education leaders on Tuesday, Dec., 8., hosted by Erickson's Diversified Corp. of Hudson.

The Center is a cooperative venture of the privately funded Wisconsin Council on Economic Education, headquartered in Milwaukee, and UW-RF.

Gregory Erickson, executive vice president for Erickson's Diversified, said his organization sponsored the announcement ceremony because of the inherent value of quality education for young people.

"Economic literacy is intrinsic to an understanding of the global economy and emerging markets. America's leadership will play a significant role in the formation and guidance of these varied markets and economic forces. Our young people and those who teach them need and deserve fundamental economic knowledge. The center will assure that our students receive this economic education," Erickson said.

The new initiative will provide support for K-12 teachers in more than 60 school districts in Cooperative Education Service Agency Districts 10 & 11. Counties affected include Barron, Chippewa, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Rusk, St. Croix, and Taylor, Economics Professor Brian Schultz, who will coordinate the UW-RF Center, said the timing is excellent with recently approved state standards for economics education being implemented over the next five years.

The state-approved standards set targets for economics knowledge at the 4th, 8th and 12th grade levels. Beginning in 2003, all high school seniors must pass a test that includes economics knowledge before they can graduate.

"The University can provide good assistance to the smaller districts that don't have an economics teacher on their staff. In our service area, there is a scarcity of well-qualified teachers for this. The school districts do not have the necessary resources to assist teachers in economics education," Schultz said.

The Center will be funded through private donations to the Wisconsin Council on Economic Education. As a result, teachers will be trained by faculty in the UW-RF School of Business & Economics. Area teachers will be eligible to participate in workshops, seminars, and graduate programs, with the Council underwriting up to half of the tuition cost for college credit courses.

Council President Bill Isbister said the 35-year-old Milwaukee-based organization is dedicated to promoting economic literacy in young people throughout Wisconsin through nine centers such as the one at UW-River Falls.

"It is our hope that when young people complete their education they will have a basic understanding of a market-based economy," Isbister explained.

According to Isbister, the Wisconsin Council is one of 48 state organizations which seek to ensure that future employees are economically literate so as to be more productive workers and informed citizens. The state organizations are affiliated with the National Council on Economic Education.

An obstacle to that goal, Isbister noted, is that some 75 percent of Wisconsin school teachers responsible for social studies courses do not have formal education in business or economics.

The Council has been working to correct that by assisting some 3,700 Wisconsin teachers in economics education each year.

Additionally, the Council sponsors such statewide programs as the Stock Market Game in which students manage a simulated $100,000 stock portfolio. The Council also recognizes teachers for excellence in economics instruction.

Educational assistance delivered by UW-RF faculty will emphasize factual, comprehensive and nonpartisan programs stressing widely recognized principles of economics, according to Professor Neal Prochnow, director of the School of Business & Economics.

UW-RF already has begun to provide some services to teachers and will continue to expand the offerings, Schultz said. Center activities will include:

Faculty also will place special emphasis on economic literacy in courses offered to future teachers enrolled in the UW-RF College of Education & Graduate Studies.

For more information about the program, contact Schultz at 715/425-3125 or Isbister at 414/221-9400.

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