Lagging literacy rates are a drag on economic productivity, crimping growth in a nation’s GDP, or gross domestic product. That was a main message from Robert S. Kaplan, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, at the 10th annual Legacy of Literacy Breakfast presented by L&B Realty Advisors on Tuesday, October 8.
Kaplan’s warning was delivered, appropriately enough, at a fundraising event at Belo Mansion for the Aberg Center for Literacy, whose mission is to ensure that literacy rates don’t lag. The Dallas nonprofit works to build stronger communities through programs in English fluency, early childhood education, Spanish and English high school equivalency preparation, and family literacy.
With 310 adults in its Adult Literacy programs and 63 children and 57 parents in its Early Childhood Education and Family Literacy programs, most of the people the Center serves are low-income, Spanish-speaking Latina mothers. The nearly 300 guests at the 2019 breakfast heard from one of them — Jaqueline Duarte — who said she came to Dallas from Guatemala with her mother at the age of 13. She’s now enrolled in the Center’s Family Literacy program and doing well, she said, adding, “If I get my GED, I know my son will be very proud of me.”
The attendees, who included Dallas City Council members David Blewett and Paula Blackmon, also heard from longtime Aberg Center supporter and breakfast emcee Regina Montoya, who said event sponsor Kosmos Energy and others would be matching up to $20,000 of the morning’s receipts.
During a “fireside chat” between Kaplan and Krys Boyd, host of KERA’s “Think” program, the Dallas Fed’s top executive said that an educated workforce yields a more prosperous workforce and boosts GDP. He advocated for paying pre-K teachers for a full day of work, not just for half a day, and stressed the need for better training so that skilled jobs can be filled.
In addition, Robert said the nation’s immigration system should be restructured to become more skill-based and employment-based. Asked by Krys about the economy in general, he said, “We can power through the next two or three years without a recession, in large part because consumer and household debt has been reduced.” He also pointed to the low current unemployment rate and the “strongest job market in 50 years,” adding, “we’ve got some runway here.”
Co-chairs for the breakfast were Susan and Peter Aberg, Kiley McGuire, and Ruthie and Jay Pack.
* Photo provided by Aberg Center for Literacy