By Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend the day with education and community-outreach professionals from across our state as my wife, Sally, and I hosted a summit on the future of education in Nebraska.

The Governor’s Summit on Expanded Learning Opportunities was a chance to focus on how the collaborative efforts of schools and community leaders are creating new and positive opportunities for students here in Nebraska. The event was made possible by a grant from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and was co-sponsored by the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and the Nebraska’s Parental Involvement Resource Center.

Sally has been actively involved in education her entire life as a teacher and principal. Her enthusiasm for teaching and working with families has made education a central part of our family life. We know that parents are a child’s first and best teachers. As Governor and First Lady, we are committed to expanding educational opportunities in our state through increased parental involvement.

This summit was an opportunity to highlight some of the successful efforts already underway in Nebraska, and we were pleased to welcome several national experts who shared their expertise with the group.

Among the guest speakers was the head of the Harvard Family Research Project, Dr. Heather Weiss, who shared some very interesting and compelling concepts regarding the future of education and how Nebraska is doing overall in creating expanded learning opportunities for students. She said that Nebraska was one of the leaders in parental involvement and recognized the efforts of community learning networks and school districts that are thinking innovatively about the way they work with students and their families.

Education is a priority for Nebraskans, and we are fortunate to live in a state that values education.

School districts of all sizes are developing new learning opportunities for our students. Many are thinking creatively and exploring ideas such as an extended school day or involving local businesses and community groups in after-school programs. School districts across our state have recognized the value of parental involvement and are actively looking for ways to engage parents in school activities.

These innovative ideas will help create an education system that encourages and supports learning from birth through adulthood. Many in the field of education are committed to making these kinds of changes, but they aren’t occurring quickly enough.

As we think about the future of education, it is imperative that we develop meaningful ways to engage families and communities more fully in the education of today’s students. The world is changing and we need to prepare them to compete in this new environment. Nebraska children will benefit from collaborative partnerships between schools and communities that reach out and encourage parents and families to be more actively involved in the educational success of today’s students.

These are some of the issues we need to address to improve our educational system.

We need a strategy to deliver expanded learning opportunities to students of all ages, and Sally and I are personally committed to this goal. In the months and years ahead, we hope to build on the discussions begun during this summit and work more closely with Nebraska schools as they engage families in creating new educational opportunities for all students.

The above content reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the policies of the National Governors Association.