State’s future depends on educated workforce, says economic development leader, Liz Marchi
Liz Marchi believes all children in Montana have the right to receive a quality education – she also recognizes the economic future of the state depends on it.
Liz came to Montana from North Carolina in 2000 to lead a privately-funded economic development corporation. She is also the founder of Frontier Angels Fund, LLC, an “angel investment” group specializing in funding business startups.
Liz and her husband Jon also run a ranch in Montana’s Flathead Valley, specializing in Angus and Wagyu beef, the latter being a rare breed of Japanese cattle known for its renown flavor and health benefits due to its high-quality proteins and other nutrients.
“In my work in economic development, I have found that among the top factors a company evaluates in expanding operations to a new community are an educated workforce and great schools for the children of its employees,” Liz said. “The economic health of a community depends on providing all students with access to a great education, but all too often we are falling short of that goal.”
Liz points out that the United States spends more on public education than any other advanced industrial nation, but the nation’s students rank 38th in Math and 24th in Science compared to their peers from other countries.
“Many of our students are not being prepared to compete in a global economy and we all need to be engaged in the conversation around how to improve education in our country,” said Liz.
Liz advocates for an entrepreneurial approach to education focused on supporting outstanding teaching and learning. She believes the top priority should be to attract, retain, and reward teachers with a proven ability to transform students into critical thinkers.
“We are not recruiting or compensating great teachers according to the value they bring to society,” Liz said. “We need to build an economy around great teachers and leaders who have the proven ability to help students develop a lifelong love for learning.”
Liz said that Montana is fortunate to have many outstanding public schools, but, the state’s public education system still ranks somewhere near the middle of the nation’s schools in terms of academic performance. She added that roughly 15 percent of students in the state will not complete high school, which puts them at risk for a lifetime of diminished earning potential and increased social costs.
“We are all affected when a student drops out of school,” Liz said. “We have a responsibility to help them achieve the greatness that is inside of each one of them.”
It was during a conversation with her friend Greg Gianforte on how to help at-risk students that Liz first learned about ACE Scholarships. At the time, Greg and his wife were running a customer-relations software management company, and he has since been elected as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Greg let me know that all recipients of ACE Scholarships are from low-income families and tend to be most at risk of not doing well in school,” Liz explained. “He made the case that investing in a young person through ACE Scholarships transforms a student who is at risk for dropping out into someone on track to becoming a college graduate.”
“Many people live in areas with great public schools, or can afford to send their children to private schools,” explained Liz. “Low-income families do not have the ability to move to a neighborhood with a better school, or pay for a private school so they are incredibly grateful to be given the opportunity to choose the best school for their child through ACE Scholarships.”
ACE students in Montana across all grade levels in 2016 reported higher proficiency rates in Math than their public-school counterparts; and outperformed all students across the state in all ACT subject areas in 2014-2016. Nationwide, recipients of ACE Scholarships have higher graduation rates and college matriculation rates than their low-income peers.
Liz said she is impressed that ACE Scholarships consistently receives a Four-Star rating from Charity Navigator because of its financial health, accountability, and transparency. Most of all, she loves meeting families and students whose lives have been transformed through ACE Scholarships.”
“ACE helps break the cycle of poverty that plagues many low-income families and neighborhoods.” Liz said. “I am honored to support ACE and encourage others to do the same – there is no better way to change the life of a young person than by giving them access to a great education in a safe, supportive environment.”
Contact Jake Penwell, State Director of ACE Scholarships Montana, at JPenwell@AceScholarships.org for more information on upcoming events and opportunities to provide scholarship support to deserving students.