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article imageOp-Ed: How private businesses can assist state-run education

By Kimberly Reynolds     Apr 2, 2014 in Business
How best to educate our youth is a matter of debate. Differing opinions abound as to what type of school provides a better educational experience.
“An educated population is vital for any country, but especially one that relies heavily on technology, health care, and advanced industry like America does,” says Ben Navarro. “If our students are not able to fill these important career roles, employers will have to look outside America to fill them.”
With school districts across the country facing budget shortfalls, under-staffing problems, and overcrowding issues, public education is in dire straits. There are many who think that government run schooling could benefit from some business input.
As the founder and CEO of Sherman Financial Group LLC, Ben Navarro understands the role of education in the economic, societal, and healthy well-being of individuals and the larger community. With recent troubling academic results and a huge outlay of financial and personal equity invested in the education system already, the time seems right to ask how private business can assist state-run education.
Failing Grade
The statistics on education performance in public schools reveal cause for concern. According to Ranking America, the U.S. ranked 24 out of 65 worldwide education systems in high school reading literacy, 23 in science, and 17 in overall performance. Once a leading nation, the decline in American academic results has been dramatic.
Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, has concerns about the education continuum. In a post for Edweek.org, he wrote, “From the 1940s to the 1970s, the proportion of the American population getting a high school education and college education grew steadily. Now, he says, “One nation after another has exceeded our performance.”
Value for Money
American children are demonstrating these declining results despite the US government spending more per student than any other developed nation in the world, a fact which concerns parents and government officials alike. Moreover, this statistic does not include all of the money spent on education.
According to a 2013 CBS News article, “Public spending accounts for just 70 cents of every education dollar in the United States. Parents picked up another 25 cents and private sources paid for the remainder.”
“We are throwing more money into a system that, by all academic and participation measures, is not working,” says Ben Navarro. “We might have to look at enlisting the help of business professionals to help educate the next generation.”
Business Steps Up
In order to fill the jobs needed to sustain the economic future of America, business is increasingly stepping up to provide both personal and financial assistance to state-run education..
In an interview with Bloomberg.com, Jonathon Rothwell, an associate fellow at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program, says, “It’s harder for employers to fill open positions if their business is in metro areas known to have an undereducated workforce. There are very few job openings available for workers with less education.”
To combat the decline in skilled workers, companies are investing directly in the running of public schools. They include initiatives such as the Meeting Street Education Group in South Carolina. Statistics from the Meeting Street Academy (MSA) show they are outperforming the national average in nearly every measurement of kindergarten through third-grade students.
According to their website, they are doing so by invoking what they call the MSA model. This approach is “replicable and rooted in best practices.” The goal is to change the student’s projected academic trajectories by fitting together the four pieces of the success puzzle: early education, family partnership, a holistic approach to learning, and teacher excellence.
Investment in the Future
Corporate America is not just donating money and time into education to gain workers. They know their expertise can help children become better citizens, too. In the long run, this benefits the U.S. as a whole. By implementing training techniques that work for adult learners, children are exposed to a broader range of learning environments.
“There are some specialties, such as IT and communication skills, to which business leaders devote large amounts of time when training their workers,” says Ben Navarro. “This training is the type of education business could give to students as a head start towards the challenges of the 21st century.”
Saul Kaplan believes that a business model is about providing value to the students. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Kaplan writes, “if an organization has a viable way to create, deliver, and capture value, it has a business model. It doesn’t matter whether an organization is in the public or private sector.”
Corporate Resistance
Not everyone is happy with the increased participation of business in public education. Dr. Henry Giroux, chair in communication studies at the Global Television Network, believes that business has too much influence in public education.
In a post on Zmag.org, Giroux says, “The assault by corporate America on public education has taken an ominous turn in the last decade.”
Giroux argues that corporations are more inclined to look at test results rather than a larger picture. He notes, ”School failure might be better understood within the political, economic, and social dynamics of poverty, joblessness, sexism, race and class discrimination, unequal funding, or a diminished tax base.”
Ben Navarro understands the concerns of each side of the argument, stating, “Both sides are trying to do what is best for the child, so hopefully we can find a way to both improve academic results while incorporating some of the ideas in child centric learning.”
Individual Opportunity
The debate over what type of school gives an overall better education is one that will continue for years to come. However, there is hope that both businesses and governments can find a way to encourage and support students, and each other. This type of cooperation is crucial, as no single system is the perfect answer.
“The conversation on the place of business in the school system has started, and it cannot help but benefit everyone,” says Ben Navarro.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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