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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Report: Business should be more aggressive about education changes



In light of the recent dust-up over the Pinellas Education Foundation's efforts to advise school board members on collective bargaining, this new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce seems especially timely. Businesses need to stop "carrying water" for local school districts, it says, and instead get into the nitty gritty of issues and aggressively push for changes.

Here's one of the report's recommendations: "Don't shy away from policy and politics. Business leaders have a natural inclination to stay out of heated education debates. But school systems are public agencies spending public dollars to serve the public's children. Serious reform requires changing policy, and that means political debate. Linda Noonan, executive director of MBAE (the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, one of three local business groups profiled in the report), said, 'In one community, (local business leaders) asked, 'What would the superintendent think?' when we approached them about a policy change. The answer should be. 'Who cares?' ... The value of an external partner is to provide cover, outside perspective, (and) pressure.' "

Here's another: "Be a partner, not a pawn. Partnership is a two-way street. Working with school districts or policymakers doesn't mean carrying their water; it means settling on shared objectives and pursuing them jointly. Drew Scheberle, senior vice president of education and talent development for the Austin Chamber, said, 'We had to have the moment when (Austin Independent School District) knew we were willing to walk away. We gave them a list of non-negotiables (and) said, 'If you want (our support), then you have to do these things. If you don't, we're out.' "

[Last modified: Monday, June 20, 2011 8:22pm]


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