Is Business in the Game of Education Reform?

Feb 28, 2012

In today’s Wall Street Journal article, "Will Business Boost School Reform?" Juan Williams opines about the wave of politicians from both parties who are pushing school reform policies in their states and cities. Democrats and Republicans alike are increasingly joining together to challenge the status quo by taking on the biggest opponents to change—the teachers’ unions—and, in some cases, putting their neck on the line politically to do what is right for our nation’s children.

Mr. Williams, however, questions why the business community has remained silent and unengaged in the fight for reform. After all, business is the biggest customer of our education system. Recent graduates will put what they have learned to work in large corporations and small and medium-sized businesses around the country. Additionally, politicians are temporary. Unions can “outlast” them. Businesses, however, are here to stay. So, why do they remain on the sidelines?

We are here to say that many aren’t.

The U.S. Chamber’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW) is the voice of business in education reform. ICW supports the business community in its efforts to influence and shape policies that drive change. Companies are investing billions of dollars annually in education—money that can leverage meaningful transformation. ICW’s report, Partnership is a Two-Way Street: What It Takes for Business to Help Drive School Reform, highlights how the business community has become engaged in reform in three different communities—Austin, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; and Massachusetts. 

State and local chambers of commerce are also becoming involved as they see education as a key issue for the economic growth of their communities.

While we are a long way from where the country’s education system needs to be, there is momentum moving in the right direction. More and more business leaders are joining the movement and demanding change. Mr. Williams quoted Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal when he told business executives to “get off the bench” at a breakfast in Baton Rouge. Many are already in the game.

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