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THE EDUCATION OF RICHARD RILEY
A Case Study of Business Involvement in Education
By Robert Archer
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Robert Archer
All rights reserved.
BUSINESS EDUCATION PARTNERSHIP IN SOUTH CAROLINA: A CASE STUDY
NOTE: This case study is based on the original 1997 research. Where appropriate, updated statistics along with information from interviews with Riley, Peterson, and Youngblood have been included.
In 1983, South Carolina established a Business Education Partnership (BEP) program at the state level to monitor its public school system. Engaging business in state policy-making partnerships always has been complex and difficult to sustain. South Carolina's Business Education Partnership constituted one of the nation's most intense education business partnerships ever formed. "At the time, economic conditions strengthened the prospect of achieving these changes," Riley explained in a recent interview. "We were at a critical point in our state's history where we needed the right mix of top-down and, most importantly, bottom-up strategies. It was the appropriately timed opportunity to change our history especially where we had done so poorly not only for our students but also for economic development."
Policy change partnerships are capital-intensive and require commitments from CEOs of large corporations to succeed (National Alliance for Business, 1987). Because policy partnerships require such substantial manpower investments by the business community and can last as long as six years, the study was focused upon the activities of business members who sustained interest in state-level public school reform for more than 12 years. In addition, this research sought to uncover those elements that helped to support and impede business involvement in South Carolina's Business Education Partnership in order to present a viable and successful model for other states to emulate in engaging business partners effectively.
Since colonial times, laissez-faire attitudes toward economics and politics had kept Southern property taxes low and public schools underfunded (Void & Devitis, 1991). As a result, the Southeast endured the educational stigma as the nation's perennial underachiever in student academic performance. In an attempt to remove this stigma, educational reform initiatives had gained strong support in the Southeast since the 1970s (Void & Devitis, 1991) and had reinforced the belief in economic achievement (Business Roundtable, 1992). "There was no doubt that the recession from 1980 to 1982 motivated the stakeholders," Peterson said. "For the first time in the South, whole job sectors were being lost or being threatened to disappear. As the state and others in the region began to emerge from the recession in 1983, the gradual recovery and memories of recent events galvanized the leadership."
In finding the right ingredient to gain public support for raising revenue, Riley's deep rapport with education proved to be an important catalyst at the outset. "With his wife, Riley energized the base including both sides of the political aisle as well as PTAs and superintendents especially were attracted to the prospects for a dramatic campaign. It was especially important for getting grassroots support especially among those who needed to be encouraged that once they were out there in the public spotlight, they were not going to be alone."
South Carolina's Business Education Partnership was one state's attempt to influence state and local policy makers to restructure its public school system. Originating in 1983, Riley, as governor, commissioned two blue-ribbon committees to examine three issues: first, the feasibility of enacting a bold set of education reforms and new opportunities and increasing by a penny sales tax to fund these major educational reform programs; second, the viability of implementing a business-education partnership program to provide accountability for state educational reform; third, the planning of legislation to support the penny tax and the business-education partnership.
The Business Education Partnership, comprising 12 prominent Business men at its founding, was charged with developing the overarching set of education reforms and improvements, concrete phase-in budgets for each of the reforms or improvements, and developing a funding mechanism to pay for the entire package. Ultimately the passage of the penny sales tax increase was agreed upon as the funding mechanism. In addition, the Committee on Finance, consisting of education, business, and legislative officials, was designed to serve as a liaison among schools, business community, and legislature to ensure that barriers to reform initiatives were overcome and the details of the needed reforms were developed through a business-education consensus. The blue ribbon committees were successful in urging the state legislature to pass both the Educational Improvement Act (EIA I) and a penny sales tax. South Carolina's Education Improvement Act served to strengthen the state's public education system by executing 61 initiatives that fortified student achievement in grades K through 12. The Business-Education Partnership served as the accountability mechanism to monitor all 61 initiatives of EIA I.
One of the key figures was Bill Youngblood, a 40-year-old attorney who specialized in economic development and bond financing. "There was a sense of doom that the Sun Belt would lose out easily to the Caribbean Basin or to the Pacific Rim in terms of long-term business development." When contacted by Riley, Youngblood did not hesitate, as he recalled. "When your government calls, you always take the call and do what your leader asks you to do," he explained. "At the time, I was not all that involved in education but I understood how important it was to bring business executives and leaders, especially those whose names were readily recognized around the state, into the project. The outreach was done individually. Only later did the state chamber of commerce become actively engaged in the efforts."
Subsequently, the BEP Committee and the Committee on Finance merged and became known as the Business Education Partnership for Excellence in Education (BEP). The BEP was responsible for monitoring and making recommendations to the legislature on public school reform from 1983 to 1995. Once the legislative framework was approved, the committees faced the challenges of replicating and maintaining the program at state level. These challenges were accomplished by implementing two educational improvement acts, the previously mentioned Educational Improvement Act (EIA I) and EIA II (Target 2000), both of which are discussed in greater detail later in this case study.
Business owners, executives, managers, and employees were engaged in Business Education Partnership activities spanning the first 13 years of the initiatives up until the time this research was conducted. Engaging high-profile CEOs in a state-level policy partnership, lobbying important legislators for new money to improve schools made the BEP effective during those 13 years by keeping business persons and the business community interested in educational reform.
The effect of the Business Partnership can be measured several ways (Johnston, 1997). First, it created a strong advocacy of policy and legislation for new money to fund educational improvements in South Carolina, including EIA I and EIA II (Target 2000). In turn, teacher salaries in the state were raised to the Southeast average over the first 13 years of reform. Teacher satisfaction was the highest among the 50 states in 1989 despite the fact that the reforms they were implementing were some of the most innovative in the country. The BEP was instrumental in changing South Carolina from a three-track education system to a two-track academic and tech-prep track with equally rigorous core subjects mandated for both tracks (South Carolina Business Journal, 1995).
After 1989, the business community became actively involved in local tech prep consortiums and curricular congresses. Since 1983, students enrolling in advanced placement courses have increased dramatically. South Carolina students had the greatest increase in SAT scores between 1983 and 1990.
In terms of accountability, the challenge was figuring out which data would help demonstrate that reform was meaningful and readily observable. "Most of the process was hung up on test scores," Peterson recalled. "However, within the state's department of education, a division of public accountability was created with an independent head, a separate group of researchers, and an advisory group representing legislators and business leaders. It was a smart process because everybody knew that if the whole effort went really off the track, their names would be on the line."
During his administration, Governor Riley understood the need to set concrete targets particularly for gaining the satisfaction of business leaders who had stood solidly behind the EIA efforts. "They would not sign off unless we gave them six metrics of meaningful education gains (i.e., SAT score gains, better basic skill test scores, student attendance improvements, greater percentage of vocational students being prepared for real jobs and college readiness) and how targets would be set over the next seven years," Peterson said. "Issues of school attendance, vocational education, and college prep became terribly important. But, more so, we were willing to be accountable for it and we understood that relying on any one measure could be tremendously risky for maintaining the solid support we had for broad reforms."
Many complex issues in education exist that can be solved only by the collaboration of multiple constituencies in the educational process. One key player is the business community, which must be a full and sustained partner in public policy educational reform to be successful. Because the business community or any corporate sector is the largest consumer of U.S. public school graduates, it is important to teach employer-relevant skills to produce an educated workforce. Yet the business community does not believe that the nation's public schools are adequately preparing youth for employment (Cuban, 1996). While corporations support local public schools through corporate taxes, corporate consensus is that industry is receiving a "lousy return on its investment" (Molnar, 1996).
In 2001, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce support for the "No Child Left Behind" program gave the business community the legitimacy of being a major player in educational reform. Recently, Thomas J. Donahue the CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce commented: "We're going to redouble our efforts to make the economic and the moral case for reforming our public schools and overhauling job training programs. Every child, young person, and worker in America deserves an opportunity to succeed—and millions in our country don't have that chance today." (January 10, 2013 State of American Business, Washington, D.C.).
Moreover, corporations are forced to spend additional dollars to retrain employees in basic skills. According to 1995 census data, 19 percent of persons over 18 have achieved less than a high school diploma. Students who graduate lack the "problem solving skills" to function in an increasingly complex society (Worsham, 1996). Corporate America has a vested interest in ensuring that the nation's public schools produce an educated workforce. Interestingly, education authors of about twenty years ago predicted that of all new jobs created between 1984 and 2000, more than half would require education beyond high school. (Worsham, 1996) Those predictions hold today with even greater impact. Recently, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce estimated that nearly 60 percent of all jobs in the U.S. economy require higher education. Additionally, by 2018, 63% of jobs will require a post-secondary education beyond high school. (Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, June 2010, Carnevale, Smith and Strohl).
In 1992, corporate giving accounted for one percent of corporate profits, and 80 percent of American corporations have no philanthropic effort. At the time, ninety percent of these American companies were small businesses, and 94 percent of all American companies were "mom and pop" organizations with fewer than 50 employees. These organizations represent a huge untapped market left unsolicited by public schools seeking money and resources (Mann, 1992). Of all corporate philanthropy, a paltry 5 percent was earmarked for public schools in 1992. Giving to education rose to an estimated $41.67 billion, an increase of 5.2 percent in current dollars (3.5 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars). This is the first year of an increase in giving after two years of declines. Educational organizations received an estimated 14 percent of the total (Lilly School of Philanthropy-Indiana University-Purdue University June 20, 2010).
Business people were part of most urban school systems during the first half of the 20th century (Timpane, 1984). The senior managers of many companies were members of local school boards. Starting in the 1950s, suburbs proliferated, luring business executives away from involvement in urban surroundings. The urban upheaval of the 1960s alienated corporations, whose social responsibility to inner cities declined. Corporate volunteers perceived their expertise as unwelcome by the newly empowered critical mass (Timpane, 1991).
Starting in the 1970s, American business faced a crisis that led many business leaders to restructure their organization and operations. According to Chubb and Moe (1990), the economic crisis of the 1970s forced "the business community to mobilize their formidable political resources behind demands for high-quality academic education."
Businesses during the 1980s became increasingly aware of the need to produce an educated workforce in order to help the nation compete in a global economy. Corporations began to look at school-business partnerships as one strategy to improve public education (Chubb & Moe, 1990). Businesspersons, armed with recent memory of business restructuring, were helpful in education reform (NAB, 1989).
The 1980s manifested an explosive growth in partnerships (U.S. Department of Education, 1988). President Reagan believed that school-business partnership programs would revitalize a declining national public school system (U.S. Department of Education, 1988). A "new" economic self-interest on the part of industry, complemented by Reagan's "new federalism," led to an increase in business volunteers in the nation's public schools. By reducing spending on education, Reagan posited that the "greater hand of society" would improve public education more than would federal programs. The government was doing less and the business community was asked to do more. These policies continued under President Bush's "Point of Light Foundation" and "America 2000" educational initiatives (Purdum, 1997). Bush considered volunteer business-education partnerships as "socially responsible" action to improve public education.
The initial wave of business involvement in the public schools consisted of "Adopt-A-School" and "Helping Hands" programs. During the early 1980s, these school-business partnerships mushroomed throughout America as businesspeople became increasingly involved in business-education partnerships in local public schools. According to Timpane (1991), these programs provided resources that schools could not otherwise afford, such as guest speakers, computers and other equipment, business employee grants, and mini-grants to teachers. The Council for Economic Development estimates approximately 170,000 business-education partnerships in 300,000 schools nationwide. Today, business involvement in the public schools is focused on school-business collaborations that can help offer students real-world applications so they see the practical value in what they are being taught. (Business Partnerships to Advance Stem Education: a model of Success for the Nation CED (May 17, 2013)
"A Nation at Risk" (1983) offered corporate America a strong impetus to become substantively involved in education reform. The report stressed the economic and competitive aspects of education. Business leaders such as Owen D. Butler, retired chairman of Procter & Gamble, at the time, concluded that business people needed to carry the word to policy makers, business leaders, and educators to stimulate public debate and promote subsequent proposals for educational reform (Timpane, 1991). Thoughtful business leaders concluded that "too few Adopt-A-School partnerships were designed to tackle the toughest problems" (NAB, 1991).
Excerpted from THE EDUCATION OF RICHARD RILEY by Robert Archer. Copyright © 2013 Robert Archer. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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