January 25, 2013

Education Reform Playbook - A Business Leader's Guide

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Today’s business leaders grapple with the overarching question: How do we compete and win in the rapidly advancing 21st century global economy? Among the many factors that influence the success of business and the strength of our overall economy, few matter more than human capital. In our workforce lies the imagination that drives ideas, the ingenuity that leads to innovation, and the energy to put it all to work in our economy. But employers now face an unthinkable challenge in a time of chronic high unemployment— an insufficient supply of skilled and educated workers to meet the demands of a competitive workforce.

According to statistics, 3.8 million jobs are vacant in part because businesses simply can’t find qualified workers to fill them. Fewer American students are emerging from our public education system with the right skills or knowledge. Too many lack proficiency in math, science, reading, communications, and critical thinking. Meanwhile, baby boomers are retiring at an accelerating rate without a steady inflow of new talent into the labor force. This widening skills gap hampers companies’ productivity and slows economic growth. It poses a threat to our prosperity at home and our standing in the world. And it must be remedied now.

Many of the solutions to our education challenge are modeled in the business world every day. If tried-and-true business practices are applied to the public education system, we can help restore excellence to America’s troubled schools. The private sector has thrived because of its dynamism, creativity, and innovation. Likewise, successful businesses operate with transparency, accountability, high standards, and a relentless focus on efficiency and results. The same principles should drive commonsense education reforms.

It’s not enough for American business to set an example. Business leaders must actively engage in education reform. We must continue to build on the nearly $4 billion that American companies contribute to public K–12 education annually. We must increasingly collaborate with educators, administrators, and public officials to help break the status quo in American public education.

This guide will help show business leaders how to get involved and be effective. It compiles the insights of education reform leaders such as State Farm CEO and U.S. Chamber Chairman Ed Rust, who has worked tirelessly on this issue for decades. Together we can help solve the education crisis, restore our economic strength, and reclaim America’s competitive edge.

Thomas J. Donohue
President and CEO
U.S. Chamber of Commerce