For children across the country, its back to school this week, and many of them will be attending schools in systems run by corporate executives. At the forefront of this initiative is Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation via its training program for school management. Broad's web site states, "Wanted: The Nation's most talented executives to run the business of urban education." As a result, major cities, including Pittsburgh (Eddy Jones, formerly of Deloitte) and Chicago (Jacqueline Statum of Hershey's Corporation) now have corporate executives in managerial positions.
In 2005, San Diego in keeping with its longstanding ties to the navy, hired retired Rear Admiral Jose Betancourt--also a Broad Foundation grad - to be the Chief Administrative Officer of its schools. Betancourt was ousted recently after pleading guilty to violating federal conflict-of-interest laws by prematurely lobbying on behalf of his Pentagon contractor employer to try to secure a $300 million military contract.
In New York City, soon after he was elected mayor, Michael Bloomberg chose Joel Klein, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Bertelsmann to be school Chancellor. He enlisted former General Electric CEO Jack Welsh to chair the Advisory Board of the Leadership Academy, formed to inculcate business-like thinking and behavior into New York City's school principals. 2006- 2007 standardized reading test scores indicate that roughly half the city's school kids aren't measuring up. Former Assistant Secretary of Education, now N.Y.U. professor of Education, Diane Ravitch has commented "You might say that it's Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg's report card. They get 50 %. Fifty percent is not a passing grade."
What has led so many mayors including Rudolph Giuliani, (in 2002, he appointed a Citigroup lawyer as Chancellor) to think that America's corporate executives have the credentials, experience and values to turn around our schools? A valid question under any circumstances, but even more pertinent in light of the ethically challenged behavior of top executives at Enron, Tyco, Halliburton, Blackwater and other corporations; and Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler's well-publicized managerial incompetence.
No mayor or other government official would ever dream of recruiting school teachers to help fix America's corporations. But if corporate executives can be called upon to turn around our schools, then why not call upon teachers to turn around our corporations? Let's dream on...
Teachers' recommendations, based on their school experience, for turning around corporate America:
Sharing: No teacher on cafeteria patrol would allow a child to grab a bag full of chocolate chip cookies leaving other children to have to take a few nibbles off the leftovers.
Recommendation: CEO's must learn to better share their corporations' revenue with hardworking employees. It's not fair for a CEO to be making $15 million a year while his hard working employees have to moonlight to make ends meet.
Cleaning Up: Whether it's bussing your tray in the cafeteria, or cleaning up your desk at the end of the school day; kids are taught to clean up after themselves. No one else--teachers or classmates--will do it for them.
Recommendation: CEO's must be held responsible for the messes they make. No more putting up with companies polluting our air, land, and rivers (like Welsh's General Electric dumping PCB's into the Hudson river), and then trying to make taxpayers pay for cleanup.
Bullying: Some schools now have programs to help teachers deal with bullies who boss children around, humiliate them, force them off slides or swings they want to take over, and generally make life miserable for their schoolmates. Teachers with anti-bullying training would be particularly well equipped to deal with corporations that specialize in hostile takeovers
Recommendation: Corporations must stop forcing themselves on other corporations which do not want to merge with them. (What part of "no" do they not understand?); and they must stop humiliating and making life miserable for the numerous employees they invariably fire when they take over.
Favoritism: Every teacher knows that systematically favoring one group of children--white over black? girls over boys? - and giving them better grades for the same work is a big no-no.
Recommendation: The practice of favoring white males over others, and paying them more for the same work must stop. Salaries must be made public within corporations so that favoritism can be eliminated.
Gifts and Teacher's Pets: Because some parents try to get better grades or other favors from teachers by giving them expensive Christmas gifts, some schools have banned all gifts. Schools do not stand either for a teacher giving the child of a friend or a relative who happens to be in her class undeserved better grades. No "teachers' pets" is a basic educational rule.
Recommendation: Our government must ban corporations from giving big gifts to politicians in order to win favors. It's just not right that because HMO's and pharmaceutical corporations shower politicians with such gifts, Americans don't have the universal health insurance and affordable medication that people in other countries like us have. It's also not fair for corporations to be "government pets," and get billion dollar contracts just because they have a friend in the White House.
Conclusion: If CEO's want to help improve our schools, they need to clean up their own act first. For starters, they should stop hogging taxpayer dollars through corporate subsidies and stop setting up off shore corporate headquarters to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Some of those billions in tax dollars could then be used to pay teachers enough to attract the best and the brightest to the profession.