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California business leaders for school reforms

As per a survey, 1,342 business execs place education on top of public policy concerns, writes Shalini Kathuria Narang.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2007 16:49 IST

One thousand three hundred and forty two business executives representing enterprises of various sizes and sectors in California placed education at the top of public policy concerns, alongside health care according to the findings of a recent survey by the California Foundation for Commerce and Education (CFCE).

William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the study. The business executives also gave the Kindergarten through twelfth grade schools in the golden state, a "D" grade for their quality of work.

The California Foundation for Commerce and Education is a nonprofit corporation affiliated with the California Chamber of Commerce, a "think tank" for the business community in California. The Foundation works to preserve and strengthen the California business climate and private enterprise.

The organisation aims to educate public and policy makers on the virtues of private enterprise and a strong economic base via accurate, impartial and objective research and analysis of public policy issues of interest to the California business and public policy communities and education and outreach efforts in support of the research and public policy findings and recommendations.

In the first statewide survey of its kind, the business executives believe that schools in California require more funding and need to adopt varied measures to overhaul schools and student education.

"Business leaders insist that California schools, especially high schools are currently not geared towards providing well-qualified workers. Schools should teach job readiness skills in addition to the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. The executives rate communications, work ethic, and personal responsibility on par with reading and even above writing and math," said Loren Kaye, President of California Foundation for Commerce and Education.

"This is a major finding since these skills are not in today’s policy debate in a significant way and represents a sharp distinction from voters and elected officials who are more focused on academic and vocational issues," added Loren.

Executives insist that the main purpose and focus of a high school education should be to provide skills to students to become productive workers in California’s economy and according to the business gurus, focus on the basics ranked next in priority, followed by college preparation and citizenship.

Business leaders identified the most important education reforms as providing essential basic skills for students, more technical and vocational education, incorporating best business practices into schools, and clearly tracking and evaluating teacher performance in improving student performance.

Regarding top priorities for reforms affecting teachers, executives in line with the hire and fire corporate milieu, called for similar measures in the academic arena by making it easier for ending the employment of underperforming or incompetent teachers, increasing salaries for teachers who improve student performance, more teacher training and mentoring and higher standards for tenure achievements.

Business leaders are also open to increased funding, even taxes, as long as those increases foster proven reforms, tougher accountability and increased financial oversight.

"California business leaders believe that increased funding is necessary for public school improvement, but only if accompanied by strong reforms and close accountability tied to student improvement," Kaye added.

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