Businesses Urged To Focus School Involvement on Special Projects

By Charlie Euchner — February 08, 1984 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Washington--Private businesses should encourage educators to start “cutting-edge” projects that school districts normally do not attempt because of bureaucratic inertia, but they should never attempt to play a major role in the financing or operation of schools, said speakers at a recent meeting convened here by the Conference Board, an international organization of business leaders.

Taking what she called the “heretical” position that “the recent talk about business-school cooperation is simply another chapter in tinkering with schools,” a Pillsbury Company executive said businesses should get involved with schools only when they can derive a direct benefit.

Terry T. Saario, Pillsbury’s vice president for community relations, said corporations devote so few resources to school contributions that businesses should target their contributions to two or three projects and “stick with them.”

Ronald K. Speed, director of corporate community responsibility at Honeywell Inc., said interest in business involvement in schools and other government services “took a turn” around 1980 because the public agencies “needed a more strategic approach.” That suggests, he said, that businesses should work on projects schools have not been successful in addressing, such as student violence, desegregation, and community service.

Mr. Speed noted that corporate gifts to education were shifting from higher education to the precollegiate sector. Others, however, pointed out that the businesses provide, at the most, only about 2 percent of schools’ annual budgets.

Ms. Saario cited the education projects of the Standard Oil Company (Ohio), where she held a similar position until three months ago, as a model of the limits that businesses should place on their involvement with schools. All of sohio’s projects, she said, serve their own interests as well as those of schools. The corporation has concentrated on three areas--urban economic development, energy and resources policy, and mathematics and science education. sohio did not divert money to projects that would not ultimately help the company, she said.

Student Awards

Frank Newman, a presidential fellow at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, said businesses should promote projects that “jar [students] out of their boredom” rather than those that support the school’s existing routine. An example of the latter, he said, is the establishment of awards for students who earn a certain grade-point average.

“What an institution needs is not a blind supporter [of the routines], but someone who will offer intense, constructive [alternatives],” he said.

Mr. Newman also said businesses should develop college-recruitment and hiring practices and internship programs that are consistent with the company’s most sophisticated needs. He said schools often offer courses with minimal attention to “critical-thinking skills” because school officials think businesses are interested in only entry-level job preparation. But in fact, he said, businesses need young employees who can reason well enough to advance into more responsible positions.

Ms. Saario and other speakers suggested that businesses would encounter resentment from schools if they attempted to get involved in curriculum development or if they led school officials to expect them to play an increasing role in funding of education, a development she suggested was not likely.

Edward F. Truschke, the vice president and executive director of the BankAmerica Foundation, warned, on the other hand, that businesses could “be co-opted into thinking we have a major role” in financing and running schools. Limiting involvement, he said, will require “a difficult, politically sensitive effort” by business leaders.

The speakers praised the proposals of Theodore Kolderie, a researcher at the Hubert Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota, who has criticized businesses that contribute to school programs that “are supportive of the present system.” Most business-school initiatives “are coming in ways that are enormously supportive of the current [school] setup, with the ‘adopt-a-school’ and the partnership vehicles,’' Mr. Kolderie said in an interview. If businesses want to get involved in education, they should devise programs that break down schools’ bureaucratic resistance to change, he said.

A version of this article appeared in the February 08, 1984 edition of Education Week as Businesses Urged To Focus School Involvement on Special Projects


Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: November 17, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education How Schools Are Getting Kids the COVID Shot, and Why Some Aren’t
Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to helping overcome hesitancy.
5 min read
A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Education Biden Administration Urges Schools to Provide COVID-19 Shots, Information for Kids
The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host vaccine clinics for kids and information on benefits of the shots.
2 min read
President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)