The Washington Post’s Steven Perlstein (via Matt Yglesias) takes a look at how economic, technological and business evolutions in recent decades have negatively impacted civic leadership at the regional level, as regionally focused companies that previously viewed their fortunes as tied to particular regions or communities have disappeared, and the larger multinational corporations no longer have a particular stake in specific regions or communities. Though Perlstein doesn’t mention it, this is an issue that is particularly relevant for education: Historically, business leaders have had both an interest in a well-educated workforce and the authority and political clout to lead on education issues at the state or local level. Business leaders played a major role in supporting standards-based reform in the 1990s, and business groups still play a key role on education issues at the state or local level in some places. But the same factors that Perlstein mentions can also impact business engagement on education issues. I spoke recently with an education reform advocate in one “rust belt” city who mentioned that business leaders had played a prominent role in supporting quality education in the city in the 1980s and 1990s, but that this was no longer the case, as the corporations that had once been head-quartered in the city either no longer existed or had moved elsewhere, and the previous generation of leaders with strong commitments to the city were aging and passing away.
The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.