Philanthropy Column

October 16, 1991 2 min read

Major corporations are channeling their philanthropic support into mathematics and science projects, where the payoff--in workforce improvement--is more immediate than that from support for early-childhood initiatives or other education needs, according to a report released this month.

The study of corporate support for the national education goals, which surveyed 176 large businesses, found a marked preference for the goal of making the United States first in math and science by the year 2000. Asked by the Conference Board, a corporate research organization, to rank the goals by funding, programmatic, and political priority, respondents listed the third goal of requiring demonstrated academic competencies second behind the science and math goal.

In contrast, support for school readiness and early-childhood education lagged well behind, the survey found. The contrast was all the more striking because business leaders have become star witnesses before the Congress in supporting the expansion and improvement of existing early-childhood education and prenatal programs.

Ronald E. Berenbeim, the senior research associate at the Conference Board who wrote the report, said the benefits businesses would realize from supporting early-childhood programs would not be evident for 10 to 15 years, and corporations are reluctant to wait that long. Business leaders also believe their expertise in science and math allows them to lend direct support in those areas without intruding on the domain of professional educators, he said.

The report, entitled “Corporate Support of National Education Goals,” is available from the Conference Board, 845 Third Ave., New York, N.Y. 10022-6601.

As budgets are cut and tax revenues fall, public agencies are increasingly crowding out nonprofit organizations and charities in the scramble for philanthropic dollars, agreed participants at a three-day conference on nonprofit concerns last month.

Participants at the Racine, Wis., conference concluded that, while there is a role for public-private partnerships, areas that traditionally have been the province of government have lately been ceded to the private sector, said Mark Rosenman, a vice president of the Union Institute, which co-sponsored the gathering with the Wisconsin-based Johnson Foundation.

Mr. Rosenman said the participants did not address education specifically, but recent education initiatives--especially President Bush’s call for the private sector to support education research fit the bill perfectly.

The conference is part of a yearlong project by the Johnson Foundation and the Union Institute to draft an agenda for the nonprofit sector. --J.W.

A version of this article appeared in the October 16, 1991 edition of Education Week as Philanthropy Column