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It’s vitally important for business leaders and educators to work together for MN students

When I first became president of Education Minnesota nearly three years ago, one of my goals was to get us as educators to reach out to the business community to build relationships so that together we could help make the case for great public schools. That continues to be crucial to our efforts to ensure that every Minnesota student has the best opportunity possible for an excellent, world-class education.

This month we are putting our ideas into action. We are announcing the creation of “Education Minnesota’s K-12 Business Connection.” It is an initiative that will give participants from the business community a firsthand view of what it takes to be a good educator. Participants will spend a day in the life of an educator. This is not a “red carpet” tour, but a real, roll-up-your-sleeves day where business people work side-by-side with students and educators in our classrooms, in our lunchrooms and on our buses.

The initial rollout will include 17 educator union locals from throughout the state participating with members of their business communities. We plan to expand the program to eventually include all of our 440 locals throughout Minnesota and as many business communities as possible.

I plan to travel the state this month explaining the program publicly from Moorhead to Duluth to Mankato and here in the Twin Cities. I’ve spoken about the business initiative informally to a number of local business groups in recent weeks and they have reacted positively to the idea.

It is vitally important for educators, along with business and community leaders, to work together, to understand each other and to help each other for the benefit of our students. That’s why doing a little walking in each others’ shoes is important, and that is why I think the “K-12 Business Connection” will be an effective way to learn about each other.

Understanding real-life issues
We believe that by the time business and community leaders have spent a day with an educator, they will have a greater understanding of what the real-life, real-time issues are in our schools and campuses. I hope this initiative enables business and community leaders to see firsthand the challenges and the triumphs happening every day in schools and work sites across the state.  At the same time, I hope the program will allow educators and students to become more engaged in business and civic organizations in their communities.

Art Rolnick, a senior vice president at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve and a strong advocate for early childhood education, described the dynamic relationship between business and education when he wrote recently in the Star Tribune:

“Minnesotans need to remind themselves of the underlying strength of the state’s economy, which is its diversity — everything from natural resources to high tech to bio-tech and food processing — as well as the state’s commitment to quality infrastructure, most notably, education. It is no accident that Minnesota is home to so many Fortune 500 companies (19). They’re not here for the weather. They’re here because of the workforce, which is one of the most highly educated in the country, and because of the state’s general commitment to public infrastructure, which is the backbone of an economy.”

Minnesota’s students are our future business and civic leaders. We all have a stake in their future. By working together for the good of our students, business leaders and educators can reinforce Minnesota’s commitment to education and make it even stronger.

Tom Dooher is president of Education Minnesota, the state’s educators union with 70,000 members.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/06/2009 - 01:42 pm.

    The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is, and has been, heavily invested in reforming k-12 public education.

    Their legislative analysts have been lobbying for the sorts of changes that EdMN sees as challenges to it’s control over the system, however, and so the union has ignored the business community for years…but now they want to conduct a little tour…please.

    The time for smoke and mirrors mummery such as Dooher constructs here is long past.

    The straws are gone. Teachers unions are grasping, wildly now, at the gossamer threads of a web that can no longer hold the weight of the bloated spider, much less any more prey.

    Even the New York Times can see the end of the road ahead.

    “Quick: Which newspaper in recent editorials called teachers unions “indefensible” and a barrier to reform? You’d be excused for guessing one of the conservative outlets, but it was that bastion of liberalism, the New York Times.”

    “Recently, when the Baltimore education establishment witnessed a highly effective charter school blossom in that city, the union—saying it was responding to complaints from teachers at the school—forced the union-represented school to pare back its longer teaching hours, a key ingredient of its success.”

    “In an editorial called “Don’t fix what works,” the Baltimore Sun noted that the teachers union “[lost] sight of what’s important—the kids.”

    …and so on.

    Public education is broken beyond repair. There is much to do, and the union is but one (admittedly large) piece of the puzzle.

    But the first step in restoring academic excellence to the “once vaunted” public system must be to either force the NEA and it’s member unions to re-focus it’s mission towards restoring, promoting and at some point in the future, maintaining the heretofore lost “professionalism” of the teaching profession, or to remove it from the public system all together.

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