Monday, July 11, 2011

The Business Roundtable's PIE: Post-Partisan Corporatism at Its Most Virulent

What is PIE?  If you don't know, you should.  They are behind pipsqueaks like Jonah Edelman and his little charade group.  They have 25 members of the PIE Network located in 18 states, and they are buying starving legislatures left and right and center.  Get to know them, and never turn your back.
The PIE [Policy Innovators in Education] Network is guided by five national education policy organizations that span the ideological spectrum, but share common commitments to education reform. These leading thinkers recognize the important work that state advocacy organizations play in moving policy to implementation. Our policy partners fuel reform on a national level, disseminate critical research that helps advocates win support, and offer guidance and expertise to network members.

The PIE Network was founded in 2007 by four leading policy organizations:The Center for American Progress, The Center for Reinventing Public Education, Education Sector, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. . . . In 2011, the National Council on Teacher Quality became a fith policy partner for the network.
And who funds PIE?

Funders

The PIE Network enjoys the generous support of:


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation
The Joyce Foundation
Stuart Foundation
The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation


And who can participate in this group of "civic and business leaders?" Answers are from PIE's excellent organizer's guide called Rabble Rousers, Revisited (Download the report).  Study it closely.
A Role for Government Officials? Not so much.
An old political adage sums up the advice here: In politics, never friends, only alliances.  In general, civic groups decline to invite sitting policy makers to their governing board because doing so can often complicate their ability to advocate consistently for their agenda. Including public officials in meetings also risks creating a positional environment in which little gets done.
How about a Role for Educators?
Most of the groups we spoke with declined to involve educators on their governing boards; if they did so, those groups do not make up a majority of the governing board. The rationale was clear enough: if the goal is to be a voice for the public’s interest, educator involvement confuses that message. As one group leader explained:

“Educators already have the overwhelming voice in our state capital through their various associations. If we brought the interest lobby to our meetings, our discussion would get rutted in the same issues that already complicate the public debate. Our goal is to have a conversation that looks at the issues differently, considering only the students without the adult agendas.” An even blunter explanation was: “We tell our teacher’s association that when they invite our leaders to vote on their boards, we will include union representation on ours.”

Or, How about a Role for CEOs? Really?
In many states, the business community has taken the lead role in providing an alternative voice in education policy. In fact, it is fair to credit the National Business Roundtable and its call for state-level affiliates for creating some of the momentum behind state-level education reform. Business involvement in education policy making is often sought both for financial backing and for the credibility that business leaders bring, especially to issues of managing large organizations. . . .

. . . .“Business leadership” requires CEO involvement. Over the last decade, the model of business group advocacy has been so well studied that many are now wise to its ways.  A “business voice” cannot be propped up in an organization with a few figureheads and non-business funding. Nor does the fact that someone who works for a corporation conveys “business” leadership.
Business credibility only comes to an organization that is led by credible, senior business leaders (ideally sitting CEOs) whose core passion is education [and don't forget the students], that is funded primarily by businesses (as opposed to foundations whose operations are distanced from their corporate founders), and that is run by an active business board (not delegated passively to non-business staff).  Perhaps most important, a business group has to run on more than a good bluff. From time to time, the leadership must call in political chits to influence education policy. 

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