SUSAN D. OTTERBOURG
If numbers mean anything, partnerships with schools make good business sense. During the past several years, elementary and secondary schools have established more than 40,000 partnerships with business, government agencies, and community organizations. And the number continues to grow in urban, suburban, and rural areas. In New York City alone, there are more than 1,000 partnerships between individual schools and businesses, with a need for twice that number.
These partnerships are collaborative alliances in support of education. They stem from a growing national awareness that business has an important self-interest in the success of schools and that a combined effort of the two partners will be more successful than if either one alone attempted to improve education.
From the educators' point of view, partnerships are not expected to pay for staff salaries or the maintenance of school buildings. They are considered to be a tool to mobilize community, business, and school-district resources for use by schools, teachers, administrators, and students. These resources are used to support and supplement activities that address school needs in such areas as staff development, student enrichment, basic skills, and career education.
Partnerships are also political resources, attracting allies during budget times and encouraging commitment to public funding for public schools. Through local partnership activities, businesses see more clearly how sound public education contributes to their own interests as producers and employers as well as community stability—no small consideration, particularly in urban centers. In the past few years, business interest has turned from the local level to the state and national levels, with business leaders playing important roles in the membership and sponsorship of education-reform proposals and reports. The range of policy issues of interest to business has been broad, from employability to school management to enhancing the vitality of the teaching profession.
Ironically, this activity is growing at a time when the Federal government has maintained a schizophrenic attitude in its policy toward and support of educa