Exploring how businesses can help struggling public schools is the focus of a symposium this week by the A.B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University.
Included on the speaking bill is award-winning author Johnathan Kozol, whose books -- including Death at an Early Age and Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools -- reveal the distressing state of the nation's public schools, particularly those in inner cities.
The seminar, "Building Alliances: Education and Business," promises to open many eyes to the shortcomings in public education, says symposium moderator and A.B. Freeman professor Dr. Arthur Brief. It will also explore ways in which businesses can help.
"The notion here is twofold -- that businesses as good citizens have a duty to service our children, and they have unique abilities to help," says Brief, who was surprised to read statistics on America's public schools.
"I am not an expert in education. When I was doing preparatory work for my opening remarks, I was astounded at the numbers I found," he says.
"This nation is 17th in the world in graduation rates," says Brief, quoting figures from the U.S. Department of Education. "Twenty-nine percent of fourth graders read at grade level. Move to Louisiana, and it drops to 19 percent. Among poor kids in Louisiana it's 10 percent. ... I anticipate Johnathan Kozol will passionately address the needs of our children and the very sorry state of our nation's educational system."
Also scheduled to speak are F. Duane Ackerman, president and CEO of BellSouth Corp., and IBM International Foundation President Stan Litow.
Litow was former deputy chancellor of the New York City school system and has unique insight on how businesses can help public schools, Brief says. Ackerman "is going to talk in very broad terms about the responsibility of business leaders to the education of our children."
City officials, business leaders and education officials have been invited to the seminar, this year's entry to the school's annual Burkenroad Symposium on Business and Society. It is free and open to the public.
It will be held at Tulane's Dixon Hall on Friday from 9 to 10:30 a.m. At a reception afterwards, several businesses and organizations servicing local public schools will feature booths designed to educate the public, and each other, about their services.