Sponsored by Oregon Business

Private sector shapes education reform

| Print |  Email
Articles - September 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

By Linda Baker

0911_EducationOn July 20, the day Gov. John Kitzhaber signed into law Oregon’s Higher Education Restructuring bill, Duncan Wyse was in his office in the Standard Building in downtown Portland, expounding on the bill and other education reform legislation. “This was the most productive, significant session on education in 20 years,” said Wyse, president of the Oregon Business Council. The 14 education bills, which included expanding online degree and charter school options, cutbacks to educational service districts and the consolidation of state K-12, community college and higher education boards into a single “education investment board,” represented “a big win” for Oregon students, according to Wyse. “The legislation was also a watershed for us,” he said, referring to the business council. “It represents the fruition of work we’ve been doing for 20 years.”

Although a broad coalition of educators, business people and politicians supported and helped pass many — but not all — of the new education laws, the passage of the collective education reforms represented a triumph for the business community. Under the auspices of economic progress plans such as the Oregon Business Plan, Wyse and other business leaders have produced numerous policy papers over the years, advocating the need for specific education reforms. But those efforts languished until this legislative session, when a receptive governor and escalating concerns about the state’s stagnant economy and rock-bottom education investments intensified advocacy efforts and helped catapult Oregon Business Plan Power Points into education law.

The growing prominence of business leaders in education policy reflects concerns about educating, recruiting and retaining workers in a state that ranks 46th in per capita higher education spending and depends on ever-diminishing state dollars for K-12 funding. In the 21st century, the rise of the “knowledge worker” is also closing the gap between public education and business sectors.

But there are more than economic issues at stake. In an era of constrained resources, the more visible business presence also spotlights the sometimes-controversial ways in which private sector models and rhetoric are helping shape the conversation about education reform and funding. Consider one of the key principles animating the Higher Education law: universities will be given more freedom from state regulation in return for meeting “performance targets” such as graduation rates.

“Autonomy, flexibility, performance compacts. Those are all business principles,” says Matt Donegan, co-founder and co-president of Forest Capital Partners and president of the state board of higher education. “We’re tightening accountability but also loosening micro-management and allowing qualified professionals to do their job.”


More Articles

Adjusting to the New Economy

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

A conversation with Jonathan Bennett, managing partner at law firm Dunn Carney Allen Higgins & Tongue.


Make the business case, governor

Linda Baker
Thursday, November 05, 2015
aoikatebrownthumbBY LINDA BAKER

Gov. Kate Brown delivered the keynote speech at the Associated Oregon Industries annual policy forum yesterday.  Speaking to a Republican-aligned audience of about 100 business and public policy leaders, the governor was out of her comfort zone.


Tinker, Tailor, Portland Maker

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The artisan generation redefines manufacturing.


Video: 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon 2015

The Latest
Monday, October 05, 2015
100-best-NP-logo-2015-video-thumbVIDEO BY JESSE LARSON

Profiling some of the organizations featured in the 2015 list.


Seven questions about mandatory sick leave

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
102815-contributedthumbBY DIANE BUISMAN

Many employers have questions about what mandatory sick leave means for their company. Take a look at the top 7 questions Oregon employers are asking.


Run, Nick, Run

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

Controversial track star Nick Symmonds is leveraging his celebrity to grow a performance chewing-gum brand. Fans hail his marketing ploys as genius. Critics dub them shameless.


Down on the Bayou

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

A Power Lunch at Zydeco Kitchen and Cocktails in Bend.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02