Building Bridges to Business
Businesses spend billions of dollars yearly on education.
Much of that money goes to "business-public school partnerships."
Can businesses be persuaded to invest in homeschools instead?
And do we want them to?
- Businesses Are Worried
- American Education Needs Help
- Business Is Trying to Help, But . . .
- Money In, Garbage Out
- Public Schools Are Getting All the Business Money!
- "No Homeschoolers Have Ever Asked Us"
- How Homeschools Can Help Businesses
- Can Businesses Help Homeschools?
- Avoiding Partnership Pitfalls
- National, Corporate-Backed, School-Reform Organizations
- Companies Specializing in Grants to Local Educational Initiatives
Businesses Are Worried
Businesses are worried. The external pressures of international competition and the internal demands of rapid technological change have made "life-long learning" a matter of survival. They need workers able to continually understand and adopt new facts and ideas--employees who are ready and eager to learn. And they do not seem to be getting them.
Instead, most businessmen are forced to hire high-school students who, claims Edward Hennessy, Jr., CEO of Allied-Signal Corporation, often "can't read their own diplomas." Moreover, their beloved business schools are filled with public school graduates crippled by semi-literacy. These students must be taught basic reading and writing just to get ready for freshman courses--classes which are themselves only the functional equivalent of the 9th or 10th grade classes of thirty years ago.
Business's estimate of today's graduates is low indeed, and getting worse. A Fortune survey of CEOs in 1990 found that 76 percent believed public schools made American workers worse, not better. A survey of human resource officers that same year revealed that 64 percent did not believe public schools were producing competent workers. In 1993, 75 percent of Money readers polled claimed that public schools had low standards. In the pages of the business magazine Challenge, sociologist Amitai Etzioni complained that corporations suffered from an increasingly "poorly-trained work-force, low work ethic, and competitive pressures from countries with superior schools." Business Week reported that only 12 percent of employers thought their recently-hired high school graduates could write well, and only 22 percent felt they had a decent mastery of basic math. Said a business leader quoted in Industry Week: "Employers are talking about the deficiencies of the entering work-force . . . everyone is really becoming alarmed at what the test scores are showing."
Are these businessmen correct? Or is this just "old fogey-ism"--cranky codgers "down" on the young and romantically defensive of the "good old days?" Let's see.
American Education Needs Help
In 1992, the U.S. Department of Education sampled a population of 190 million adult Americans. Their question was simple: are these folks literate? Can they read and comprehend popular books and periodicals? Can they cipher well enough to cope with daily drudgery such as comparing the prices of different-sized containers, figuring out travel minutes based on departure and arrival times, or calculating simple interest?
Madison Avenue ad men drew their own cynical conclusions years ago--these are evident on television and no one doubts what their thoughts are on the matter! But Uncle Sam holds nobler hopes and wanted to see for himself. After all--this population had an average 12.4 years of school. Many had gone to college and held bachelor's degrees. The majority had at least graduated high school, and virtually all the rest had at least an 8th grade education. Theoretically, almost all of them should have possessed basic literacy in math and reading. In fact, if years spent in school counted for anything, this group was the most educated since the founding of our republic!
So what did our friends in Washington D.C. discover about our "educated" masses? They found that, in modern America, years of schooling do not count for anything!
Twenty-two percent couldn't read elementary grade lessons. Another 27 percent did better--they could read at a 4th or 5th grade level, and another 30 percent beyond this could read between the 6th and 8th grade levels. Only about a fifth could handle average high school reading. Of these, only 3.5 percent could read well enough to match college-level demands.
To put that in perspective, this last level had been reached by 20 to 30 percent of American high school students in the 1940s, and is achieved today by 20 to 30 percent of those in the secondary schools of other developed nations. What does that say about most of our current college students?
Asked for the approximate price per ounce of a 20-ounce jar of peanut butter costing $1.99, about half could not give the correct answer! They could not make common budgeting decisions, such as determining if an "economy-sized" product was really a bargain!
Consider that over two-thirds of the training manuals used on jobs in the U.S. today are written at the 9th to 12th grade level. Or that by 1999, 41 percent of all new jobs will require advanced math, language, and reading skills--versus only 22 percent of new jobs today. Compare those needs with the statistics above. Now you know why businesses are wringing their hands over the state of our schools. In fact, 91 percent of CEOs told Fortune in 1990 that their cost for training incoming workers had grown in the past 10 years--mostly to make up for deficiencies in basic areas.
Not only that, these graduates suffer from a notable lack of common courtesy and character. Time magazine reports that many service businesses are turning to retirees just to find employees who are capable of smiling at customers and saying "Thank you." Forbes business magazine complains of a breakdown in discipline, pointing out that Dallas public schools confiscated 150 guns in 1992. Zoraida Bennett, an ex-kindergarten teacher in the Bronx, describes having to train children how to dive on to the floor at the sound of gunfire.
Meanwhile, horror stories abound of teachers trapped spending hours a day in common discipline, while willing students languish bored behind their desks--in "nice" suburban schools.
Business Is Trying to Help, But . . .
It is no wonder, then, that businesses are beginning to get on the bandwagon of school reform. They certainly read a lot about it. A search of a fixed set of major business magazines between 1989 and 1993, from Fortune to Chemical Week, for articles on problems in K-12 education and how they should be addressed, turned up just five articles on the topic in 1989, but 32 in 1993! Most dealt with the effect of school problems upon businesses, and the business world's responsibility to help change things.
Businesses are responding to the call to get involved in education reform. Black Enterprise reported that business projects to help schools grew by 234 percent between 1984 and 1988--from 42,200 projects to 140,800. Personnel magazine claimed that this figure had grown to over 200,000 by 1991. By 1991 Fortune's annual survey of business involvement in education showed 55 corporations giving between 1 and 5 million dollars for K-12 education, and another 21 corporations giving over 5 million. By 1992, 29 companies were giving over 5 million.
Meanwhile, the percentage of top executives who were "very involved" in K-12 initiatives grew from 32 percent in 1990 to 45 percent in 1992, while those "not too involved" dropped from 25 percent to 14 percent.
It is clear that businesses are expressing their anxiety about the state of the American school system in very tangible ways.
Should we be encouraged by all this? Yes and no. On the one hand, businesses have long been the beneficiaries of the training that has been provided to children by others, and it is about time they took their responsibility seriously to participate in educating those who are going to be their future employees. On the other hand, there really is not that much to be happy about in terms of what businesses are actually doing with their resources and time.
Because virtually all the real money and effort is going to public education!
Money In, Garbage Out
Businesses have supported some useful proposals, such as apprenticeships, decreasing the size of school administrations, or increasing computer purchases and usage. But they have also been persuaded to spend their hard-earned cash on many of the same old, tired, statist "solutions" that education radicals have been pushing for years. These include increasing the difficulty and application of teacher certification, more standardized national testing, and outcome-based education--all heavily supported by big business. Many of these could burden or threaten homeschoolers. And none will substantially improve public schools.
We live in a world where forces towards decentralized, market-based solutions are wiping away socialistic, monopolistic, hyper-centralized, bureaucratized institutions every day. In such an era the public schools seem foredoomed to become increasingly unpopular and ineffective--a place where only those with no other choice will go. This is already happening. For example, whether one agrees with vouchers or not, it's hard to ignore the message given by polls that show 70 percent of Americans in 1993 in favor of giving public dollars to parents to spend on private schools. This is hardly a vote of confidence or loyalty to public education. Nor is it so much a plea to "fix" public schools as to promote alternatives to them.
Businesses know this. They are aware of the overall trends towards the market and decentralization and away from government and bureaucracy, as attested by the brisk sales among business leaders of books such as Megatrends which explain these developments. They are also aware of the loss of confidence in public education among their own ranks and the general public. This is explained through statistics presented in a plethora of articles appearing in their own magazines! Thus, it is hard to understand why they are responding to educational failure by dumping more and more valuable resources upon those who are most to blame for it, or adopting their proposed "solutions." After all, the very articles and organizations that describe, and usually encourage, business spending on public education profile statistics which show our public schools to be the highest cost, lowest result educational option in existence! (For detailed facts backing up this statement, see my article in the previous issue of practical homeschooling.)
Business leaders also have no reason to be excited about the values and ideology most educational leaders promote with the money businesses give them. As Forbes pointed out, public education is now 80 percent unionized--even as unions are shrinking in the private sector. Why would corporations want to prop up unions--especially ineffective ones--when their instincts tell them to run from them? The American Federation of Teachers is run by Al Shanker, an old New York City socialist. The NEA--which Forbes accurately called "The National Extortion Association"--actively promotes radical politics and government intervention in every area imaginable, whether it is relevant to education or not. This is all common knowledge. Between them, the AFT and NEA have a stranglehold on public schools and beat down every reform that threatens teacher jobs and their own power, whether it is good for the children or not. So why should businesses continue to support the very structures these groups control?
Businessmen are staring at statistics showing chronic inefficiency, waste, and failure in the public schools--which would lead them to fire the person responsible if he worked for their own company. And they are looking at irrefutable evidence that the last thing public schools need is more money, or more "programs" that have been tried and failed. Then they write million dollar checks to these same institutions and individuals!
It's time for this to change.
Public Schools Are Getting All the Business Money!
I called several major national foundations devoted to developing partnerships between business and education, which specialize in funneling corporate dollars and support towards school reform, to see if perhaps I was wrong about the extent to which corporate help was being directed towards public schools rather than private alternatives. From the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to the New American Schools Development Corporation, Business Roundtable, National Alliance of Business, and National Association of Partners in Education, I found that public schools had a total or near-monopoly over the purse-strings and efforts of large companies intent on helping K-12 education.
To be sure, as one foundation director pointed out, some help is certainly devoted to private schools at the local level by smaller companies. This does not show up at the national level or in the business magazines. But the lion's share of business help for education, and almost all the national effort, is directed towards reforming the ailing public school system, not towards developing and encouraging other forms of schooling.
For example, the New American Schools Development Corporation (NASDC) is a major business-run group. It was formed to fund George Bush-style school reform, and has a war-chest of over $200 million dollars in corporate grant money. I asked NASDC administrator Nicki Boros if they had any plans to develop projects with private schools. Her reply: no, but maybe they would include some in the future, though they had no concrete plans to do so. This was the story everywhere.
I asked one Business Roundtable leader, "Why do businesses give so much money to a system that is so heavily unionized, that they already admit is not suffering because of lack of funds?" Her answer: "That's a very good question. I don't know the answer to it." This was the best answer I got anywhere.
If private schools are presently out in the cold for big corporate support, homeschoolers are doubly so. This is interesting, in light of well-publicized articles in respected business publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Forbes commending home schooling as a viable option with excellent, even superior, educational results and character building.
Most of the foundations I talked to knew very little about homeschooling, were doing nothing with it at all, and had no plans to do so in the future. When I asked NASDC's Boros if they might consider proposals from homeschool groups in the future, she said, "Homeschooling is not included in any of the design team plans. Sure, we want to encourage 'heavy-duty' parental interaction and involvement in education. But in the school, not at home."
"No Homeschoolers Have Ever Asked Us"
Why is the business world so fixated on public school reform instead of seriously promoting private alternatives? One possibility is that they are trying to address the needs where the majority of kids are. Another is that they view private schools as healthy and want to put their money where it can do the most good, even against their better judgment that donating money to public education is probably just throwing good money after bad. And it also seems likely that, given the public relations value and goals of much corporate giving, companies want to be seen as helping the "community" as a whole, not just a small subset served by private education. Some of the more cynical among us may even say that perhaps corporations don't want people to be too educated.
Perhaps the most likely response is that private schools and homeschools have made little or no effort to get businesses involved in partnerships, while public schools have worked hard at creating and maintaining those partnerships.
Do you know of any state homeschool group, anywhere, that regularly solicits business groups to hear presentations on homeschooling? Does your state group even have a mechanism set up to receive donations from businesses? How about your local support group? Do you know the names of the local business groups? Do you know which homeschoolers in your area own their own businesses? Do you have business owners in your homeschool speakers bureau?
Let's consider one example. The National Association of Partners in Education (NAPE) is an organization based in Alexandria, Virginia with affiliate groups in 30 states. They train businesses and educators how to launch and run cooperative efforts in funding projects, how to run apprenticeship programs, and so on. People who call them can get books, tapes, and local contacts to start such business-education partnerships.
While NAPE handles mostly public schools, they have nothing in their charter against private education. They work with all such educators who ask them, and have helped with projects involving private schools. I asked their national representative, Janet Cox, how NAPE would handle initiatives and requests by homeschoolers. Her answer was that, while their materials are "mainstream" and geared to institutionalized schools and districts, they will work without prejudice with homeschool groups, and are willing to train homeschool representatives and leaders at local or national training symposia. However, Janet's next remark was telling: "But no homeschoolers have ever asked us."
Maybe it's time we do so--with NAPE, other such national umbrella organizations, or the businesses and business associations in our own communities.
How Homeschools Can Help Businesses
One thing we should go armed with is the answer to the question: "How can homeschoolers help businesses?" The answers seem obvious to us, but not to them. So let's review them.
First, homeschooling offers a bigger bang-for-the-buck than any other alternative. Having purchased our own resources, most homeschool groups would not wish to depend upon businesses for educational essentials. Rather, they would use the money to help poorer homeschooling families, and to fund useful projects which would be hard or expensive for individual families to do on their own.
Imagine what a public school would do with a $5,000 from National Widgets. It might pay for a few month's lawn care! Now envision that amount of money in the hands of a local homeschool association or cooperative. They could set up the "National Widgets Resource Library" for educational software, expensive audio and video tape series, training seminars, and so on. A support group could use donated space to set up a classroom/library area for group projects, while a public school would have no use for the space. A support group would be thrilled to have National Widgets provide trained widgeteers to lecture kids weekly on the physics of widget-making. The public schools couldn't use the widgeteers unless they were certified teachers. Get the idea?
Homeschools produce superior educational results. We have the statistics to back this up. Some business magazines have even cited them. Why not pull together a nice handout stressing these facts and mail it out to education-minded businesses and associations? "You need highly-trained workers who are prepared for real life-long learning and won't hate doing it? Look no further--homeschooling is where it's at."
One of the biggest areas identified by national associations and business magazines is apprenticeships, which these days are commonly called "school-to-work initiatives." Even the Clinton Administration is pushing this. And why not? Kids get experience and a skill, and business gets experienced, skilled workers. This is "win-win" stuff. Most homeschoolers would welcome good apprenticeships for their kids. And we have the flexibility to strike a bargain to set these up the "old-fashioned" way, between parents,kids, and businessmen, without the need for bureaucratic permission or interference (beyond child-labor laws.) A match made in heaven!
Homeschooling is also far more "business-friendly" than public school. Businesses don't need workers who have been trained to be hostile to business and the free-enterprise system. They need workers who appreciate private property, understand what good it can do when it is properly stewarded--and who want to see it, and the rights associated with it, protected.
Finally, businesses are concerned with their workers' character, or lack of it. From outright criminality and defiance of authority, to bad manners and laziness--businesses are really worried about this. They want workers who don't need to be watched all the time to keep them from stealing or from lying down on the job. Usually, especially in the best jobs, they want self-directed, creative, motivated people who don't need someone to tell them what to do all the time.
Can homeschooling help? The answer is obvious. Just have them meet your children and talk to them. When they're done, let them come to a local homeschool association meeting and observe more homeschooled children. That should do the trick!
Can Businesses Help Homeschools?
All right, so we can do a lot for businesses. Now, how can businesses help homeschoolers? Do we need or want their help?
Certainly we don't need help for our basic educational requirements. We've come too far to depend on others for our texts, curriculum, manipulatives, maps, and so forth. It ought to be absolutely clear to ourselves and others that we do not require outside help to teach our own children with excellence. Public schools might. We don't. But businesses still can, and should, play a vital role in assisting homeschooling.
Here are some possibilities we at practical homeschooling have thought of. If you have ideas or examples to add to these, please let us know!
- Apprenticeship programs for homeschoolers could be arranged for and through groups or individual families. Is your child interested in commercial art? How about 15 weeks doing ad layout and computer graphics for a local magazine?
- Release time for corporate personnel to teach classes. Think of the expertise housed in the businesses in your community, and how little sacrifice it would take for them to free up a few hours a week for the chemists, biologists, programmers, etc. to teach small groups of polite, eager students--and maybe even a few grateful adults.
- Gifts such as used books, software, and computers--a tax write-off for them, a blessing for you. For example, WordPerfect Corporation allows buyers to give registered copies of old versions--with full support--to schools. Why not homeschools?
- Scholarships for curriculum for poor families. Intriguing thought: how about some merit-based scholarships, too, regardless of family income?
- Salaries for tutors to oversee church- and community-based homeschooling programs, especially in poor neighborhoods, where parents might benefit from more academic training and oversight. Such tutors could hold weekly support group meetings and be available for telephone help. This is a way to support private education at a fraction of the cost of sending a child to private school.
- Equipment for state and local groups. In this day and age, every state group should have its own computer, modem, fax, printer, answering machine, and copier . . . to name just a few essential items! Donations towards the salaries of state group administrators and support personnel also might be welcome, although we would be extremely wary of allowing any one company to provide a major portion of these salaries. For the health of the movement, salaried state leaders should be mostly supported by their members.
- Donating or loaning corporate space (a lot of those office complexes have unused rooms) for meetings, seminars, resource centers, and so forth.
- Loaning, or paying for, technical support to help homeschool groups and families with computers. This could include helping people make wise purchase decisions, computer repairs and trouble-shooting, setting up bulletin boards, beginner's classes in computing fundamentals, setting up and maintaining Internet and other online access--you name it. The extent and quality of computing in the homeschool community would be enhanced greatly by this kind of technical support.
- Renting or purchasing, and equipping, homeschool resource centers. Much of this could be equipment that would be expensive or difficult for single families to purchase and use effectively. Imagine a local corporation just supplying and filling two good-sized rooms for use by the community, with homeschoolers taking responsibility for managing the space. One room could have a black-board, seats, VCR, and screen--suitable for a range of uses, from storing expensive video series to show and discuss as groups, to holding homeschool training seminars and hosting guest teacher and lecturers. The other could be a computing center staffed by paid or volunteer technical support, with low-cost public modem connections, libraries of software on floppies, hard drives and CD-ROM, printers, and more. For far less than most public schools spend just to keep their floors waxed, local businesses could fund two such rooms for intensive, valuable, and efficient educational use.
- Favorable publicity for homeschooling, in the form of press releases detailing corporate donations and the results obtained by them.
- Personnel policies that recognize homeschooling as a viable, perhaps even superior, preparation for employment.
These are just a few of many possibilities for the effective use of business support for homeschooling. Obviously, the potential is far greater than this. We know that homeschoolers can accomplish great things with modest resources. We've done so for years. Given the support of our business community, we need be limited by nothing but our imaginations.
Businesses need to wake up and smell the coffee so far as the public school system is concerned. Real reform, if it is to positively effect the public schools, ought to focus on building alternatives and competition to the public schools, not giving them more money and more respect.
This means steering more business dollars to private educational alternatives of high quality, to make these less expensive and even better. Such as homeschooling. With increased business support, both financial and political, we have a lot to gain, and nothing to lose. This is an idea too long neglected. Its time has come.
- American Legislative Exchange Council. Report Card on American Education, 1994.
- Branch, Eleanor. "Can Businesses Save Our Schools?" Black Enterprise. March 1991. Pages 39-50.
- Brimelow, Peter and Leslie Spencer. "The National Extortion Association?" Forbes. June 7, 1993. Pages 72-84.
- Business Week. "Saving Our Schools." September 14, 1992. Pages 70-85.
- Churbuck, David C. "The Ultimate School Choice: No School at All." Forbes. October 11, 1993. Pages 144-150.
- Erdman, Andrew. "How to Make Workers Better." Fortune. October 22, 1990. Pages 75-77.
- Etzioni, Amitai. "School Reform: Serious Business." Challenge. May-June 1989. Pages 51-54.
- Feldman, Stuart. "School Days: Businesses Hit the Books." Personnel. August 1991, Pages 3-4.
- McKenna, Joseph. "A Lesson Plan for the Future." Industry Week. September 2, 1991. Pages 12-26.
- Money. "A Call for Higher Standards and Stricter Discipline in Schools." May 1993. Page 35.
- Perry, Nancy. "What We Need to Fix U.S. Schools." Fortune. November 16, 1992. Pages 132-175.
- Pinebrook, Sharon and Daniel Bissonet. "Partner in Education." Training and Development. May 1992. Pages 69-74.
- Right to Read Report. "Adult Literacy Figures." January 1994. Page 4.
- Simms, Margaret. "Public Schools: Chance or Choice?" Black Enterprise. May 1993. Page 49.
- Smith, Bob. "Wanted: New American Schools." HR Focus. January 1992. Page 7.
Avoiding Partnership Pitfalls
When you begin looking at the possibility of partnerships with big business, some questions arise. Being successful means real money and big plans--from creating and running thriving urban homeschool resource centers, to building up national organizations of size and power which are capable of negotiating with top executives, to writing (or helping others write) professional proposals, to serving as information clearinghouses and referral agents. In many cases this also means hiring and expanding staff, while establishing standards for those who work for you and for those you strive to help.
Many homeschoolers understandably cringe at all this. Why jump out of the frying pan of public school bureaucracy just to just to create our own private bureaucracy?
Our answer is that we can consciously avoid creating a homeschooling bureaucracy, while still becoming major-league players in the educational world.
Business funding means more resources for poorer homeschool families, and more help for families with less experience. This will mean more new homeschoolers, which will lead in turn to a richer community of fellow laborers and more political clout--not to mention a helpful transformation of the youth in our communities! And resources can be made more widely available which many of us could potentially use, but few of us can afford--from big software libraries and the establishment of many new local homeschool bulletin boards, to more featured speakers and workshops.
Here are some ideas about what we can do to build stronger homeschooling groups, while still keeping them on the leash. Certainly, this list does not exhaust the possibilities--so we'd love to hear from our readers on this one--but it is a start.
- Maximize the power and number of strictly volunteer staff. Some groups have strong volunteer boards that donate their time and keep close eye on all operations. Others are mainly staffed by homeschool parents who donate their time. Sometimes, this means loss of efficiency (more people going on and off shift, turnover, etc.). If a small cadre of salaried personnel are used to maintain consistency while most of the work is done by volunteers, a good balance can be struck--especially if salaried personnel with decision-making authority are elected by the membership.
- Keep budgets that are low on salaries, and high on equipment. Computers don't talk back or plot takeovers! Whenever you think of hiring extra people, ask how much of that extra workload can be taken care of by simple technological upgrades. Such investments are usually cheaper in the long run. Fewer professional staff members means a smaller chance that your group will turn into an unresponsive bureaucracy.
- Use existing, "tried-and-true" groups to take on new obligations. At the national level, ideally a group like National Center for Home Education (NCHE) would be willing, with the right funds and help, to build databases of business contacts, provide sample grant proposals, and so on--and work directly with national business educational reform groups. Although NCHE has told us they are not willing to take on this challenge at this time, we can keep on hoping! Meanwhile, state associations can work with groups such as state NAPE affiliates more effectively than smaller local groups could. These entities have the equipment, staff, and contacts to do this. They will often be more trusted by businesses as stable groups to deal with (local volunteer groups tend to come and go too quickly). Most already have good guidelines to prevent abuse.
- Resist pressure to develop accreditation or compulsory "benefits." Some universities or companies that might work with homeschoolers to offer "how to homeschool" classes might push for some kind of "certificate" to be granted upon completion. Before you know it, you have people advertising themselves as "certified homeschoolers." This easily starts us on the slippery slope to requiring parents to have certain courses to participate in a resource center or similar entity ("We only accept certified homeschoolers!").
Anti-homeschooling forces would pick up on this fast. "Look, they require certification of their own people, so why should it be a problem for us to throw in a few 'reasonable' requirements of our own?"
So we need to avoid offering certification or accreditation, and must certainly not force anyone to partake of certain "benefits" as a prerequisite to participating in organizations we create.
- Watch the contracts you sign. Think through carefully what commitments and restrictions you can and cannot accept. Don't shut out internal criticism or warnings in your rush for business dollars! When agreement time comes, use experienced homeschooling lawyers in your own communities, or wise groups like HSLDA, to help you draw up agreements with funding sources. Be wary of companies who already have dangerous policies, such as those with aggressive, "politically correct" quotas and speech regulations.
As long as we follow these five guidelines, we should be able to benefit from business partnerships while extending our influence, helping many more families, and maintaining our rights and privileges as homeschoolers.
Family Educators Alliance of South Texas (FEAST), 4719 Blanco Rd., San Antonio, TX 78212. (210) 692-7214. Contact: Ruth Perez.
FEAST has been in existence for about ten years. It provides scholarships and serves as a resource center for homeschoolers. San Antonians can come there to examine and buy curriculum products. Standardized testing is available through FEAST for a price.
FEAST has workshops covering every facet of homeschooling. In addition, they host a homeschool sports-team program and an orchestra. They also organize and run their city's annual homeschool book fair. And they will provide information, help, and referrals to any homeschoolers who call.
The major corporate backing FEAST has attracted makes much of this possible. Substantial funding is provided by James Leininger, a corporate Chief Executive Officer who is also involved in the CEO Foundation--a group that provides money for inner city children to pay for tuition in private schools.
For more information about FEAST, including how they operate and the ways in which they have obtained and kept corporate support, call Ruth Perez. She has a model of business-homeschool partnership to be proud of, and would be happy to speak with you about it.
Christian Worldview Library, 700 East 37th Street N., Wichita, KS 67201. (316) 832-3319. Fax: (316) 832-3271. Contact: Becky Elder--Proprietor, or Joyce Templeton--Librarian.
CWL rose out of homeschooling-parents Philip and Becky Elders' desire in 1988 for a comprehensive library to provide resources for their own family. Their vision has grown to include many more families and many more services. For an annual fee of $25, homeschoolers can borrow from over 6,000 books and other resources. They can also use the Love Box Company gymnasium and swimming pool, and even attend fitness classes at Love! Members receive regular catalogues and updates, as well as a three-ring binder within which to keep them.
All this was made possible by generous grants of space, staff, equipment, and dollars by Becky's father, Robert Love, the owner and CEO of Love Box.
Corporations often have facilities they can share. For example, says Becky, it is not unusual for companies to have good computer facilities with plenty of unused room to accommodate outside users. Love Box shares their computing facilities with CWL--without disruption to either. So be creative!
Becky is quick to point out that she can probably do little to help homeschoolers learn how to appeal to corporations for help "cold," since hers was a unique situation. Not only did she happen to have a father who owned a big company, but Robert Love is not the average corporate CEO! He authored and published a book in 1973 entitled How to Start Your Own School for people who were "fed up with public education" and who wanted to "rescue their children from the evils of public education."
Becky and her father can share how they have dealt with common dilemmas that arise in business-homeschool partnerships because of regulations or other practical obstacles. In Wichita, for example, the zoning commission gave them trouble about creating an educational resource center on an industrial site. This is an issue likely to come up frequently among those seeking to make corporate facilities available to homeschoolers. They partially solved this by making the CWL services available to employees, too--and thus part of Love's "employee relations" program.
If you own a company, or lead a homeschool group, and want to see how a business-homeschool partnership can work, give Becky Elder or Joyce Templeton a call. They'd love to hear from you.
National, Corporate-Backed, School-Reform Organizations
Almost all the large national organizations are focused entirely on public school "reform." There was, however, one excellent possibility I was able to uncover, which functions nationally, and has solid big-business backing.
The National Association of Partners in Education (NAPE), 209 Madison Street, Suite 401, Alexandria, VA 22314. (703) 836-4880; fax: (703) 836-6941. Contact: Janet Cox.
Janet Cox tells me that NAPE has usually helped with business-school collaboration with the public schools. But they also do projects with private schools. And NAPE is not averse to working with homeschoolers. Cox told me that they haven't done so yet only because "no homeschoolers have asked."
NAPE provides leadership in bringing together educators, businesses, community organizations, and citizen groups who want to work together to help schools. Their database lists interested parties from each of these sectors, around the country. Ask them for help and they may point you to a CEO in your city specifically interested in, say, funding and helping private, radical educational reform. There must be a few Robert Loves in your community!
NAPE has affiliate organizations (for example, the Ohio Association of Partners in Education) in over 30 states. They can refer you to trained NAPE affiliates in your area. And NAPE is backed by about 70 major corporations.
NAPE has tons of experience and training materials to help you set up successful business-education partnerships. These are available to you and to any people you partner with. Their materials are designed for public or private schools, but most of this information would be just as useful to homeschool groups. Available materials include scores of books, pamphlets, and videos--not to mention knick-knacks to use as incentives for people who help you, such as t-shirts, lapel pins, and flags.
Finally, NAPE hosts training seminars all over the country. Get on their mailing list and you, and those you partner with, can attend. Janet says she would love to see homeschoolers represented at NAPE workshops. Why not put this on the calendar of sympathetic business and homeschool leaders in your community?
Join NAPE as a volunteer for $15, or as the leader of an organization for $75. Larger business, community, or educational organizations (such as your regional home school association) can join for $250/year.
Companies Specializing in Grants to Local Educational Initiatives
The most productive approach for homeschoolers is to seek partnerships at the local level with small to mid-sized companies in your own communities. Start with business owners, or those close to them, in your homeschool group. Then get involved with organizations like the Kiwanis, the Lion's Clubs, and the Chamber of Commerce. Big churches with sympathetic pastors can also help you locate sympathetic business leaders.
However, local initiatives do not mean you can't get funds from big companies as well, particularly if you already have the support of area businesses. We at PHS will be compiling a list of large businesses that are "homeschool friendly" over the next months, and will share it with you in a future issue.