Public education in American History

America Has 'Solved Every Problem in Public Education,' But How Are We Still Failing? 5 Questions with John Engler

Business Roundtable President John Engler talks with media as he leaves the White House after a meeting with White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner regarding the fiscal cliff, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

This spring’s rollout of new Common Core assessments across the country is forcing policymakers and educators to face tough questions: Are our schools good enough? Are these new standards and assessments a path toward making them better? Do we even have the political will to improve schools?

John Engler, the former three-term governor of Michigan, has worked on these issues through the public, private, and nonprofit sector. He says flatly, “Today, the blue collar job has become a 'blue tech' job and requires skills and competencies that someone doesn’t just pick up by showing up in class. You actually have to learn things. And that means higher standards.”

Engler served as chair of the National Governor’s Association, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers and today is president of the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs who lead companies that collectively produce $7.4 trillion in revenues each year and employ more than 16 million people. As a governor from 1991-2003, Engler made education a top priority and continues that work at BRT. Last week, he told RealClearEducation why he sees improving education as critical to business and the U.S. economy.

Why does K-12 accountability matter to BRT and the business community?

Along with higher education and the military, we’re the destination for millions of high school graduates every year. What I tell people is that there are two things in the world that are mobile: capital and people. When you’re running a global enterprise, these companies need to have access to the very best talent. We need that $700 billion dollars invested each year in K-12 to be effectively managed to help every individual be prepared to work in the 21st Century.

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