Can Business Save Our Schools?

I have often heard that one of the keys to improving our failing education system (both here in New Mexico and nationwide) is to get business leaders and the business community more involved in education. While forcing schools to adhere to the principles that businesses must adhere to in a competitive economy is the centerpiece of the Rio Grande Foundation’s education reform agenda, I’ve long been skeptical that businesspeople taken as a whole have any particular insight into making the fundamental reforms necessary to improve American education.
That reality was made clear to me this morning as I sat through a presentation by a manager of Intel Corporation’s education experts. While he had a lot of great information on how to help bring technology to the schools, his company’s solutions are designed to work exclusively within the context of the current government school monopoly. Like Bill Gates’ efforts to improve K-12 education by throwing money at government-run schools, Intel’s efforts are destined to fail to have any long-standing or widespread impact.
You’d think that corporate guys would figure it out. The key to their success is the fact that they have to compete to make a better product or some other company will take their market share and they’ll lose money. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that many business types actually understand how the market system actually works. Thus, when it comes to reforming something like education, they don’t see the big-picture problems and incentives as necessary to their success.
This is the stuff of college theses and grand intellectual inquiries, but what we ultimately need is education reform that demands schools compete as if they were the next Intel or Microsoft. After all, even a flawed Vista operating system is forced to compete with Apple. Our schools face no real competition.