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Business Organizations Focus on Common Core This Week

By guest blogger Sean Cavanagh
Cross-posted from Marketplace K-12

The common-core standards have been kicked around a bit at the state level recently, but they would appear to be in line for a boost inside the Beltway this week as a pair of leading business organizations that support those academic benchmarks convene, with education high on the agenda.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, both of which have been vocal backers of the standards, will stage separate events at which the common core is expected to be discussed.

The quarterly meeting of the Business Roundtable, an organization made up of more than 200 top CEOS from around the country, is scheduled for Wednesday. Among the participants will be U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a supporter of the standards, as well as a pair of former Republican governors, Jeb Bush of Florida and Mitch Daniels of Indiana, who back the standards, too. President Obama is scheduled to address the group, though the White House declined to say how much of his remarks would be devoted to school topics.

Amanda DeBard, a spokeswoman for the roundtable, said the organization's policy is to keep discussions at its meetings private, though she added that the common core is among the education topics on the menu. A spokesman for Duncan said his remarks would be broad, touching on how the business community can support education overall—not just on standards, but also early education, and controlling college costs, an issue of interest to the administration.

The former Florida governor, whose education policies have served as a launching pad for many Republican governors' K-12 agendas around the country, would talk about issues including digital learning, early literacy, and the common core, and urge business leaders to "make sure they're engaged in their states and at the national level," said Jaryn Emhof, a spokeswoman for Bush.

The standards will get top billing, meanwhile, at an event being held by the "Connecting the Dots: Education, Policy, Workforce," to be held Tuesday. The speakers include a number of corporate executives, as well as former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and Tennessee's Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

One of the goals of the meeting was to urge business officials to rally behind policies that will help schools and colleges produce more job-ready workers, and the common-core standards are a "huge piece of that," said Cheryl Oldham, vice president of education policy at the chamber.

Oldham said the chamber is well aware of the resistance to the standards, including among conservatives traditionally aligned with much of her organization's vision for helping businesses. But she vowed that the chamber would make an aggressive and sustained push to make a case for the standards in the time ahead.

"The business community has been advocating for this for a long time," and the common core has hold, Oldham said. "We're going to do what we can to make sure it remains."

Many business officials see the previous discrepancies among state standards as nonsensical, she said. "We're such as mobile country now," she said. "What you're learning in Oklahoma ought to be the same as what you're learning in Massachusetts, for math at the 4th grade level."

The chamber's outreach to the public and policymakers will include working with its extensive network at the state and local levels, Oldham predicted. "More to come," she said.

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