Sunday, June 23, 2013

Do Big Corporations in Delaware really want well-educated employees and great schools?

I started thinking about this when I was doing the last, pretty acid, post on Governor Markell pretending that what big corporations wanted Delaware to do was invest in public education so that they would get better entry-level employees.

So I thought about testing it out.  I took one of the corporate welfare queens that Markell's budget targeted from an investment from the Strategic took a look at Amazon corporate and distribution centers across the country.

Then I cross-listed them against Education Week's current Quality Counts rating of that state's public schools.

Here's what I got:

Amazon locations (State's education rating on a 1-50 scale):
Washington (39)
Arizona (5)
Nevada (49)
New York (3)
Virginia (4)
California (35)
Delaware (19)
Indiana (20)
Kansas (36)
Kentucky (10)
New Hampshire (25)
Pennsylvania (18)
South Carolina (26)
Tennessee (22)
Texas (14)
North Dakota (27)
West Virginia (9) 
The average education ranking of a state in which Amazon places a corporate facility is 21.  And there appears no particular rhyme or reason to the place with respect to educational quality.  You could argue for numbers 3, 4, and 5 in New York, Virginia, and Arizona, but the company makes its corporate headquarters in Washington--#39.

This kind of research is a bit more difficult for the other corporate welfare queens in Delaware, but it is possible to look at what corporate research says about the issue:
According to data released in 2012 by Area Development magazine, the top 10 site selection criteria are:1. Labor costs 2. State and local incentives3. Highway accessibiity4. Availability of skilled labor5. Energy availability and costs6. Proximity to major markets7. Tax exemptions8. Occupancy or construction costs9. Corporate tax rate10. Availability of buildings

Notice the items that I have highlighted in bold:  items #2, 7, and 9 are all in the Jack Markell "use your tax dollars to lure corporations" category.  Item #10 might also be in that category if the State is involved.

Only Item #4 [Availability of skilled labor] is even indirectly related to education in corporate decisions to locate--and "skilled labor" is not the same as "entry level employees."

In other words, looked at from the corporate perspective it may make a great deal of sense to put out a lot of publicity about why corporations want a good educational system, but the reality is that this not really how it plays out in the boardroom.

I'd actually guess that the only education issue that plays any significant role in corporate decision-making about location is whether or not there are sufficient strong educational choices available for upper-middle and upper management types for their own children.

Given that this class of folks on the corporate ladder is still predominantly white and upper-middle class to affluent, I suspect that Delaware's current mix of non-publics, charters and magnets, supplemented by school choice, is just about spot on what they want.

Which goes a long way to explain Governor Markell's strategy for "reforming" education in Delaware, because whether he articulates it honestly or not, Jack knows exactly what corporations want.

You see:  Kraft General Foods, or Citi, or JP Morgan Chase, or Amazon, or whoever INC really don't give a good crap about how excellent the inner city schools in Wilmington or the rural schools in Slower Lower are, just as long as they can find a good education for their kids. 

[Remember, with truth in advertising, this is known as "pandora's law."]

It is, I suppose, possible that small businesses and entrepreneurs in Delaware are all upset because entry-level graduates cannot read or cipher, but I seriously doubt it.

Remember, with unemployment still at above 7% here and in neighboring states, it is an employers' market in terms of jobs.  There are plenty of literate entry-level folks around.  I meet DSU graduates managing fast-food restaurants and car rental offices and the like all the time.

Moral of story:  the whole "corporations want great education" meme is a self-serving myth.

I've suddenly realized that Vision 2012, Vision 2015, and Vision 2020 HAVE NOT FAILED.

They have given Paul Herdman and his corporate buddies exactly what they wanted in the first place:  a great education for the only kids who really matter to them.


Nancy Willing said...

Good post. We've had adequate private schools here in DE especially in NCC. But they cost money. It's fair to say that the private parochial school system is being decimated by free charters.

I agree that the charter movement assures that there will be publicly-funded private school 'quality' education for those kids who 'qualify'.

Citizen said...

The lotteries for several of the exclusive charters still pose an obstacle for the managerial class--no guarantee of admission (~1 in 9 odds in some cases). This is why outside oversight of those lotteries is so impt., it seems to me. The pressure to admit particular children, perhaps in exchange for corporate contributions, must be high. There is an unsupervised, pre-lottery admission process in which children with special preferences, e.g. Siblings, are admitted. The public lottery is for remaining spots. It would not be at all difficult, from what I understand, to add a few favored employees' kids to that pre-lottery admission (and thereby win the backing of their employers). This process should be overseen by a disinterested party, in the public interest.

I base my understanding of the lottery from the NCS process, but I think it is similar at other charters. CSW is different, and perhaps even more structurally advantageous for the privileged and well-connected. We were better off, as a state, when these people paid tuition for their kiddos.

Toni said...

This is cool!