Andre Peek and Mike Mitchell: Education, business must unite for excellence

December 12, 2013 

Your Nov. 29 editorial “Strong voices” pointed out that business can’t survive and prosper without properly educated people. The editorial went on to criticize Gov. Pat McCrory for not advocating to business leaders on behalf of public schools and early education as Gov. Jim Hunt did. That criticism isn’t accurate.

At a meeting in June, both McCrory and Hunt called on the N.C. Business Committee for Education’s business membership – which includes some of the most trusted names in business from every region in the state – to work together with educators to create a globally competitive skilled workforce. Their joint message is crystal clear: Education and business must collaborate in the quest for education excellence.

In fact, both governors made videos on the importance of collaboration between education and business that are posted on our website, NCBCE, a nonprofit organization, was created by Hunt three decades ago and continues to be used by McCrory. This organization provides strong business voices to inform education decisions at the highest levels with a tradition of working with and advising the education and political leaders of our state.

NCBCE is a nonpartisan organization that works with our business members to create grassroots regional education projects that successfully link businesses to students and education leadership. Initiatives like Students@Work reach into all 100 North Carolina counties to provide career awareness experiences that affect more than 30,000 middle school students every year. We work with education partners across the state (N.C. DPI, N.C. Chamber, N.C. New Schools, Communities in Schools, Citizen Schools and more) to strengthen these projects.

McCrory called business leaders back to the education table as soon as he took office in January. Importantly, he reconvened the Education Cabinet with 19 of NCBCE’s business members at the decision-making table, designing proposals to create dynamic and systemic change for education in our state.

This has been a challenging year for education in North Carolina. The education issues being discussed right now with business leaders, teachers and education leaders include teacher compensation, early childhood development, career pathways for educators, technology and education, replication of best practices and more. NCBCE and our education partners are months into this work, and we look forward to working with McCrory and his team to deliver results.

North Carolina has made positive strides in some areas of education, and there are strong examples of excellence where our students’ achievements are exceeding the national average. NCBCE is working with our education partners to research and replicate the shining stars of “Best Practices” and to create projects that directly connect classroom experiences to business needs. More than ever, business leaders understand that time is of the essence. The N.C. Business Committee for Education will continue its commitment to teachers and students as we invest, inspire and innovate!

Andre Peek

Chairman of IBM, NCBCE vice chairman, Wake Forest

Mike Mitchell

NCBCE vice chairman, Raleigh

The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the editorial.

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