Raleigh business leaders talk innovative education

Posted May 19, 2011 4:34 p.m. EDT
Updated May 19, 2011 4:51 p.m. EDT

— Wake County business leaders gathered Thursday morning to talk about the impact of local schools on economic success.

The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce hosted the education forum at Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh to discuss innovation in education and how the business community can play a part.

"Our public school system is a real asset for us," Chamber President Harvey Schmitt said. "It helps us recruit companies to the area, it helps us recruit talent to the area, and ultimately talent is what drives job creation."

Gov. Bev Perdue and Wake County Public School System Superintendent Tony Tata were among those in attendance.

The governor noted the importance of having good public schools when it comes to recruiting new companies and jobs to the area.

That's a concern among businesses, worried about how recent policy changes and budget issues in the Wake County school system might affect the local economy.

"I've been very concerned about the image of our public school system," said Brenda Berg, a small-business owner who works internationally to manufacture and distribute children's products.

"We've had a lot of attention on Wake County, and now there is a lot of attention on our state because our budget's being slashed. In a time when we really need to focus on innovation, we don't have the money to do so."

Berg said she was hopeful after hearing Perdue and Tata talk about their commitment to continue improving the school systems.

The Wake County school board is embroiled in controversy over a student assignment policy that shifts from a longstanding practice of busing students to help keep schools economically diverse to a policy that bases assignment on where a student lives.

Tata reiterated the importance of the education system when it comes to local businesses and what it means to recruiting new ones.

"The school system here is the main attraction," Tata said. "We have to keep it that way. We have to make it better. We have to get innovative."