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Accountability Meets the Corporate Achievement Gap

Publication Date: 2008-08-17

from Transforming Education, Aug. 15, 2008.

Teachers, start fighting back. Pass on this commentary.



The Associated Press ran a story on August 12, 2008, citing a report from the Government Accountability Office that revealed that two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005. About 25 percent of the U.S. corporations not paying corporate taxes were considered large corporations, meaning they had at least $250 million in assets or $50 million in receipts. And, according to the report, about 68 percent of foreign companies doing business in the U.S. avoided corporate taxes altogether over the same period.

How ironic in the age of No Child Left Behind that the GAO - the Government Accountability Office - would be the one that would point out corporate America's lack of accountability when it came time to paying the bills in this country.

It's clear to me that we have a Corporate Achievement Gap here. What is the Corporate Achievement Gap? The Corporate Achievement Gap is the difference between what taxpayers paid into the general coffers -- for roads and bridges, for schools and fire trucks -- and what 25 percent of U.S. corporations did not put in. This gap is an achievement gap because it underscores the potential for achievement if only these corporations would help fill this gap.

But they are simply not doing their part, not shouldering their load, not paying their dues.

Right now, the US federal government pays for between 7 and 10 percent of the total budget for public preK-12 education. The other 90 to 93 percent is paid for by state and local taxpayers.

Imagine, if you would, what kind of impact there would be if the US federal government doubled its current investment in public education from about 10 percent to 20 percent. Imagine the difference this could make.

In his amazing book Class and Schools, Richard Rothstein wrote:


All told, adding the price of health, early childhood, after-school, and summer programs, (the) down payment on closing the achievement gap would probably increase the annual cost of education, for children who attend schools where at least 40% of the enrolled children have low incomes, by about $12,500 per pupil, over and above the $8,000 already being spent. In total, this means about a $156 billion added annual national cost to provide these programs to low-income children.

These are 2003 - 2004 data, and they're probably not completely accurate. But these numbers at least give you an idea of what it might take to actually close the educational achievement gap. They give you the sense that closing the educational achievement gap might actually be something that could be done.

But before we can close the educational achievement gap, we must first close the Corporate Achievement Gap.

Teachers and schools are being held accountable. It's time to start holding corporations accountable, too. We must demand that they contribute to the health and well-being of the country by paying their fair share.


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