Monday, March 26, 2012

AT&T sets its sights on education in SC


Another corporate giant has discovered that there are potentially billions of dollars to be made once South Carolina converts all of its public schools to private alternatives, and it's laying down a big, fat marker on those future profits.

From Midlands Biz comes the announcement:

As access to skilled workers becomes increasingly vital to the U.S. economy, AT&T is launching a quarter-billion-dollar campaign to help more students graduate from high school ready for careers and college, and to ensure the country is better prepared to meet global competition.

Let's be candid, shall we? No corporate behemoth gets into education for altruistic purposes; any semblance of humanity is wrenched from a corporate entity far before it reaches global proportions. When we get to this point, every move represents a step toward profit.

So the happy-talk about increasing high-school graduation rates is likely a subterfuge. I wager that someone, somewhere has divined that a telecommunications company will be perfectly positioned to benefit from a private-sector fund stream at some future date if it puts down roots now.

After all, why should Gates and Broad have all the fun? This is a pretty big pie, and there'll be plenty of lucre for everyone.


“Education is the key to unlock the future for young people and help them reach their potential,” said Pamela Lackey, President, South Carolina. “It will take all of us working together and supporting educators’ hard work to continue to improve graduation rates and preparedness for careers and college. American business has an enormous stake in the success of our students. It’s time to commit more innovation and resources to the task.”

According to a March 19, 2012 report by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, South Carolina has seen a 8.1 percentage increase in 2009 graduation rates, compared with data from 2002.

AT&T Aspire, already among the most significant U.S. corporate educational initiatives with more than $100 million invested since 2008, will tackle high school success and college/career readiness for students at-risk of dropping out of high school through a much larger, “socially innovative” approach. Social innovation goes beyond traditional philanthropy – which typically involves only charitable giving – to also engage people and technology to bring different approaches, new solutions and added resources to challenging social problems. The Aspire effort already has impacted more than one million U.S. high school students, helping them prepare for success in the workplace and college.

The greatly expanded effort centers on a new, $250 million financial commitment planned over 5 years. AT&T Aspire will build on that commitment by using technology to connect with students in new and more effective ways, such as with interactive gamification, Web-based content and social media. The company will also tap the innovation engine of the AT&T Foundry to look for fresh or atypical approaches to educational obstacles. Finally, AT&T Aspire will capitalize on the power of personal connections in the form of mentoring, internships and other voluntary efforts that involve many of AT&T’s approximately 260,000 employees.

Between now and April 18, 2012, AT&T is also encouraging South Carolina organizations to submit applications to pre-qualify for funding through the Local High School Impact Initiative Requests for Proposals (RFPs).

There it is; the trap is baited and set.

Now, who will take the offer?

The new and expanded AT&T commitment builds on the work AT&T Aspire has completed in the last four years. AT&T and the AT&T Foundation have invested more than $100 million in Aspire since 2008 – and more than $923 million since 1984 in education. The South Carolina Aspire investment has amounted to $1.6 million since 2008. Organizations that have benefited include Junior Achievement Job Shadow, the United Way Family Engagement Program, and the ‘My Idea’ program with America’s Promise Alliance.

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