Friday, September 25, 2009

Lunch with Tom Vander Ark and Karen Vander Ark

Many thanks to Tom and Karen Vander Ark of Revolution Learning and Vander Ark / Ratcliff, respectively.

We had lunch overlooking the water in downtown Seattle and the view was great, the acronyms were flying (SES, NCLB, etc.) and the ideas were pinging off the iced tea glasses with shocking frequency.

Tom and Karen and I talked about where the for-profit world sits in the eyes of the government, and, from an operational and investor's point of view, we looked at the different types of capital that can be deployed in education.

There seem to be some fundamental questions that are up in the air at this moment about the direction the national education system is going, and a central project on Tom's mind is how capital can be inserted into that infrastructure to achieve the returns that are always necessary in investing and business, as well as to achieve the right relationship and operational structures that make education excellent.

I have to say that I was surprised that Tom was a blogger. I guess I knew that in the back of my head, and when he mentioned it, it dawned on me that, yes, in fact, Tom blogged in his former role as President of the X-Prize Foundation.

But he also blogs now. You can read Tom Vander Ark's blog at Huffington Post.

Here's a blog about the Washington Education Association, which I think clearly relates Tom's views on what he sees as a major sticking point in education -- working deftly to cooperate with or succeed in investing in education despite the unions:

Even though strikes by public employees are illegal, the WEA picks a few districts in key media markets and runs strikes every year just to remind local and state officials who's really in charge. The Kent strike is supposedly because teachers don't want to meet with their principal more than once a week; they're trying to spin this as 'more time with the children'--please. They also mention class size, but that's a red herring in a state with equalized funding and big budget deficits. This isn't about issues; it's about power.

Tom will be giving a keynote address at the Education Industry Investment Forum March 1-3, 2010.

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