Get Schooled Initiative Launches - Aimed at Broadening Americans' Engagement in Solving the Education Crisis

Sep 08, 2009
By ViacomCBS Staff

Initiative Releases Poll Revealing Vast Majority of Americans Do Not Believe U.S. Education System is World's Best, Have Concerns Over Its Impact on the Nation's Economy

Viacom (NYSE: VIA and VIA.B) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with initiative partners AT&T, Capital One Financial Corporation and NYSE Euronext, today launched Get Schooled with a national broadcast and an education conference at the Paramount Pictures lot. The five-year initiative aims to generate greater awareness and engagement in addressing the nation's education crisis and to offer practical resources and support to students.

"We couldn't be having this conversation at a better time," said Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Gates Foundation. "The education crisis is damaging our ability to compete in the global economy, and we need to do more to engage all Americans - from policymakers and corporate leaders to families and young people - in our efforts to support students in completing their education and achieving their dreams."

The Get Schooled initiative also announced today the results of a poll conducted by The Winston Group showing that an overwhelming percentage of Americans believe that the United States is lagging behind other nations when it comes to the quality of education. Eighty-one percent of survey respondents said that they do not believe that the United States has the best public education system in the world. Eighty-nine percent believe that if American students are not receiving as good of an education as their overseas counterparts, it will have a negative effect on the American economy.

"We are committed to raising awareness and, even more importantly, to converting that awareness into action," said Philippe Dauman, President and CEO of Viacom. "Improving the workforce readiness of America's upcoming generations is a business imperative. By 2020, our nation may be short 14 million college-educated workers, and the trends are moving against us. The cost to the U.S. economy of students unprepared to enter college and the workforce is estimated at close to $4 billion dollars annually in lost wages and remedial education costs. But the long-term cost is exponentially greater."

From 2006 to 2016 there will be more than two million new jobs created requiring at least an associate degree or postsecondary training, according to the New Democratic Leadership Council. However, the reality is that two-thirds of American ninth graders will not be prepared for college within four years, and half of those who actually go to college will never earn a degree.

"Investing in a well-educated workforce may be the single most important thing we can do to help the U.S. remain a leader in the global economy," said Charlene Lake, Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer for AT&T. "If we come together as business leaders, policymakers, parents and as a community, we can ensure that today's students have the skills and knowledge for meaningful careers, and that American businesses have a deep and diverse talent pool from which to hire. AT&T is proud to be a partner in Get Schooled."

As part of Get Schooled's mission to foster a national dialogue on education issues, AT&T is organizing "screening parties" and discussions around the premiere of the TV broadcast of Get Schooled: You Have the Right. Local events, organized with community partners, will take place in 14 cities across the nation.

"NYSE Euronext is proud to partner with all the sponsors of the Get Schooled initiative. Improving America's education system is critically important to the future of our children and our prosperity," said Duncan L. Niederauer, CEO of NYSE Euronext. "To continue developing future generations of innovators and investors, we must ensure that our young people are equipped with the necessary skills to compete in the global marketplace and succeed in life. At NYSE Euronext, we have a long-standing commitment to financial literacy, and we are pleased to offer our expertise and brand behind this great initiative."

"At Capital One we recognize that one of the most important investments we can make in the future is an investment in education," said Carolyn Berkowitz, President of Capital One Foundation and Vice President for Community Affairs at Capital One. "We are proud to support programs like Get Schooled to help reinforce the importance of financial literacy. Our goal is to help give students a solid foundation of money management knowledge and skills so that they can make wise financial choices in the future."

The launch of Get Schooled, at the Paramount Pictures lot, includes a conference featuring a line-up of distinguished speakers: Bill Gates, Philippe Dauman, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller, filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, author and political columnist Arianna Huffington, New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein and Los Angeles-area High School Athletic Director Stephen Minix. The education conference will be attended by an audience of almost one thousand - including corporate and nonprofit partners, students, thought leaders, celebrities and other education stakeholders. Its goal is to highlight fresh perspectives on ways to dramatically increase high school graduation rates and college completion rates. The speakers will draw from their personal and professional experiences, sharing insights on how to ensure that all students receive a top-notch education and are ready to compete in a global marketplace.

The launch events on the Paramount Pictures lot also include the premiere of the Get Schooled: You Have the Right documentary featuring President Barack Obama, Kelly Clarkson and LeBron James, and three professionals who work alongside them, which will air across all of Viacom's U.S. networks, including BET, MTV, VH1, CMT, Comedy Central, Spike TV, TV Land and Nickelodeon, at 8 p.m. Eastern/Pacific and 7 p.m. Central.



"A third of American students drop out of high school. . . and fewer than 1 in 4 of those who remain are ready for college when they graduate. That means that out of 100 kids entering high school, a mere 16 graduate ready for college.

"That's bad news for American students, and it's bad news for the American economy. Because, to put it plainly, a high school diploma is no longer a ticket to the American dream. More than half of all new jobs will require at least some college according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the median wage for workers with no college is now close to the poverty line for a family of four. College is the new high school. And yet 8 out of 10 African Americans and nearly 9 out of 10 Latinos do not earn a bachelors degree in the U.S."


"The President has said repeatedly that the nation that out-teaches us today will out-compete us tomorrow. We cannot allow that to happen. We won't allow that to happen."


"For years, the conversation around public education has been that we as a nation will never fix our schools until we fix poverty. That is so backwards. So we have to change the conversation. The real truth is, we will never fix poverty in America until we fix our schools. I know this, not just from my work over the past seven years in New York City, but from my own life story."

"Our teachers have one of the most difficult and one of the most important jobs in the world. We should support them, while also realizing that they are not all equally effective. That's why we must insist upon real accountability for our educators."

Davis Guggenheim

"I believe the public education system in America is in crisis, and we are failing too many children. We as members of the media and the entertainment industry have to do a better job of engaging people and connecting to what's at stake: literally the lives of our children, and the soul of our country."


"Maybe instead of calling for an exorcist any time the words "competition," or "choice" are used in connection to education, we can start singing hosannas for an idea that preserves what is truly public in public education - the government, i.e. the public, paying for it - while allowing creativity and innovation to flourish."


"The kids at Locke are an inspiration to me. They are proof that the resiliency of youth combined with the efforts of educators and the community make for an unstoppable force. I challenge you as leaders in your professional fields to continue this trend. What can you do to help right the ship? It is imperative that we all put our efforts into improving the educational experiences for our most needy kids. This will result in a more prepared and educated future for our country."


The Winston Group survey of 1,000 voters nationwide probed Americans' views about education. The telephone survey was conducted Aug. 23-27, 2009 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.


Get Schooled is a national program that connects, inspires and mobilizes people - from policymakers and corporate leaders to communities and kids - to find effective solutions to the problems facing our education system. It provides resources and information, community outreach and creative programming that engage a range of audiences to address America's education crisis. Get Schooled's co-developers are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Viacom, including BET Networks, MTV Networks and Paramount Pictures. The initiative combines the Foundation's deep knowledge of education reform with the power of Viacom's diverse brands to raise awareness about the challenges facing America's public education system and provide information and solutions for students and their families.

To find out more about Get Schooled and the initiative's groundbreaking national television premiere airing today, visit

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Maria Figueroa Kupcu, +1-212-333-3810
Katie Foley, +1-917-257-4730
Jeremy Zweig, +1-212-846-7503
Paramount Pictures
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Gates Foundation