THE BLOG

The Business of Education -- It Doesn't Have to Be Expensive to Make a Difference

Apr 13, 2009 | Updated May 25, 2011

President Obama's approach to education reform is good for our country and, because it's basically a $100 billion marketing campaign for all things having to do with learning, I'm pretty sure it's good for my business. Once the funds and the programs they will enable start rolling, there is no business and no family in this country that won't benefit a great deal from the dramatic improvements that should come from the solutions he has proposed to address the challenges we face in this arena.

LeapFrog has been in what we call the "Learning Business" since 1995 and was built around the core idea that kids have to learn to read to be successful. Over the last ten years we have sold tens of millions of technology-based products that help kids learn -- and in all of those years, we've never built a product that costs more than $100, most are less than half that amount.

I am a huge supporter of the President's education initiatives and agree that changes are needed that require investment. We need our kids to be the world's best educated kids, and we should not settle for less. But, I also want to remind all of those in the administration that are working to get this thing done, and all of those in the education community that will utilize these funds, that neither technology, nor innovation, nor teacher standards have to cost a lot. Sure, funds are going to be required, but its going to be far more important that we have leadership focused on the successful implementation of these programs, and that we have the resolve to maintain a great education system for our children. Finding the technology and finding proven ideas, that is the easy part.

We know that parents and teachers want new, engaging ways to help kids learn and develop a love for learning. In 1999, we invented a reading product called the LeapPad which was sold to over 30 million consumers. Many of whom were teachers who used their own money to buy our products as supplemental classroom materials. Their belief in our products helped us establish years of research proving the efficacy of technologies like ours to enhance core reading fluency. We believe that it was their endorsement, and the support of millions of parents, that has made us among the most trusted educational brands today.

We've learned a lot since the late 90's, including how to improve the learn-to-read experience for today's digitally-minded learners. We've developed an even better product that connects to the Web, called Tag. With this product and many others, we embed free software called the Learning Path that evaluates a child's reading progress, and can send out the information to teachers, parents, and school administrations. Now that is progress in education.

My point is not to sell our stuff -- parents are buying our products at a good clip regardless of the President's programs. My point is that this country can make a lot happen in education -- if we have the resolve to make it happen. We should set our goals as high as another famous President's "go to the moon" goal, and let's do it for education. I absolutely agree with the President's "rewards will outweigh the short-term risks" approach to education reform. I welcome his vision for high standards, and high performance, and innovation in our schools, and his readiness to steer the funds to the solutions that will make it happen. Happen it can, and happen it should. And our experience over the last 10 years demonstrates that the technology part of these programs doesn't have to cost a lot, to matter a lot.

Let's make it happen. And let's get started today.