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UC Berkeley Press Release

MBA students focus on education finances

– MBA students at the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business will host the Education Leadership Case Competition, the first of its kind at a business school in the United States, on Thursday and Friday, March 1-2. The competition will focus on a new financial plan for the Oakland Unified School District, which has been in state receivership since 2003 due to financial troubles.

Organized by the Haas Leadership in Education Club, the event will bring together MBA students from UC Berkeley, University of Southern California, UCLA, Northwestern University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brandeis University and University of Georgia.

Barak Ben-Gal, a Stanford MBA graduate, has been leading the 40,000-student Oakland district's effort to reform school finances since 2004. He was assigned there as a graduate of the Broad Residency in Urban Education, which seeks graduates from top business, law and public policy schools, to participate in professional development sessions while working full-time in school districts.

"Now, more than ever, the public education industry needs leadership that can use sharp business skills to turn bureaucracies into efficient, effective organizations so all possible resources go to the classroom," said Eli Broad, founder of the Broad Foundation, which is one of the nation's largest education-focused philanthropic organizations and funds the Broad Residency in Urban Education.

Competition judges will include Ben-Gal, Professor Bill Ouchi of UCLA's Anderson School of Management and author of "Making Schools Work," Misha Simmonds, associate partner for the NewSchools Venture Fund, and Brendan Cullen, managing director for Education Pioneers.

Anna Utgoff, a Haas School 2007 MBA, developed the idea for the competition with classmates in the Haas Leadership in Education Club.

"We started the competition because we wanted to expose MBAs to the really interesting strategic challenges faced by leaders who manage school districts," she said. "This year we hope to provide Oakland with some good ideas for how to make its schools stronger, and we'll get some talented MBAs excited about careers in education in the process."

Some seven California school districts, including four in Northern California, have been taken over by the state since 1991. Nearly 30 districts or county education boards have been warned by the state Department of Education about their weak financial state beginning in 2005-2006 and continuing through 2007-2008.

The competition will start at noon on Thursday in the Haas School's Wells Fargo Room with a discussion with Ben-Gal about his budget reforms. Teams will present their strategies to the judges starting at 9 a.m. Friday, and the winners will be announced at noon.

The program, sponsored by Bank of the West, is open to the public. Interested parties should R.S.V.P. to haas.elcc@gmail.com.

Representatives from the media wishing to attend or to speak to competition organizers, Ben-Gal, or others should contact Ute Frey at the Haas School of Business at 510-642-0342 or at frey@haas.berkeley.edu.

For more information, visit: http://groups.haas.berkeley.edu/education/ELCC/index.html.