In 1976, Tom Bloch joined H&R Block, the world's largest tax services provider, where his father was CEO. In 1981, after introducing automation to the company's office network, he was elected President of the Tax Operations. Later, he oversaw the company's innovative practice of filing tax returns electronically to the IRS, which revolutionized the industry. Bloch was promoted to President of the corporation in 1989 and CEO in 1992. His second career began in 1995 as a middle school math teacher at St. Francis Xavier, an inner city parochial school. Five years later, he co-founded the University Academy, a public charter school in Kansas City. Bloch continues to teach 7th and 8th grade math at the urban college prep school he helped design and launch. He is also President of the school's board. The Academy has grown from 200 students in grades seven through nine in its first year to over 1,000 students in kindergarten through grade twelve. The school moved into a new, $40 million facility in 2005, and it became the first school in Missouri to receive a ten-year extension of its charter. Over the last five years, all but two graduates of the Academy have gone on to attend college, an almost unheard-of success rate for an urban school. Bloch is the author of Stand for the Best, a memoir about his journey from CEO to inner city teacher and school founder. He graduated cum laude in 1976 from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California.
Tom Bloch: My concern is that the United States education system used to be the top one in the world. Today, there are over 20 countries, over 20 developed countries in the world in which student achievement is higher than in the United States. So it tells me that we’ve got a real job on our hands, and I know today, if you did a poll on the street, most people would say if we have a crisis in this country, it’s the financial crisis that we’re experiencing.
Before that, maybe they would say it was the energy crisis, and possibly others would say it’s the war in Iraq, but I would suggest that longer-term, the real problem, the most urgent problem that we will be facing is our education system and being competitive in this world. And so, that’s why I think we have got to address the quality of our public education system. But kids are kids, and I think my experience whether you come from an affluent or from an impoverished background, every kid really wants to succeed, and it’s up to us to provide the kind of education that will allow that child to reach his or her dreams.
Recorded on: October 13, 2008