Forty-three of the top business executives in Illinois sat down together recently to talk strategy. But they weren't discussing how to raise profit margins and encourage corporate efficiency, but rather how to improve reading, writing, and mathematics instruction in the state's schools.
Led by executives of such companies as State Farm Insurance and Motorola Inc., the business leaders met on March 26 to begin hammering out the elements of a unified education agenda--something they have never before tried to do.
The executives understand how the quality of schools affects their employees, customers, and the economic well-being of the state, said Richard Laine, the director of educational policy and initiatives for the Chicago-based Illinois Business Leaders Roundtable.
They also know how to push a political agenda.
"They realize that education is as political an issue as anything else," Mr. Laine said. "They're looking at how to think strategy in education like you do in the business world."
Members of the group plan to meet with state leaders, including Republican Gov. George Ryan, in coming months. A preliminary draft of the agenda suggests the executives are pushing for a system of rigorous standards and accountability, as well as expanded opportunities for early education and community involvement.
More than 20 high school and junior high students who belong to the grassroots anti-smoking group Smokefree Indiana rallied in the Indiana Capitol late last month to encourage lawmakers to, as they put it, "end regulatory hairsplitting and ban smoking at the Statehouse outright."
Smoking is banned in the Capitol building in Indianapolis most of the year--with the exception of the four months when the legislature is in session. That's when the public hallways outside the House and Senate chambers on the third and fourth floors, as well as private offices, turn into havens for smokers.
Smokefree Indiana is hoping lawmakers will make the Capitol a smoke-free building year round, but that has not happened yet, said Mike Magan, the media director of the 1,000-member Smokefree Indiana.
He said he was confident there would be an extension of the Capitol's part-year smoking ban by the end of the legislative session on April 29.
--Jessica L Sandham & Adrienne D. Coles
Vol. 18, Issue 30, Page 20