A group of top-ranking business executives strongly urged Congressional leaders last week to increase funding for the federal Chapter 1 program.
In what Representative Augustus Hawkins, Democrat of California, hailed as an “historic’’ event, senior officers from five major corporations issued a ringing endorsement of the program at a March 16 joint hearing before House and Senate education subcommittees.
Mr. Hawkins, chairman of the full House Education and Labor Committee and its subcommittee on elementary, secondary, and vocational education, said the hearing marked the first time in his recollection that members of the business community had testified jointly in support of the compensatory-education program.
“Let’s hope this is the start of a beautiful friendship,’' he said.
The hearings brought together members of the House panel and the Senate subcommittee on education, arts, and the humanities. The panels are drafting legislation that would reauthorize Chapter 1 and several other federal precollegiate-education efforts.
In their remarks, the five corporate leaders called for additional “investments’’ in the Chapter 1 program, which provides remedial instruction to about 5 million poor and educationally disadvantaged children.
“I hope you will be generous with today’s authorizations, because you are setting the level of tomorrow’s payoffs,’' said William S. Woodside, chairman of the American Can Company.
“The need for the Chapter 1 program may be greater now than at any time in the last 20 years,’' the business leaders said in a joint statement. Demographic and technological changes, they warned, are threatening to create a labor force in which many poor and minority workers will lack the skills needed to compete in the global marketplace.
“As we pass through this [economic] transition, such programs as Chapter 1 are essential,’' said Charles W. Parry, chairman of the Aluminum Corporation of America.
Mr. Woodside, the new chairman of the Institute for Educational Leadership Inc., a Washington-based leadership academy and research center, played a key role in bringing together the panel that testified before the two subcommittees, according to a House staff member. Through its corporate foundation, the American Can Company supports several education-research efforts.
Mr. Whiteside and Mr. Parry were joined in their testimony by William S. Edgerly, chairman of the State Street Bank and Trust Company of Boston; Charles Marshall, vice chairman of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company; and Gerald D. Foster, vice president of the Pacific Telesis Group.
Although each of the businessmen expressed support for programs such as Chapter 1, they declined to endorse specific spending levels for those efforts. In its fiscal 1988 budget proposal, the Reagan Administration requested a $200-million increase for Chapter 1.
“While we do not know the precise level of funding that should be set, we urge you to consider the continuing costs that will be the consequence of leaving unserved half of the children who are eligible but not now helped’’ by the Chapter 1 program, the five executives said in their statement.
At a press briefing before the hearing, Mr. Woodside called for a tax increase to ease budgetary pressures on Chapter 1 and other domestic programs caused by the federal deficit. He stressed, however, that he spoke for himself and not for the group.
Expanded Role for Business
Other members of the group stressed, in addition, the need for businesses to work directly with school officials to develop new programs that do not depend on federal support.
“You can’t be satisfied with just paying your taxes and letting somebody else do the job,’' said Mr. Foster. “We have a lot of resources in the private sector, and we have to bring those to bear.’'
Mr. Edgerly pointed to the success of the Boston Compact, a cooperative program developed by school leaders and members of the local business community. Under the compact, Mr. Edgerly said, local businesses have promised to provide entry-level jobs to disadvantaged students who agree to complete high school.
Mr. Woodside, however, warned against over-reliance on such programs as a substitute for basic support from the state, local, and federal governments.
“There is simply no way that the private business community can replace public funding and solve the problems of the education system,’' he said. “That goes way beyond what any company or any group of companies can provide.’'
A version of this article appeared in the March 25, 1987 edition of Education Week as Businessmen Urge Greater Support for Chapter 1 Program