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May 09, 2001 1 min read
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Training Congress

Commuters and tourists shuffling through the Washington-area Metrorail system are getting a dose of education lobbying this spring.

As they make their way toward the escalator at the Union Station subway stop, just a couple of blocks from the Capitol, they are greeted by the usual sampling of placards pitching everything from the District of Columbia lottery to Lufthansa Airlines. But there is also an ad featuring three enthusiastic young students and a bold-face headline: “The Futures Market.”

It takes reading the fine print—about two paragraphs—to get the core message, that Congress should pass an education bill requiring high standards and annual testing, among other provisions. The poster is one of several posted at strategically located Metro stations by the Business Roundtable, a coalition of corporate CEOs.

“Our nation’s classrooms are America’s true futures market— where a commitment today will yield individual and national prosperity tomorrow,” the ad intones.

As Congress and the White House haggle over an education bill, this is one of the less orthodox vehicles lobbyist are using to shape the final deal. The business group also has sponsored ads in Roll Call and Congress Daily, two news publications that cover Capitol Hill.

“It’s another way to get our message out,” said John Schachter, a Business Roundtable spokesman. The ads are aimed at the “policymaking audience,” he said, including lawmakers, their staffs, and Bush administration members. He conceded that probably more staff aides than lawmakers will see the ads.

Members of Congress get free parking near the Capitol, so bumping into one on the train is about as likely as spotting an oil tanker on the Potomac. But the ads could reach at least one influential member of the 535- person target audience: Senate education committee Chairman James M. Jeffords, R-Vt. Sen. Jeffords takes the subway “a couple times a week,” his spokesman, Erik Smulson, said last week.

—Erik W. Robelen

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A version of this article appeared in the May 09, 2001 edition of Education Week

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