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December 10, 1999

Chairman Bijur calls on business to defend high standards in education
Former Governor Carey backs appeal for efforts to improve performance of schools

Business Council Chairman Peter I. Bijur has written to members of the Council across the state, urging them to raise their voices in support of New York's drive for higher standards in the schools.

And this effort was backed this week by a passionate call from former Governor Hugh L. Carey, who personally appeared before The Council's Board of Directors meeting in New York City to praise business for insisting on better outcomes from the educational system.

Bijur, the chairman/CEO of Texaco Inc., wrote to Business Council members on Nov. 22, noting that "we are on the verge of making an historic breakthrough with implementation of higher standards for our schools and our students, if we have the courage to stand firm."

To graduate from high school in June, this year's senior class must pass a Regents test in English-the first in a set of standards that the Board of Regents is phasing in over the next four years.

"There are those who are urging the Legislature to change the course we are on," Bijur wrote Council members. "Now is the time to let the Legislature know that you think the Regents are on the right track. There must be no legislation that would weaken the standards."

Former Governor Carey told the Dec. 7 Board meeting, "Thank God I was able to read that letter by Peter Bijur!"

Carey, who served as Governor from 1975 through 1982, is a Trustee of The Council's research arm, The Public Policy Institute.

"Peter, yours is a challenging letter," the former Governor said. "The people who pay the tax bills should have something to say about how to use those resources to prepare for the future, in terms of education."

Too many in the educational system, the former Governor said, tell business to "stay away from education; it's our field." But business must "move in on education," he told Directors, or employers will not get "the people you need for the jobs you are creating."

Bijur's letter to Business Council members was accompanied by a copy of the Public Policy Institute's new Q&A-style briefing paper, Straight Talk About Higher Standards.

"For us as employers," Bijur wrote, "the issue is not abstract at all. At stake is whether we will at long last insist that students be given a real high school education before we give them a high school diploma," Bijur wrote. "Or do we continue to allow diplomas that consign some students to never reach what could have been their full potential, ill prepared for higher education or for the world of work?"

"Fortunately, many schools in many communities throughout this state are rising to the challenge," he went on, "but there are others vocally calling on the Legislature to supersede the Regents and back down."

"The fact is that numerous schools are showing that children can achieve high standards regardless of race or economic disadvantage. This experience proves that we are on the right course and must not waver."

In addition to the letter-writing campaign, The Business Council has made arrangements to assist member companies in placing "advertorials" in newspapers promoting the need for the higher standards.