CEOs Pledge Investments in Education

State Farm CEO Edward Rust, Jr. on meeting with president, debt crisis


STUART VARNEY, GUEST HOST: President Obama just wrapping up a meeting with some of the top CEOs in America. He’s asking them to make investments in his education initiatives.

My next guest was in that meeting, State Farm chief executive Ed Rust.

Ed, look, I hate to put it like this, but did the president put the arm on you for some money today?

EDWARD RUST JR., CEO, STATE FARM: No, not really, Stuart.

Basically, our conversation was a continuation of the engagement of the business community around really driving the important intersection of education, work force development, and economic growth. A number of us in the audience participating with the president have our own initiatives under way that are supportive, but...

VARNEY: Yes. You’re going to give – you’re giving, I think, $10 million per year, as you have for many years. You’re giving that $10 million to the president’s directives on education; is that correct, sir?

RUST: Well, we -- our engagement has been through America’s Promise with Colin and Alma Powell, who were there...


RUST: ... some of the other programs. It’s a continuation of that, but it is also more than just money. It’s an engagement of our associates across the enterprise.

And I’m not the only one. Many of my other colleagues there have been doing the same thing in helping people become better consumers of the education system.

VARNEY: I just – you’re a chief executive officer of a major corporation. And you’re sitting in a meeting with President Obama.

To me, President Obama comes across as being somewhat anti-business. And I tend to think that he may be playing class warfare on these debt talks. Does he come across to you in a meeting as a man who disregards business, disregards the private sector, except when he wants some money out of you?

RUST: Well, I would say that, when it comes to education, we’re essentially on the same page.

And I have found that in the 20-some years that I have been involved in this effort going back to, really a Nation at Risk, Goals 2000 and some of that. So, whether Republican or Democrat, we have been in reasonable agreement in terms of what we need to be doing to give our kids the skills that are critically necessary for them to be college and career-ready when they finish school.

VARNEY: Sure. But I see the president says he wants to invest more in education. He wants more spending in that area, more public taxpayer spending, as opposed to the spending cuts which are being proposed by the Republicans. He wants to invest more in education. He wants to spend more in education.

Now, you, I believe, have signed a letter saying, hey, look, you guys in Washington get on with the debt deal; let’s get some spending cuts in there. It seems like there’s a contradiction between you signing that letter, get on with a debt deal, and the president saying, I want to spend some more money on education.

RUST: Well, Stuart, I think part of that comes back to really a re- rationalization of just where the money goes.

We have found in -- in -- for a good number of years that spending more money on education doesn’t immediately or eventually even add up to greater student achievement.

VARNEY: Right.

RUST: So, as you come through and you look at the current budget issue, what we are trying to do from an education standpoint is make sure what we’re spending the money on is in fact, proven to be effective, and to scale those efforts, as opposed to just dumping more money into the hopper.

VARNEY: OK. Real fast now, you think the president agrees with that, that he would maybe direct some money away from unions, pensions, bureaucracy? Would he?

RUST: Well, that was really not the discussion.

VARNEY: Right.

RUST: What we were talking about is where can you really put money on proven activity that is scalable?


Ed Rust, CEO of State Farm, thanks very much for joining us, sir. We appreciate you being with us. Thank you.

RUST: Thank you, Stuart.

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