by Thelma Sardin
With less than a week left until the 2011 Chicago Municipal Elections, the mayoral race is picking up speed. On Sunday, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL-4) stumped for Gery Chico and Dr. Cornel West campaigned for Carol Moseley Braun. On Saturday, Chico picked up two endorsements from Cook County Democratic Women and a coalition of African American ministers. Braun picked up an endorsement from Rainbow PUSH.
Last week, all six mayoral candidates appeared in two important community forums. On Thursday night, FOX Chicago, the Chicago Urban League and Harriet’s Daughters presented a debate at Kennedy King College. The candidates gave their platforms on jobs, education and crime.
Chico explained why he thought Rahm Emanuel would not be able to create crime fighting strategies for the city. “I think growing up in our city like I did in the Back of the Yards, living with threat of violence stays with you. People like Mr. Emanuel, who grew up in wealthy North Shore, probably never experience that. It makes it harder to come to grips to come up with a plan to combat this,” Chico said.
When asked his position on putting extra police officers in areas with the highest crime rates, Emanuel replied he has proposed to add 1,000 extra cops to the streets.
Carol Moseley Braun referred to Emanuel’s congressional record when asked a question about disparities in health for minorities.
“When in Congress, Mr. Emanuel voted against funding for a national center on minority health and health disparities,” Braun said.
While Emanuel did not respond to Braun’s remarks directly, in his closing statement he said his focus was to tackle the issues and not criticize opponents.
City Clerk Miguel Del Valle answered the first question posed to the candidates that inquired if any of them had ever been unemployed. Del Valle said he did not have a job after college and understands firsthand the plight of not having a job.
Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins and William “Dock” Walls both support a public school superintendent that has education experience and an elected school board instead of the current system of a chief executive officer with a business background.
by Lesley R. Chinn
Education and economic empowerment go hand-in-hand and that was the focus of a spring summit hosted last Thursday by the Chicago Urban League at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.
The Urban League gathered together economic, education, business leaders, and concerned citizens to discuss how working together, the city and region can advocate for quality education for children, return more people to the workforce, and secure more business opportunities for minority-owned companies. The summit was presented by National City, now part of PNC.
PNC, which was previously known as the Pittsburgh National Corporation, began as the Pittsburgh Trust and Savings Company in 1852 before it merged with the Philadelphia-based Provident National Corporation in 1982.
The summit began with a State of Urban Chicago address by interim president/CEO Herman Brewer who said that while the collapse of the financial system has had a devastating impact on minority communities, they may never recover if action isn’t taken to help improve conditions. “Some neighborhoods on the South and West sides of Chicago have become modern day tragedies born out of the disappearance of education and economic opportunity. This harsh reality brings us here to participate in dialogue and find tangible solutions to alleviate the suffering, and improve the fortunes of everyone,” Brewer said.
As the Chicago Urban League’s education funding lawsuit progresses, Brewer unveiled the organization’s new education policy recommendations. The publication—Opportunity Compact: Education 2010: A New Blueprint for Communities and Schools—calls on the state’s public education funding structure to be targeted to support four priorities. They include increasing expectations for students; ensuring schools get quality teachers and learning; family engagement in learning, and ensuring quality early childhood education.
After the “State of Urban Chicago” address, a CEO roundtable and breakout sessions were held to discuss strengthening the link between a quality education and economic empowerment and to address challenges in school funding, barriers to minority participation in professional services, and the job outlook for 2010 and beyond.
by Dwayne T. Ervin
Coming together to discuss issues in education, faculty, students and alumni said they would like to see part of President-elect Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan go towards supporting jobs for young people, violence prevention in schools and support for alternative education programs for students.
At a recent panel discussion hosted by the Chicago Urban League, representatives from state and local educational institutions came together with ideas on how to fix some of the problems in Chicago schools and talked about increasing funding for students at risk.
President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League Cheryle Jackson addressed the issue of youth violence and suggested more intervention from the government will be needed in order to correct the problem. Jesse Ruiz, Chairman of Illinois Board of Education and Illinois State Council on Re-Enrolling Students Who Dropped Out of School, talked about job creation. “If students can not see the goal, they are not going to learn,” he said. Others chimed in on the importance of job training. “Twenty out of 100 youth are not working. One million jobs went to teens during the Clinton administration. If Congress is going to give funds, it should go to people under 25 and they should be trained for jobs,” said Joseph McLaughlin, research associate at the Center for Labor Market Studies.
In 2005, there were 101,835 students in Illinois who dropped outof school, said Jack Wuest, executive director of Alternative Schools Network, costing the state $470 million. Taking a systematic approach towards supporting the Truants Alternative Options Education Program could help decrease the drop out rate, he added.
Reiterating Jackson’s point about school violence, Myra Sampson, principal of Community Christian Alternative (CCA) Academy in the North Lawndale community said two students were murdered at her school and she hopes any additional funding will go towards violence prevention. CCA Academy provides high school dropouts with a lastchance opportunity to get a diploma and a chance to be placed into a college or technical training program.
CPS students also made a plea for job opportunities and support for alternative education programs. “It is not easy in the streets,” said Fredrick Williams, a student from the Academy of Scholastic Achievement (ASA) High School, an alternative school on the West Side that helps dropouts re-enter school. “I was at a magnet school where I was not getting the one-on-one help,” he said. “I transferred to ASA my junior year. The teachers treated me like an adult…when you take away the jobs, what do you expect the youth to do,” he asked.
Group says it’s discriminatory; Meeks says boycott still on as planned
by Lesley R. Chinn
While the 1954 landmark decision Brown vs. the Board of Education struck down separate but equal, the Chicago Urban League and numerous members of the clergy have filed a discrimination lawsuit against the State of Illinois and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to address unequal funding in education. The lawsuit claims the state’s current system for school funding is unconstitutional and stands in violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003.
Represented by the law firm of Jenner & Block, representatives of the Urban League said that the state’s public school scheme has racial and ethnic disparities; violates the uniformity of taxation provision of the Illinois Constitution; violates individuals’ rights to attend high quality education institutions and their right to equal protection under the law. The lawsuit, filed in conjunction with the Quad County Urban League, specifically challenges the state’s method of distributing school funds to local school districts.
“We can no longer allow the current flawed system of school funding to continue in Illinois for yet another school year. We cannot allow another minority child to begin a school year knowing they will not be given the same opportunity to learn compared to white students in wealthy school districts,” said Urban League President and CEO Cheryle Jackson.
According to the education advocacy group, A+ Illinois, the graduation rate is 81 percent for white students compared to 52 percent for African-American students and 57 percent for Latino students. “Those percentages are totally unacceptable…” Jackson stated.
A+ Illinois statistics also showed that a one-year increase in average education levels reduces the overall arrest rate by 11 percent; lowers murder and assault rates by 30 percent; car thefts by 20 percent; arson by 13 percent and burglary by six percent. The report also showed that adults lacking a high school diploma are more likely to receive public assistance. Nationally, if all high school dropouts on public assistance were able to acquire a diploma, the country would save up to $10.8 billion annually in welfare, food stamps, and public housing costs, the report concluded.
Illinois ranks 49th out of 50 states in school funding. In contrast, the state has the nation’s fifth largest personal income and currently operates the fifth largest public school system, according to the lawsuit. “Our school funding system is broken and it’s now time to start working on solutions,” said Mary Ellen Guest, campaign manager for A+ Illinois.
With these statistics, Jackson said it is nearly impossible to put students on the pathway toward success. “When our children’s skills are remedial, they have no future. A child’s future should be determined by how big they can dream, not by which school district they live in,” she said.
Responding to questions regarding why the suit is being filed now, Jackson said the Urban League had
hoped the state would be an advocate for the people. She said the Urban League has continuously lobbied and testified to address changes in the way education is funded.
If students are expected to succeed, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. said they should be given quality resources to work with. “Our children lack computers, textbooks, gyms and the teachers are often teaching outside of their subject areas. We’re trying to fight for a leg up so they can compete.” Rev. Jackson called on the Governor to include children and schools as a top priority in his $25 billion capital improvement bill now.
Chicago Public Schools chief executive officer Arne Duncan, said that everyone should be on the same side when it comes to properly funding education. “For at least 30 years, we have waited expectantly for something to happen, only to be disappointed time and time again.”
When questioned about whether the lawsuit will eliminate the September 2nd boycott of the Chicago Public Schools which is also being organized to protest unequal funding in schools, Rev. State Senator James Meeks (D-15) who has been at the forefront of those efforts, said the event will continue as planned. For the past six years, Meeks has pushed education reform legislation in Springfield. So far with Senate Bills 750, 755, and 2288, Meeks’ education reform legislation measures have not been passed. “I can’t pass legislation by myself. Our state cannot be what it can be until all our children are afforded a quality education. Education must be for all people.”
In 2006, Meeks said Gov. Rod Blagojevich promised to put $2 billion in education. The Governor also discussed leasing the lottery to do that, which would result in raising the level of education spending to an additional $2,000 per student. “That $2,000 could do a lot in solving this issue. I would suggests the Governor keep his promise,” he said. Jackson added the lawsuit does not include state legislators because the State of Illinois acts as a legal entity. “In this lawsuit, it doesn’t matter which state agency fixes the problem of school funding as long someone in the state gets it fixed,” she said.
Teachers and other clergy leaders said the lawsuit is long overdue and are calling for other solutions to
funding schools equally.
As a fifth grade teacher at Sawyer Elementary School, Maureen Forte said that parents are pressed with rising taxes and were under the impression that the lottery was going to help fund the school system. She also pointed out that about 90 percent of the students at her school come from low-income households and qualify for the free lunch program. “Where is the money going to come from? We may have to look at the casino to help offset the cost of education. Kids have to be educated and depend on property taxes to help fund the schools.
“Teachers are underpaid and do most of the work. We have aldermen and state legislators that are looking for an increase in their salaries. If we stop paying all of them, maybe we can take it and give it to a poorly run school,” she said.
Patricia Boughton, a social studies teacher at Harlan High School, called for an allocation of the income tax and less reliance on the property taxes. “That way the wealthy will pay their share. The wealthier school districts tend to be the ones with the big shopping malls and paying millions of dollars to a relatively small school district,” she said.
Rev. Steve Jones, president of the Baptist Pastor Conference of Chicago and Vicinity, said this lawsuit should force legislators to reassess how schools are funded. “This is the year 2008 and we’re still stuck behind this elitist system where only the few are getting the benefits and the majority are suffering,” he said.
When asked for a response to the lawsuit, Matt Vanover, an ISBE spokesman, said ISBE had not seen the lawsuit and therefore was unable to comment. Calls and e-mails to officials from the Governor’s office were not returned.