It’s up to governor to clean up school-funding mess - Metropolitan Planning Council

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It’s up to governor to clean up school-funding mess

An opportunity to be a hero to thousands of children is awaiting Gov. Rod Blagojevich. By changing the way Illinois funds its schools, he can offer many kids a way out of poverty. Of course, he is fully aware of the need for change, as state Sens. James Meeks and Emil Jones, among others, are screaming in his ear for justice for their constituents.

The governor seems to be deaf, though, to the cries of all who call for school-funding reform. And while he would have to be Horton to hear my little Who voice, maybe, just maybe I will be Jo-Jo, the little shirker whose “Yopp” will make the difference.

When Rod Blagojevich was just a pimply-faced, pubescent boy, Congress passed a pretty piece of legislation titled the Equal Education Opportunities Act of 1974. The most important sentence of this act reads, “The Congress declares it to be the policy of the United States that ... all children enrolled in public schools are entitled to equal educational opportunity without regard to race, color, sex, or national origin.”

In 1974, chances are Rod was too busy stumping for student council votes to be aware of the act. Now, however, he bears the responsibility for ensuring that this policy is carried out in the state of Illinois . At the moment, to say that he is failing miserably in this capacity is a gross understatement. Because of the way schools are funded in this state, Illinois ranks dead last in several important categories.

Illinois ’ heavy reliance on local property taxes to finance its schools has resulted in “the largest gap in per-pupil spending between the highest and the lowest poverty districts, as compared to every other state in the nation,” reports The 2005 Illinois Poverty Summit. A+ Illinois , an organization working for public school funding equity, reveals that 18 districts in Illinois reported a per-pupil instruction expenditure of more than $14,000 in 2003.

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