Legislators support education reform by signing Network 21 pledge - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Legislators support education reform by signing Network 21 pledge

Eighty-two bipartisan state representatives and senators have added their names to the Network 21 Quality Schools Pledge to implement quality and accountability reforms and increase state resources to provide a $5,500 foundation level in order to ensure that every Illinois child receives an adequate education.

Eighty-two bipartisan state representatives and senators — including Sen. Lisa Madigan (D-17, Chicago), candidate for State Attorney General — have added their names to the Network 21 pledge to implement quality and accountability reforms and increase state resources to provide a $5,500 foundation level in order to ensure that every Illinois child receives an adequate education.

Network 21 is a broad-based coalition of more than 45 education, business, labor, civic and civil rights organizations founded on the premise that there must be adequate resources to provide a high quality education for every student in the state. This means increasing the state’s share of the education-funding burden and reducing the over-reliance on local property taxes to fund K-12 schools in Illinois, which create significant disparities in educational opportunity between property-poor and property-wealthy school districts.  Critical to Network 21’s campaign are quality and accountability reforms that will ensure resources are deployed effectively and efficiently to enhance student outcomes.

Response to the pledge has been positive, quick and broad based.  “Funding alone is not the answer, as Network 21 so clearly demonstrates.  Without good teachers in every classroom, early intervention for at-risk and failing schools, true accountability, and a strong commitment to early childhood education, we will continue to witness the deterioration of our public school system.  I support the coalition’s efforts and urge my fellow lawmakers to join me in signing the pledge,” said Rep. Jerry Mitchell (R-73, Sterling).

Senate Democratic Leader Emil Jones, Jr. (D-14, Chicago) adds, “If the children of Illinois don’t receive an adequate education, we all suffer the consequences.  It is time we take a hard look at the achievement gaps in education and make the changes necessary to provide sufficient funding to our schools.  I support the work of Network 21 and ask my fellow lawmakers to join me in signing the pledge.”

 “We have an education crisis in Illinois.  This year’s budget for K-12 education was slashed by $176 million,” says Leslie B. Lipschultz, education and tax policy manager for Network 21. “We are hopeful that the day may finally be at hand for the Illinois General Assembly to take the bold steps necessary to ensure that every Illinois school child receives an adequate education,” continues Lipschultz.  Considering the severity of the state’s fiscal crisis, the Quality Schools Pledge states that the foundation level increase may be phased-in as long as it is adjusted annually for inflation. 

Network 21 was founded two years ago by the Metropolitan Planning Council to build consensus on how best to provide a quality education for every child in Illinois.  Organizations as diverse as the League of Women Voters, Voices for Illinois Children, Illinois Farm Bureau, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Business Roundtable, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, the teachers unions and the Chicago Urban League have contributed elements of a comprehensive education reform package that includes creating an adequate and stable state revenue stream for schools paired with key quality and accountability reforms.

“We cannot allow the achievement gap to grow larger,” said MarySue Barrett, president of the Metropolitan Planning Council. “We are delighted to be joined by such an impressive roster of Illinois General Assembly members in holding the State accountable for an adequate education for every Illinois child.”  

The $5,500 figure in Network 21’s pledge derived from research conducted by nationally respected experts, Augenblick and Myers, who determined that this was the amount spent by fiscally efficient, high-performing Illinois school districts.  The same researchers conducted a study for the governor-appointed Education Funding Advisory Board (EFAB), which released its interim report last August and made a similar foundation level recommendation.  Both Network 21 and EFAB advocate reducing reliance on local property tax.

Click here for the text of the pledge and a full list of signers.  For more information, please visit Network 21 on the Web at www.Network-21.org.   Or, contact Leslie B. Lipschultz at 312/863-6008. 

A comparison of the gubernatorial candidates' positions on education is available here

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