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On Daley, Education, and the Black Vote

By Kevin Robinson in News on Jan 10, 2007 2:50PM

2007_1_education.jpgDaley has suddenly become the great scholar, spouting wisdom in public about public-school reform, not just in Chicago, but also in Illinois. Over the weekend, he fired another salvo in his crusade to save the children. Opening a community center in Avondale, Hizzoner used the opportunity to call on the governor to institute mandatory full-day kindergarten, which would have the added effect of lowering the mandatory age of enrollment to 5 (it's currently 7, but about 95% of Illinois 5- and 6-year-olds are enrolled in school). Education is always a hot topic, especially in an election year, and this isn't the first time that Daley has pushed for this kind of change.

Early last year State Senator Rev. James Meeks threatened to challenge Blagojevich for governor if he didn't come through with a plan to improve education in the state. Blagojevich suggested that he would find more funding streams, perhaps by selling or leasing the state lottery. (Isn't the revenue from that supposed to fund education?) Meeks has thrown his support behind Daley in the mayoral race as part of his effort to promote changes in education funding, including the so-called tax-swap. Daley supports the tax-swap, but Blagojevich has yet to come out for it.

In the interim, Meeks is going to reintroduce Senate Bill 750, which would raise the income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent, and provide property tax relief as well as more money for schools. Blagojevich is opposed to SB750. Blagojevich has been mum on funding changes, except to oppose Meeks' bill, and he didn't mention the state lottery in his inauguration speech this week, opting instead to touch only briefly on "education equity." Meeks, for all his faults, deserves credit for focusing so single-mindedly on education reform. Meeks is a handy guy to have hanging around with Daley, even after Feb 27. And calling for education reform at the state level makes it all too convenient for Daley to pin some of the city's education problems on the governor's office. All of which makes us wonder if Meeks can trust the players he is dealing with.