Faith Leaders Call for School Reform


Legislators and faith leaders gathered last year to push for a change in the way the State of Illinois funds schools.

“Our children deserve us to fight in the streets for justice,” said Rep. David E. Miller (D-Chicago). Miller recently received the Democratic nomination to run for state Comptroller.

“The children need hope and love. The children have been short changed on education. It’s a shame that education is based on something as simple as a child’s zip code.” Miller added.

Miller spoke during “Faith in Action Day” last May 12, when over 100 individuals from all sections of the state traveled to Springfield to press for education funding reform.

The assembled group stood in support of SB0750, sponsored by Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago), which would ensure that all children in Illinois have the opportunity for a quality education, and HB855, sponsored by Rep. Miller, which will include enough additional revenue to fund schools while providing property tax relief and tax credits for low-to-moderate income families.

The Rev. Alice Greene, pastor of Irving Park Baptist Church and a leader with the Community Renewal Society (CRS), said that for decades, the state has failed to live up to its obligations to provide an adequate education for every child in Illinois, regardless of their race, income or where they live.

Greene added that the attendees’ job that day was “to give the legislators some backbone for school funding,” and to “make it right.”

Greene said, “We are the fifth richest state in this country…our children need twice as much money to build them up so they can grow strong.

“If we are going to have an income tax increase in our state, it is essential that we raise enough revenue to finally address the under-funding of our schools. We are only going to get one shot at this.”

Citing data released by the Chicago Reporter, Catalyst Chicago and the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, the group stated that inadequate state funding harms not only Chicago Public Schools students but many downstate rural districts as well.

The Rev. Alexander Sharp, executive director of Protestants for the Common Good, said during the rally that the disparities in funding of the education system weren’t just a Chicago or Illinois problem, but also a moral problem.

“This is a moral problem and people of faith from all across the state are calling for us to meet our obligation to fund adequate education for every child in our state,” he said.

Sharp told Residents’ Journal the following day that the group delivered petitions to the governor and other state legislators signed by close to 700 faith leaders and congregation members from over 80 percent of the 118 representative districts in Illinois.

The state’s education funding advisory board has stated that the state should provide a foundation level of funding of approximately $7,300 per student. But currently, the state provides less than $6,000, the group reported.

The week of May 18, the Senate Education committee approved SB0750. SB0750, which has 21 co-sponsors, was brought before the Illinois General Assembly at the end of May, and was passed by the Senate before the legislative session closed, Meeks’ Press Secretary T. Harrison told RJ in a phone interview the following month.

But Alex Wiesendanger, a member of CRS said the bill was “still in limbo,” because it hadn’t been called in the House.

As of February 2010, both bills remained in limbo.

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