Tuesday, June 22


Officials call for increase in
Chicago Public School funding    
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[JUNE 22, 2004]  CHICAGO -- Dozens of Chicago area lawmakers and local school council members joined Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Senate President Emil Jones at the Franklin Fine Arts Center June 16 to voice support for their efforts to reach a budget agreement with the other legislative leaders that includes more money for K-12 education. Twenty legislators signed open letters to students of the Chicago Public Schools, vowing to support revenue-generating measures included in the budget approved by the state Senate, which will enable the state to boost funding to Chicago Public Schools by $106 million.

"It's easy to say you're for more money for schools, but when faced with a $2 billion deficit, it's a little harder to prove you mean it," said Gov. Blagojevich. "Both chambers of the General Assembly passed legislation this spring that would boost the state's share of education funding. But a lot of those legislators later backed down when it came time to figure out how to pay for the increase. I'm proud to be joined today by these committed leaders who understand that, though it won't be easy, we cannot turn our backs on our school children. Democrats in the state Senate held together to pass a budget that reflects our priorities but also details how we can pay for them. That budget and the determination of those legislators should serve as our standard during the ongoing budget negotiations."

Under the budget passed by the state Senate and supported by the governor, the state would increase its spending on K-12 education by $250 per student, which would mean an additional $106 million for the Chicago Public Schools next year alone. The money is desperately needed by the Chicago district, which is facing $100 million in cuts to balance its budget for the upcoming school year.

The budget passed by the Senate also includes an increase for early childhood development programs, which will make nearly 8,000 more at-risk toddlers statewide eligible for preschool. It also includes an increase of $16.2 million for child care services in Cook County.

"Tough budget times call for difficult decisions, and we are prepared to make those decisions, as evidenced by our votes in the Illinois Senate. The dollars invested in programs like early childhood education are an investment in the future of Illinois. It is one we must make," said Senate President Emil Jones.

Blagojevich and Jones reiterated that despite the budget deficit, the legislature can balance the budget and invest in its priorities by making tough cuts in other areas -- closing old prisons and moving inmates into more efficient facilities, eliminating unfair corporate tax loopholes, cutting spending by 2.25 percent in all areas but health and education, and streamlining state government.


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Lawmakers from both the House and Senate vowed to work with the governor and Senate president to protect education. Twenty signed the following open letter to Chicago's schoolchildren.

To the school children of Chicago:

The budget proposed by the Governor and passed by the Illinois State Senate includes $106 million in new funding for Chicago Public Schools. At a time when Chicago Public Schools may have to close schools and lay off teachers, our schools need this money more than ever. Unfortunately, because the state's budget has not yet been resolved, this $106 million in increased funding for Chicago's schools, as well as funding for early childhood education and a host of other programs, is in jeopardy. We believe it is imperative that the state's final budget include this funding, and we support taking the necessary steps --- ranging from closing corporate loopholes, sweeping surplus balances from special purpose funds, to reducing the size of state government -- to provide the revenue our schools desperately need.

The letter was signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Senate President Emil Jones, Sen. Miguel del Valle, Sen. Rickey Hendon, Sen. Don Harmon, Sen. Jacqueline Collins, Sen. James DeLeo, Sen. John Cullerton, Sen. Iris Martinez, Sen. Tony Munoz, Sen. Mattie Hunter, Sen. Kimberly Lightford, Sen. Carol Ronen, Sen. Martin Sandoval, Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg, Rep. Calvin Giles, Rep. Marlow Colvin, Rep. Ken Dunkin, Rep. Charles Morrow, Rep. David Miller, Rep. Susana Mendoza and Rep. Richard Bradley.

The governor was scheduled to meet in Springfield with Jones and the three other legislative leaders to continue budget negotiations.

[News release from the governor's office]


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