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Meeks: School boycott will happen, governor to blame

Friday, Aug 29, 2008

* Sen. James Meeks says the Chicago Public Schools boycott is a go, and blames Gov. Rod Blagojevich….

“No more time. The window has expired,” Meeks said.

Next Tuesday, the state senator and pastor of Salem Baptist, a South Side megachurch, hopes to bus about 2,000 Chicago Public Schools students to north suburban schools. The students will boycott their first day of school to call attention to school-funding inequities. […]

Meeks had offered earlier this week to call off the boycott if Gov. Blagojevich, state Senate President Emil Jones and House Speaker Michael Madigan agreed to back his $120 million, three-year plan to reform Illinois’ most seriously ailing schools by today, but he gave up on that idea Thursday. […]

“The governor never did agree, and there’s just no more time. I can’t start everything in motion and pull it back. It would make me look uncommitted,” Meeks said.

Meeks had proposed identifying 12 failing high schools — in Chicago, the south suburbs and Downstate — and their feeder elementary and middle schools, for three years’ worth of audits and reforms.

Instead, he will be taking CPS students to New Trier High School, which spends $17,000 per student compared with $10,000 per student in Chicago.

* More from yesterday afternoon…

“I can’t figure the governor out,” said Meeks in light of Blagojevich’s decision to return home [on Thursday].

Madigan, the state Democratic chairman, said he’s been on the “periphery” of the Meeks’ school funding issue. Meeks wants the state to spend $120 million over three years to help improve educational opportunities for children in poorer schools in Chicago and other parts of the state.

“Sen. Meeks has spoken to me. He’s asked if I would be willing to attend a meeting with he and the governor and Sen. Jones and I said I would be,” Madigan said. “But I’m waiting for the setting of the date and the time.”

Jones, who is retiring from the Senate at the end of his term in January, indicated Meeks might be seeking an escape plan after calling on ministers of churches with predominantly African-American congregations to join him in seeking a Chicago school boycott on Sept. 2 and making a symbolic effort to enroll students in the wealthy New Trier Township school district.

“I’ve got to talk to Sen. Meeks,” Jones said, adding that he was “trying to get everyone together.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

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