Frerichs gains teachers’ association endorsement

By Kathleen Foody

The Illinois Federation of Teachers announced its official endorsement of Mike Frerichs, Democratic State Senate candidate for the 52nd District, Monday afternoon.

Frerichs discussed his desire to strengthen school funding and find a long term solution to the state’s academic troubles.

“Illinois has one of the highest gaps between academic achievement between students in wealthy communities and those in poorer areas of the state,” he said.

Frerichs’ plan, called START, Schools Take A Right Turn, proposes cutting property taxes in favor of more stable education funding through corporate and individual income taxes.

Frerichs hopes to continue the work Senator Rick Winkel, R-Champaign, began during his time in office, including property tax cuts up to 30 percent.

“Senator Winkel supported increased funding for higher education, a large percentage of which would go to the University of Illinois,” Frerichs said. “Funding for Lincoln Hall, a building well past its time for renovation, is also an essential project.”

Mike Woods, a retired Champaign teacher and former President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, represented the organization Monday and said Frerichs’ strong standing on education reform earned him the endorsement.

“This is something we’ve always supported,” Woods said. “The idea that we have candidates talking about reforms is a breath of fresh air.”

Frerichs said more money cannot solve all the problems facing Illinois’ education system.

“Training initiatives, smaller class sizes, helping educators to develop long-term skills, increasing technology in schools, state support for parental involvement and after school programs, and boost the guaranteed level of minimum funding per pupil,” he said.

Woods said the Illinois Federation of Teachers strongly supports changing the sources of school funding to decrease inequalities.

“It’s like a lifetime sentence in some of these schools,” he said. “As long as you have property taxes as a major source of school funding, you’re going to have these gross inequalities in spending.”

Frerichs said the inequalities unfairly result in poorer resources for certain students.

“If we change the way we fund education, we can decrease some of those inequalities,” he said. “I just think it’s a shame that we let two kids, both from Illinois, have such vastly different amounts spend on their education.” Frerichs said he appreciates the support of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

“We need to build a working coalition, a majority of support to inspire change,” he said.

Judy Myers, Frerichs’ opponent in the race for the state Senate seat, released a press release Monday with her reaction to the endorsement.

“Illinois is over-reliant on property taxes to fund education,” Myers said. “That much we definitely agree on. However, Mike’s proposal is missing several components I would like to see addressed.”

According to the release, Myers believes Frerichs’ proposal is missing suggestions on ending the raids of the state’s pension system and funding for state-mandated programs that local school districts are forced to absorb.

Myers said she plans to submit an education reform plan aimed at addressing the problems facing Illinois schools and improving the state’s commitment to classrooms.