Illinois’ poor-performing schools deserve funding

Receiving a good education can be invaluable to a student’s future and success. It not only improves their personal intellect short term, but leads to better job prospects and creates a better economy long term. It’s important for Illinois to not only recognize the difference a good education can have on each individual student, as well as for the state, but to also realize that difference is not just a change that can be made, but one that should be made. Among a long list of states we are competing against for the Race to the Top grant, which will provide more federal stimulus funding, we’re hoping Illinois will demonstrate commitment to reforming low-scoring schools, improving teacher quality and raising standards so that we can “Race to the Top,” receive millions of dollars in governmental funds and improve Illinois’ public school systems.

In September, The New Teacher Project, a not-for-profit that works with teachers and schools nationwide, ranked Illinois’ bid in the competition as “somewhat competitive.” We hope Illinois can only build on that foundation and move forward with aggressiveness and a desire for change in public school systems, as our state fills out an application for the grant.

More than two years ago, former Governor Rod Blagojevich took initiative and created a council that was intended to advise leaders in state government and education stakeholders on how to better align Illinois’ education systems – from pre-kindergarten through graduate level. The council was supposed to study and make recommendations to promote improved teaching and learning, while continuing to cultivate and demonstrate strong accountability and efficiency. However, the P-20 Council had been without the legally required number of appointees until Governor Pat Quinn recently appointed two dozen education, civic and business leaders to the task force.

The newly-appointed P-20 Council will meet for the first time next Tuesday and their first task will be to strengthen Illinois’ application for the Race to the Top grant, which is due in January.

We have confidence that those appointed to the board will do their best to improve our public school system. However, in our state’s race to the top, we hope to see that our public schools will be judged not on standardized test scores alone, but on overall improvement. Too often, schools that already have many resources are the schools who test well, and therefore receive more grant money. We need those on this newly-appointed board to realize the system should not work that way. But instead, those schools who need more money, should be the schools receiving it. Regardless of whether Illinois wins ‘Race to the Top’ (which we hope we do), funding needs to be allocated to the schools who need it the most. The schools already suffering and struggling to stay afloat are those who will have a harder time improving. Our stimulus funds should help those schools out.