Meeks urges leaders to support schools

September 12, 2008 10:02:45 AM PDT
Illinois State Senator James Meeks was hoping to confront officials of Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid Friday about funding for education in the city. That confrontation at the Fairmont Hotel did not happen quite as planned. Senator Meeks, a Democrat, attended a breakfast Friday at the Executives Club of Chicago, where Chicago 2016 chairman Patrick Ryan was the keynote speaker before a crowd of more than 1,000 people.

Meeks says that his purpose was not to disrupt the breakfast, meant to promote Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, but rather keep attention on the plight of public education in the state of Illinois and to ask Chicago's corporate community, if indeed we wish to be a truly world-class city, how in the world can we have second-class schools?

"Chicago is not just a host city. Chicago is home. Chicago is home to those of us who live here," said Meeks. "Those of us who live here have to be concerned about what's left when the people from abroad leave. And one of the things that would be left are poor schools. So we have to make sure that we are addressing this crisis of schools as well as bringing other people here to our city."

Meeks says he is satisfied that Chicago's corporate community is ready to help with the issue of public education funding in Illinois. The lawmaker attended Friday morning's Chicago 2016 breakfast with several of his ministers to challenge Chicago 2016 CEO Patrick Ryan and a roomful of civic and business leaders to get involved in the fight for equitable funding in public education.

Ryan says his committee won't get involved in the politics of public education funding but will certainly be committed to the youth of the city.

"There is just no doubt that when youth gets engaged more actively in sport, and when they are exposed to the Olympic values and principles, that they are much better off, and that translates, I believe, into a greater commitment to their education," said Ryan.

Meeks and Ryan plan to meet in the next week or two. Meeks, though, now says he is focusing on his meeting Monday with Governor Blagojevich. He says he is going to hold him to his promise to sell the state lottery in order to fund public education.


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