"This won't work unless we have a bi-partisan program," said Ron Gidwitz, School Reform Initiative Co-Chair.
Illinois business leaders have joined forces with Sen. Meeks in support of a three-year, $120 million school reform pilot program that would target struggling schools across the state, including schools on the city's West Side, South Side, south suburbs and downstate. The plan would re-organize the schools' administrations, train teachers to be more effective, test the students frequently, and hold the educators accountable if the schools don't improve considerably.
"If schools are not performing and we determine it's the principal, than we'll have to get a new principal. If we determine it's teachers, we'll have to get new teachers," said Sen. James Meeks, (D) Chicago
South suburban educator Blondean Davis is a consultant to the pilot program, Illinois 21st Century Reform Initiative.
" It is possible in this state to create a structure where we can educate children, any child, regardless of poverty, regardless of race that walks through our doors," said Supt. Blondean Davis, Matteson District 162.
The business community says the success of the pilot program will determine whether they can eventually support higher tax for a statewide version, which is something they have opposed in past.
" This offers a real opportunity for people to come together in Springfield with the best of intentions to do the right thing to help our team," said Gidwitz.
"Reverend Meeks has some interesting ideas, and if he is asking for money and it would be along the lines of doing that for a pilot school. I will join him in trying to encourage the General Assembly to provide that," said Gov. Blagojevich.
The governor is likely to work with Meeks on the short-term pilot program which could come up as early as November. The goal is to get it passed by the end of the year.
The big statewide funding program would depend on the success of the pilot program.