The candidate for mayor has said for years that the Daley administration has misled the public about what the mayor claims are improvements in the Chicago Public Schools. Now, Meeks says the time is ripe for what he called radical change.
"Before you can fix anything, you must acknowledge that it's broken," Meeks said Wednesday.
Senator Meeks stood on the fifth floor of City Hall and disputed the belief that public education in Chicago had improved during the 15 years of leadership by outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley.
"Schools, they've not been his thing. And everybody can't excel in every place, you just can't do it," said Meeks.
So Meeks, who chairs the Illinois Senate's education committee, introduced his plan for city schools which includes:
- full-day kindergarten
- doubling the amount of classroom time devoted to reading and math
- a teachers union-involved program to root out bad teachers
- a voucher system for nearly 50,000 students in the worst-performing schools. Their parents could use the CPS-paid vouchers to transfer their kids to private or church-run schools.
"A choice to attend any school of their choosing while we're fixing this broken educational system," Meeks said.
According to his spokeswoman, mayoral candidate and former school board president Gery Chico also has proposed a limited voucher system. But Carol Moseley Braun, who appeared on WVON radio with Meeks Wednesday afternoon, is opposed to what she called the further "privatization" of public education.
"The key for me is making sure that we have a public system that provides quality education to every child," said Braun.
While candidate Rahm Emanuel wants to expand the number of charter schools, he's does not support vouchers that could be used for other private or parochial schools. Congressman Danny Davis and City Clerk Miguel del Valle also oppose the idea.
Senator Meeks also vowed to hire a professional educator to run the Chicago Public Schools. He says Daley's hiring of business-oriented managers has not improved student performance in the worst-performing schools in Chicago.