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Published in Print: November 24, 1999, as Jackson Adds Discipline To His List of Education-Related Issues

Jackson Adds Discipline To His List of Education-Related Issues

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Protests and trips to jail aren't anything new for the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, nor is his involvement in education issues.

The recent protests here by the civil rights leader and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, his nonprofit organization based in Chicago, in defense of seven expelled students in this central Illinois city are the latest in a long line of education-related campaigns.

"For us, public education has long been a civil rights issue" because of the inequities in spending and educating America's poor, who remain disproportionately minority, said Valerie Johnson, Mr. Jackson's education adviser and a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The coalition's work in education and with children began in 1975, when Mr. Jackson founded PUSH-Excel, a group that linked churches with the juvenile-justice system as a way of providing troubled teenagers a bridge back into society.

Ms. Johnson herself began volunteering in Rainbow/PUSH when Mr. Jackson sought the Democratic nomination for president in 1984. She now is a paid adviser summoned to help in situations like the one here in Decatur.

She said some of the group's youth programs now fall under a separate nonprofit agency called the Citizenship Education Fund, while Mr. Jackson has also launched the National Reclaim Our Youth Crusade in response to episodes of school violence.

His goal, she said, is to help local Rainbow/PUSH chapters and other groups set up children's programs such as oratorical contests and trips to historically black colleges.

Ms. Johnson said the events here offered the organization a chance to highlight the large number of students who are lost to expulsions or leave school for other reasons. The issue, she said, has been added to the organization's priorities. The group has lobbied for a hearing in the Illinois legislature on student discipline.

—Alan Richard

Vol. 19, Issue 13, Page 13

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