State of the States
Blagojevich Scales Back Agenda for Education
A year after using his State of the State Address to issue a withering denunciation of the state’s top education agency and target it for changes, Gov. Rod Blagojevich proposed a far more modest agenda for schools during this year’s annual speech to the legislature.
The first-term Democrat spoke of school issues during his Feb. 3 address mostly in the context of praising the progress he believed had been made at the Illinois state education department, and on the nine-member panel that oversees it, which the governor overhauled last year.
Mr. Blagojevich credited the agency with reducing red tape for school districts, providing more accurate school report cards, and eliminating the backlog of teachers awaiting certification.
The governor’s education agenda this year seems small-scale by comparison. He asked lawmakers to support legislation that would make it illegal to sell or rent violent and sexually explicit video games to minors. Mr. Blagojevich also said he would direct the board of education to clarify state law to ensure that children of undocumented immigrants have the right to attend public preschool, a guarantee that has not been met in some circumstances, said Gerardo Cardenas, a spokesman for the governor.
Illinois officials are likely to face a budget deficit of about $2 billion, roughly the same amount they faced last year, as they prepare to begin work on the governor’s spending plan for fiscal 2006. It is expected to be released later this month.
Some lawmakers, meanwhile, including Democratic Senate President Emil Jones, have called for changing the way the state finances education in order to make the system more equitable for tax-poor districts.
In the past, Gov. Blagojevich has said he would not support proposals that involve a sales or income tax increase in Illinois.
Vol. 24, Issue 23, Page 30