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Polling the people

Illinois citizens believe that class sizes in their state should be reduced, teachers should receive more training, and schools must strive to become more connected to their communities, according to a report delivered to the state's lawmakers last week.

In 10 forums conducted last year in partnership with the Illinois PTA, the Center on Education Policy, a nonpartisan Washington think tank, gathered 429 educators, parents, and other community members together for broad-based discussions on how to improve the public schools.

The groups then compiled a report outlining common themes from the discussions, along with participants' survey responses, to inform lawmakers about the public's perspectives, said Anna Weselak, the president of the state chapter of the PTA.

The survey data show, for example, that 60 percent of participants would oppose a proposal for government-financed vouchers for private schools, while 38 percent would favor such a plan. Almost 60 percent also said that children today receive a better education than they themselves did.

A tribute to Stanford

Lawmakers in Washington state remembered John H. Stanford, the late Seattle schools superintendent, this month by unanimously passing a House resolution in his honor.

John H. Stanford

Mr. Stanford, whose words "When you wake up, get up" helped inspire the 48,000-student district, has been credited with greatly improving the schools.

"I think he was a tremendous asset. It was a huge loss," Rep. Mike Wensman, the Republican who sponsored the resolution, said of Mr. Stanford's death. "In a matter of a few years, he was able to take an education system that was struggling and give it back to the children."

Mr. Stanford, a retired U.S. Army major general, died last November of leukemia at the age of 60. He became superintendent in 1995 and built a reputation for success and optimism that became widely known.

"Most people in Washington state felt he made quite a difference in Seattle," Mr. Wensman said. "[The resolution] was an opportunity to say thanks."

--Jessica L. Sandham & Marnie Roberts

Vol. 18, Issue 23, Page 22

Published in Print: February 17, 1999, as State Journal

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