• Rod R. Blagojevich
In his final State of the State Address before the 2006 elections, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich pointed to his record on education and proposed a new tax credit for families seeking to send their children to college.
The first-term Democrat cited tougher graduation requirements, increases in school funding, and an expansion of early-childhood education as accomplishments, in his speech to Illinois lawmakers.
College Aid: While he focused largely on issues outside of education, Mr. Blagojevich did unveil a plan to provide a $1,000-a-year tax credit to parents and grandparents to help pay the college costs of children who attend college in Illinois.
“For many families, $1,000 is a mortgage payment,” the governor said. “It’s three or four car payments. It’s the electric bill for an entire year.”
During his term, Gov. Blagojevich has also overhauled the Illinois state board of education, as well as the state education agency, which the board oversees. But critics have accused him of doing too little to meet the funding needs of schools, and to address the disparities between tax-rich and tax-poor districts, in particular. Mr. Blagojevich has steadfastly opposed raising state taxes to increase aid for schools.
Primary Election: Several candidates, at least a few of whom have education experience, have filed to challenge Mr. Blagojevich in his bid for re-election, which begins with a March 21 primary. One of his challengers for the Democratic nomination is Edwin Eisendrath, a former Chicago alderman and one-time public school teacher in the city. Mr. Eisendrath has said he would support a special legislative session on school funding if elected. He was skeptical of the governor’s tax-credit proposal.
“If he doesn’t fix elementary and secondary education, students aren’t going to be ready for college,” Mr. Eisendrath said of the governor in an interview.
Republican Ron Gidwitz, a former chairman of the state board of education, is also running for governor.
A version of this article appeared in the January 25, 2006 edition of Education Week