Pritzker promises 'fierce urgency' to revive education

State Sen. Manar, IEA President Griffin among leaders of transition committee including school and college administrators

 Gov.-elect Pritzker (center) with the leaders of his education transition committee: state Sen. Andy Manar, state Rep. Chris Welch, IEA President Kathi Griffin, and CPS CEO Janice Jackson. (Pritzker Transition Press Team)

Gov.-elect Pritzker (center) with the leaders of his education transition committee: state Sen. Andy Manar, state Rep. Chris Welch, IEA President Kathi Griffin, and CPS CEO Janice Jackson. (Pritzker Transition Press Team)

By Ted Cox

Declaring that “every child in this state deserves a quality education,” Gov.-elect Pritzker presented an education-based transition panel Tuesday including dozens of legislators, school and college administrators, and teachers’ union leaders.

“The transition’s Educational Success Committee will confront the challenges students, parents, and teachers face head on and with fierce urgency,” Pritzker said in a news conference at Chicago Public Schools’ Genevieve Melody STEM Elementary in the West Garfield Park neighborhood. “If we want to put Springfield back on the side of working families, we must give all students the opportunities they deserve.”

He said all Illinois students deserve a quality education “regardless of the color of their skin, the ZIP code they come from, or the income of their parents.”

Pritzker appointed four committee chairs including two prominent members of the General Assembly: Sen. Andy Manar of Bunker Hill and Rep. Chris Welch of suburban Westchester.

Manar was instrumental in creating and passing a new state funding formula for public education last year, although Gov. Bruce Rauner first vetoed it, then tried to take credit for the finished version in his final debate with Pritzker before the Nov. 6 election.

“Educating our children is a foundational obligation of state government, and that’s why I led the charge to update our antiquated K-12 school funding formula to make it equitable for every child,” Manar said Tuesday. “We must build on that progress, and that’s exactly what this committee will do. J.B. and Juliana (Stratton) are laying the groundwork for a cradle-to-career success network for every Illinoisan.”

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“J.B. and Juliana (Stratton) are laying the groundwork for a cradle-to-career success network for every Illinoisan.”

State Sen. Andy Manar

Welch, chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education, pledged support for the state’s colleges and universities, saying, “This committee is a sign of new hope for those vital institutions, and for our children’s futures. Together, we’re going to delve into the root issues and present possible solutions for this new administration so they can hit the ground running.” State universities took a huge hit during the two-year state budget impasse Rauner presided over.

Two other chairwomen appointed to lead the transition committee were Janice Jackson, chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools, and Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association.

Jackson lauded the support shown for education by Pritzer and his lieutenant-governor running mate, Juliana Stratton, on the campaign trail. “The state must step up to ensure every child can thrive from cradle to career,” she said, “and this committee will work every day to make sure J.B. and Juliana are ready to do that on day one.”

Griffin added that she would provide a voice for union teachers. “Serving on this committee means more than 135,000 educators and educational support professionals across the state have a seat at the table,” she said. “The incoming administration has shown a strong commitment to funding K-12 education, a promise to invest in higher education, and a pledge to protect collective-bargaining rights. It’s the kind of agenda Illinois needs to get back on track, for the sake of our students and teachers.”

About 30 other education experts statewide were named to the committee, including state Sens. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant and Kimberly Lightford and state Reps. Fred Crespo and Will Davis. College administrators include Chancellor Michael Amiridis of the University of Illinois at Chicago, President Larry Dietz of Illinois State University, professor James Heckman of the University of Chicago, and Barbara Wilson of the University of Illinois System. Union leaders include Jane Russell and John Miller, vice presidents of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

Noticeable in their absence were any representatives of the Chicago Teachers Union or parent groups like the state PTA or more grassroots organizations like Raise Your Hand or More Than a Score.

It’s the seventh committee on various policy matters announced by Pritzker’s transition team since he won the election. His inauguration is set for Jan. 14 in Springfield.