I was honored to emcee the first annual Diversity Business Luncheon today at Cliffbreakers. The Rockford Ministers’ Fellowship and Freedom West Foundation hosted a wonderful gathering that included a keynote address by Chicago Urban League President, Andrea Zopp.
Zopp delivered a message about the desperate need for school funding reform in the state of Illinois that was dead on. No matter how you look at it, basing school funding on property taxes isn’t fair. 93% of Illinois black students and 60% of its Latino students attend school in districts where the poverty rate exceeds 30%. As Zopp demonstrated with a school basketball that had been used to the point it had no orange covering, all too often the funding disparities in the poorer districts is glaringly obvious. For administrators, the choice often comes down to purchasing books or recreational materials for students – there’s not enough money for both.
Illinois spends 2.8 times more money annually on a prisoner that it does on a student. What’s wrong with that investment? As Zopp pointed out, we’d be far better off investing that money in our children’s education, ensuring strong and equal learning environments, preparing them for college and a world of employment. Preparing educated children ensures that they support our tax base through employment and daily living investments instead of drawing from State systems for medical care, housing and food.
It won’t be easy to overhaul the manner in which Illinois funds its school systems, it’s a complex and multi layered equation that touches on multiple layers of government and educational institutions; it can be done, however. It won’t make politicians popular, it won’t happen quickly, but reform in school funding is desperately needed to ensure every child receives a quality education that prepares them for the future.
My fellow blogger, Reverend Matthew Johnson-Doyle, wrote a fantastic blog today also highlighting Andrea Zopp’s presentation and the challenges of school funding reform. I’d encourage you to read it and perhaps look deeper at the work being done by the Chicago Urban League in advocating for change in educational funding.
On March 31, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. said “On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right? There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”