By Jim Bowman
We left our worthies at the starting line, the baton handed to the first CLAIM questioner.
First lady sailed a softball, asking the legislator-panelists how their records demonstrated them to be in line with President Obama's program for education.
To which Kimberly A. Lightford, senator from Maywood, Democrat like the others on the panel, in office since 1998, officed at 10001 W. Roosevelt in Westchester, currently vice-chair of the Senate's education committee:
She promoted the lowering of compulsory schooling age from seven to six, has goal of reducing it to five. Some parents objected to the six, but it's a "perfect time" for early-childhood ed. She was very thankful that this year there had been "no deep-freeze" in funding for public schools.
Don Harmon of Oak Park, senate president pro tem: "We all like early-childhood education, but it's a fight every year because of budget pressures."
LaShawn Ford of Oak Park, rep for South Oak Park and points south and west as far as LaGrange, officed at 4800 W. Chicago in the city and 816 S. Oak Park in OP, under federal indictment since November of 2012, on 17 counts of bank fraud, has remained untouched in the General Assembly because the alleged fraud happened in 2006, before he assumed office in 2007. In fact, since the indictment, he was named -- in February of this year -- chairman of the newly constituted Illinois House "Restorative Justice Committee," which is intended to call a halt to state government's "addiction to incarceration, reduce [the state's] crippling corrections budget and improve public safety."
He has "always fought for a fairness in justice," "even before the situation that has occurred with me," he told WBEZ, referring to his indictment. He "wants to address some wide-ranging issues in his new position, from finding jobs for ex-offenders to disparities in sentencing guidelines to reducing violent crime in Chicago," WBEZ wrote, then quoting Ford, "There is a state of emergency thats going on in the communities."
Ford to the question: He quoted Obama -- the earlier the better when it comes to schooling -- and said he (and his wife, presumably) began their nine-year old's schooling at nine months. "It's part of going to school," he said. "There are so many reasons" for liking early-childhood ed.
Finally, Camille Lilly, state rep for a larger swath of Oak Park plus parts of Austin, Galewood, and Melrose Park and most if not all of Elmwood Park and Franklin Park, appointed in 2010, elected unopposed in 2012, officed at 5755 W. Division in the city: "We struggle with the economy but have to make [public] education a priority, like our great president."
The superintendent had a question. "What's in the hopper?" he asked.
Ford declared the evening's "collaboration" as "good," urged legislation that would bring "the universities" in on the early-ed agenda or encourage them further in that direction.
Lightford: We need university pre-school "for all." "We've done a good job" so far in early-childhood ed.
2nd question from the CLAIM table, from a different lady: Would you support legislation forcing dual-district schools to hand data over to each other? (As OPRF to D97 elementary schools)
Harmon: What data?
Q lady: "Achievement data, for a start," test scores, "such as are used to help students." Plus "records, behavior data." (This gleaned from lengthy explanation by her)
Harmon: There are impediments to that?
Q lady: Yes.
Harmon: "Has anyone ever tried to change the law? Who is opposed to such a change? Best thing is to try to get a bill passed and that way see who doesn't like it." (He was schooling her. The forum's rationale was unravelling before the audience's very eyes.)
Finally for this question, Lilly, fence-straddling: "Information is powerful. At all levels. It can make a difference. This is something we need to look into and get our hands around."