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Getting Past Obama’s Partisanship: Illinois Goes Pro Student, Pro Education

Wall Street Journal 28 April 2010 7 Comments

From William McGurn

Contrary to all the obituaries, hope and change and a new spirit of bipartisanship are alive and well in Barack Obama’s America. Just not in Washington.

In the state legislature of post-Obama Illinois, a largely white Republican Party is joining forces with reform-minded African-American and Latino Democrats. Together they are challenging two establishments: machine Democrats backed by teachers unions, and suburban and downstate Republicans mostly indifferent to inner-city issues.

The vehicle is an educational voucher bill that needs only the approval of the full Illinois house to land on the governor’s desk. Introduced by the Rev. James Meeks—a powerful Democratic state senator who has also been one of Mr. Obama’s spiritual advisers—the bill provides a voucher of up to $4,000 for as many as 22,000 elementary students now languishing in the worst Chicago public schools. The voucher will give them the opportunity to attend the private school of their choice. The state Senate passed the measure last month, and last week the leadership-dominated House Executive Committee approved it by a vote of 10 to 1.

Read more in the Wall Street Journal

image Hotel Florence in Pullman


  • Philip Krone said:

    One of my favorite politicians is Rev. Sen. James Meeks. We didn’t meet until this last primary season, but I think we clicked and with a minimum of time and effort spent.

    He is one of the most clever politicans of any party or race, and he quietly but effectively demonstrated both his brains and muscle in the recent Democratic Primary.

    His success in education reform is another proof of his ability to make events unfold his way. Having Kevin Joyce as chief House co sponsor of his reform legislation is one demonstration of it. If I were Senator Brady I’d rustle up enough Senate Republican votes to make it truly bipartisan.

    When the general election is over I will share some of my specific Meeks observations. But there is no doubt that this man knows how to separate church and state while still being influential in each and both.

    By the way, I had the privilege of taking then Ald. Mary Lou Hedlund to the Pullman Hotel for lunch, (hotel pictured at the beginning of this article, and which is less than half a mile from Meeks’ church), after which she became a leading and very effective propopnet of historic rehabilitation. She even got her fingernails dirty doing a rehab in here own ward, all this occurring in the early 70’s.

    Meeks should meet Mary Lou (tied with Anna Langford as first female elected to the Chicago City Council). There’s a powerful combination.

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