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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 16, 2005

Gov. Blagojevich calls on education leaders to help pass new money, new standards for schools
Illinois Education Excellence Task Force will lobby legislators to pass Governor’s Higher Standards, Better Schools Plan

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the new Illinois Education Excellence Task Force (IEETF), a group of education leaders from around the state that will work to pass his Higher Standards, Better Schools Plan. Chaired by former president of Chicago Board of Education Gery Chico, the group will lobby the Illinois General Assembly to pass the Governor’s plan that increases education funding and toughens high school graduation standards.
 
“Our plan increases education funding by $440 million for next year and calls for strong, new, tough graduation standards to better prepare our students for life after high school,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “These reform-minded education leaders can help us pass our plan. If we are successful, we will have increased education funding by $2 billion since I became governor.”
 
“Illinois schools have been advancing steadily under Governor Blagojevich’s leadership,” said Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Jesse Ruiz. “We need to keep that progress moving forward. This task force will help us to come up with fresh ideas to raise the education bar higher and keep the momentum going. We look forward to their help in getting input and ideas from across the state to better prepare Illinois school kids for the future.”
 
Without raising income or property taxes, Governor fought for more than $1.1 billion in new money for Illinois schools since taking office.  His FY 2006 budget proposal represents a $990 million increase in K-12 annual education funding over the FY 2003 annual budget.
 
Gov. Blagojevich is also working to make schools more accountable and to improve student college and work force success rates.  His proposed Higher Standards, Better Schools Plan creates expanded requirements for high school graduation in Illinois, which are currently among the lowest in the country.  The Higher Standards, Better Schools Plan will better prepare students to pursue higher education and succeed in their careers.   The increased high school graduation requirements in the Governor’s Higher Standards, Better Schools Plan are included in floor amendment one to Senate Bill 575, sponsored by Rep. Calvin Giles (D-Chicago) in the House and Sen. Miguel del Valle (D-Chicago) in the Senate. The bill won approval in the Senate as well as the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.  The bill now goes to the House floor for a vote. 
 
Ruiz appointed the members of the Illinois Education Excellence Task Force, who collectively bring extensive experience in education, leadership and public service to the fight to increase school funding and strengthen graduation standards.
 
“I look forward to working with Governor Blagojevich, the legislature, the State Board of Education, business partners and parents to advance the best thinking to strengthen our schools,” said IEETF Member Gery Chico.  “I feel privileged to have been asked to serve in this capacity.”
 
“Nothing is more important than devising a strategy to ensure that our children are prepared for the future and that the schools have the financial wherewithal to ensure their success,” said IEETF Member Avis LaVelle.
 
“I am deeply grateful to the Governor for this opportunity to strengthen Illinois education so that every single one of our children can fulfill his or her enormous potential,” said IEETF Member Glenn “Max” McGee.
 
Members of the Illinois Education Excellence Task Force include:
 
*         Gery Chico, Chicago – Chico previously served as President of the Chicago Public Schools.  He is law partner at Chico and Nunes LLP in Chicago. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois and his juris doctorate from Loyola University.
 
*        Georgia Costello, Belleville – Costello serves as Assistant Superintendent for the St. Clair County Regional Office of Education.  In addition, she serves on the Board of Trustees at McKendree College. She has been recognized for her work to support elementary, secondary and higher education. She is a graduate of McKendree College.
 
*         Sherry Eagle, Aurora West – Eagle will retire as Superintendent of West Aurora School District 129 on June 30 after a noted career in which she successfully led the district through a time of dramatic growth.  Eagle has received the Quad County Urban League Leadership Award, the Illinois Education Association’s Friend of Education Award, and the Illinois State Board of Education’s “Break the Mold” Superintendent Award. Eagle completed her doctoral studies in Leadership and Educational Policy at Northern Illinois University.
 
*         Avis LaVelle, Chicago – Lavelle was appointed by Mayor Daley to serve on the Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees.  She is a communications professional, having served as vice president of government and public affairs for the University of Chicago hospitals. Lavelle completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois and her post-graduate studies at the Keller School of Management.
 
*         Glenn “Max” McGee, Wilmette – McGee is currently Superintendent of Wilmette District 39. He previously served as Illinois State Superintendent of Schools.  He began his education career working in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and completed his doctorate at the University of Chicago.
 
*         Lou Mervis, Danville – Mervis is currently Chairman of the Illinois Business Roundtable Education Task Force. He previously served as the Chairman of the State Board of Education. He is a nationally recognized and respected advocate for education and prominent Danville businessman.
 
*         Glenn Poshard, Carbondale – Poshard is a veteran public servant who currently serves on the Southern Illinois University (SIU) Board of Trustees. His education career included teaching in high schools and serving as director of the Southern Illinois Educational Service Center. He has served in the Illinois Senate and the United States Congress. He completed his bachelor’s, masters and doctoral degrees at SIU.
 
*         Patrick Welch, Peru – Welch practices law in Peru, Illinois.  He served many years as a State Senator with noted work in support of economic development, agriculture and the environment. He completed his juris doctorate at the Illinois Institute of Technology/Kent College of Law.


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