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Church group JACOB pleased with trip to capital!

Britt Carson - Herald News staff writer - 1/28/02

  SPRINGFIELD — A large group of people from several churches and organizations all over the state made their presence known Monday during an educational summit in Springfield.

  Members of the Joliet Area Church-based Organized Body (JACOB) traveled to Springfield on Monday and put on their own educational summit outside Gov. George Ryan's Executive Mansion. The group of about 150 people included members from the Metropolitan Alliance of Congregations (MAC) and representatives from Aurora, Rockford and Chicago churches.

  "It all boils down to the issue of school funding," said Kathy Kaiser, co-chair of the MAC Equity Task Force.

  The group, which is lobbying for a change in the system of school funding, was not allowed inside the mansion where Ryan was meeting with education experts. However, they did catch the attention of Hazel Loucks, deputy governor for education.

  "We did get Hazel Loucks to come outside the gates and talk to us," said Jan Gehrig, a Joliet resident and former president of MAC. "We think this is a good beginning."

  The group presented Loucks with petitions with 10,000 signatures from people who believe the current system of school funding needs to be changed. The petitions were collected over the last several months from voters across the state. Loucks assured the group the petitions would be delivered to Ryan.

  The group said the current system relies too heavily on local taxpayers. The result is a growing disparity in resources between schools in poor and wealthy neighborhoods.

  The Rev. Isaac Singleton, pastor of the Mount Zion Baptist Church, was pleased with the outpouring of support for the issue.

  "We got a chance to get our message to the governor, and that was more important than anything else," Singleton said. "The petitions show we had 10,000 people that are asking the governor to look realistically at making Illinois a model for education. We live in a great state that should not be falling behind other states in education."

  JACOB members said the upcoming election is a good time to let legislators know school funding is a priority for many voters.

  "We need to hold governmental candidates and legislators accountable for a plan," Gehrig said. "It is not enough to just get a report on something. We need to start putting children first."

  Kaiser said the group made an impression on the summit, even though they were not inside.

  "The message got across," Kaiser said. "Deputy Gov. for Education Hazel Loucks thanked us for our involvement and said she understands our concerns. She said the issue will go on to a committee, but committees go on and on. They don't seem to be the solution."

  Kaiser said this is just the first step in a long journey for the group.

  "We need to let the government and legislators know the public will not stop the pressure on this issue," she said. "This issue is important to people."

  Singleton said JACOB is now helping to expand support for the issues to more than just the major cities in the state.

  "We will return," Singleton said. "We are not through with this."

Equal education begins with equal funding!