When the Illinois State Board of Education met yesterday in Springfield, there was a new chairman running the agenda.
One of the first appointments made by newly-elected Governor Bruce Rauner was James Meeks -- a former state senator from Chicago and long-time pastor of the city’s 15,000-member Salem Baptist Church. Meeks had led the Senate Education Committee, sponsored funding reform legislation, and in 2010 focused a spotlight on the funding inequity when he took hundreds of inner-city kids to the Chicago suburbs to symbolically register in prosperous school districts.
The board’s agenda happened to focus on its annual budget request to legislators, and Meeks is hoping lawmakers remember their promises.
“Most of the members of the General Assembly ran on a platform of education. So I would hope that, in their attempt to put kids first, that that’s considered as a priority," Meeks said.
Asked if he would be coordinating with Senator Andy Manar, the Macoupin County Democrat pushing the latest school funding reform bill, Meeks said yes.
“We did have a conversation, and the conversation was simply: Let’s meet concerning the bill.”
Meeks’ appointment has to be confirmed by the Illinois Senate, but he said he expects no problems since he “still knows a few people there.”