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Published by EmergePeoria

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Published by: EmergePeoria on Feb 04, 2014
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Page Recently Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis spoke of the Peoria School system saying ,
The quality of our education system is the number one factor influencing our ability to grow Peoria, and we're not going in the right direction." In a subsequent interview, the Mayor stated regarding education: "We have to do more and we have to
do it better,”"...right now Peoria's public school system is holding the city back."..."Make no mistake about it, we're not going in the right direction,”...“People are not coming int
o our city because they think it's a good education system. You can't put lipstick on the pig." The Mayor does at least two things with what I consider to be incendiary statements. First, he blames local educators, administrators and vicariously the children and families of the district themselves for the problems in and with the education system as he perceives them, and second, our Mayor blames the lack of community economic growth and development on the same set of individuals. In essence, it seems that the
Mayor’s opinion
 is that if all persons associated with the education system were better, or if the education process were better, then the City could advance economically and become more attractive to new families, talent and individuals considering relocation. I would ask, could someone please wake this Mayor up? He seems to have reached paradoxical sleep, otherwise known as REM.
Although the Mayor tried to clean up his statements by saying that the teacher’s do their work without “applause” and that the board has had “
many things laid at its feet for years
”, the Mayor’s reconciliation
of the economic advancement or non-advancement of Peoria is revealed to be nothing more that the blame game played out openly.
I and we won’t simply allow him to place the economic failure of large
segments of Peoria upon District 150
s educators and administrators many of whom are performing up and above the call of duty every day in order to impact our children and vicariously uplift this community.
Page First, the education system in Peoria is not authorized, implemented or born within a vacuum. The District follows guidelines, procedures and standards outlined by the Illinois State Board as well as the
National Education Association (NEA). So if the district is going in the “wrong direction” because of any
of these things, which are
not the district’s fault, but the
fault of the system itself. The Mayor could hardly change any of those things himself. Secondly, and more importantly, if this city is unattractive to individuals and businesses considering relocation, the apprehension would more likely be due to the Cit
y’s lack of policies
for growth and failure to create a sustainable economic environment for all of its citizens. What do I mean? Peoria District 150 is comprised of over 60% Black student population. Many of the students graduate and go on to live their adult lives in this community.
On the other side of the “school and education experience”
, we should ask, when has the City Of Peoria ever seriously undertook the task of fostering the growth, and development of Black owned business in Peoria? In other words, what has the City specifically done to provide opportunity to Black individuals and families in Peoria through the advancement of business and business models? Certainly we are blessed with a Peoria Black Chamber of Commerce and leadership of the Illinois Black Chamber which runs through the heart of Peoria by its leader Larry Ivory. However, what has the City done through any initiative to serve, invigorate or energize such a large, underserved segment of our community? Black education and economic advancement through business growth and development is a highly interrelated and interconnected issue. There is no excuse that the City cannot foster better opportunities and deliver a more vigorous effort. According to a recent report
by “Site Selection Magazine”
, Illinois ranks 5
 in the nation for placement of corporate location and business expansion. It seems that Illinois is ripe and ready for growth, expansion and business opportunities across the
Page board. The question is how many businesses that expanded into Illinois were Black owned businesses and how many of them expanded into Peoria? In fact what has Peoria done to grow its current base of Black and minority owned businesses outside of individuals who work road and highway construction? If the Mayor wishes to talk about the education system
being “factors influencing our ability to grow Peoria” let him
begin with City policy towards the growth and development of the Black community and Black business within the community. Let our Mayor explain why the heart of the Black community, 61605 zip code, continues to suffer 47% poverty and nearly 30% unemployment with a median annual income of its citizens of $12,000 or less without a City sponsored emergency economic growth and development plan to address the issues? Statistics are more than 3 to 4 times that of the national average. Yet, our Mayor blames the suffering of our city on those going into the city every day attending to one of
the City’s
most urgent needs
, our children’s education.
 Does our Mayor not know that within the heart of the City, kids of all ages can get at least 2 meals a day, that they may not otherwise receive, from the schools district? Does the Mayor not know that in inner city high schools such as Peoria Manual for example, kids can (and do) arrive as early as 6:45 AM for tutoring and leave as late as 5:00 PM most days for additional after school tutoring help from teachers dedicated to the academic success of District 150 students? Is this Mayor unfamiliar with the efforts of the school District in providing technical and vocational training and education opportunities through the revamped Woodruff Career And Training Center? Does this Mayor not realize that in many District 150 schools, administrators, staff and community partners network together, without the assistance of the City, to find ways, methods, means and resources for the children of poor families in order to help them stay engaged in education through the provision of uniforms, and other necessary items?

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