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February 4, 2011

Daley talks education policy at U of C symposium

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Mayor Richard Daley had kind words for the University of Chicago at the Future of the City Symposium Tuesday, but said without federal funding, Chicago Public Schools will remain unable to give students the education they deserve.

Daley spoke on education policy, funding from the federal government, and the need for cultural diversity at the symposium, which was organized by the Harris School of Public Policy Studies and the Office of Civic Engagement.

“We must provide a high-quality education for every student in any school,” said Daley to over 100 business leaders, public service workers, and academics at the Chicago Cultural Center downtown. “It is the most important service we provide in government.”

But as the city tries to revive its education system with programs like charter schools, government deficits are halting progress. Chicago Public Schools had to cut charter school funding by six percent per pupil in August.

Daley said the only solution to this is help by the federal government, which isn’t constrained by a balanced budget. “Local taxes cannot be moved higher and higher every year because of tax caps,” he said.

Last month, Illinois lawmakers passed a bill to increase the personal income tax to five percent, a 67-percent jump.

“We need support from the federal government for school infrastructure and modernization,” said Daley, adding that he has asked Washington to earmark more for federal education programs.

But he also conceded that there are roadblocks for federal funding. “It can be a challenge to hold the federal government’s attention for more than 10 minutes,” he said to laughter from the crowd. “We’ll change that.”

The symposium brought together Chicago leaders and renowned city researchers to discuss the challenges and plans for Chicago’s future. President Robert Zimmer opened the symposium and Vice President for Civic Engagement Ann Marie Lipinski introduced the mayor.

“The city’s challenges are not simple, and the analysis and discourse that today’s work embodies represent an essential component that the work of scholars, policymakers, government officials, and business leaders need to do together for our city,” Zimmer said.

Speakers included Director of the Urban Education Institute Timothy Knowles, Groupon cofounder Brad Keywell, and Chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago Cheryl Hyman.

Daley’s comments on the U of C were more congratulatory than his comments on public schools.

“This institution has given more than any institution in the history of our city,” Daley said, commenting that other universities should try to emulate the U of C’s relationship with the surrounding city.

Daley praised the University of Chicago Crime Lab for its research on gun violence, University students for their community service, and teachers for promoting cultural diversity. He said that immigration and education can benefit American Cities.

“It’s a problem for America that we still have restrictions on bringing teachers in and not allowing students who were educated here to stay here,” Daley said. “This country is turning its back on the past.”

He argued that America has historically relied on foreign academics to fuel innovation and advancements in technology.

“We don’t produce men in science. How did we get the space program going? Russians and Germans,” Daley said. “America was a country of bringing in, and now we’re a country of pushing out.”

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