Schools’ “local control” a problem, says Sen. Lightford, who’s for it anyhow . . .

Oct. 2013 Julian school forum, continued, picking up from discussion of school mandates and school funding . . . .

The forum as such was over. It was time for instruction by a consultant in how to influence legislators. (Was it to inform parents and officials or warn legislators?

Trim, soft-spoken, neatly bearded, gray-haired, in gray suit, light gray shirt and nicely contrasting middle-gray tie, he was introduced as a member of CLAIM. A ringer?

He pitched heavily for new CLAIM members, giving his voice a lilt here and there to soothing effect, but did drone on, along the way resurrecting the state financial aid issue — which got a response from Sen. Lightford and follow-up by her colleagues.

Addressing “fair distribution” of funds, she made “local control” of schools the heart of the problem, promptly adding that she supports local control, which she had just said thwarts fair distribution. It was as good a case of instant back-tracking as one might find.

She also cited the city of Chicago’s “neglect” of nearby mostly-black Austin neighborhood, remaining with this subject as if to provide a moving target for detractors, though none were in evidence in that Oak Park meeting room on that lovely October evening.

Rep. Lilly revisited her “corporate round table” idea, avowing that she is “behind efforts” to eliminate “tax breaks for corporate America,” on the one hand, and urging that “we need to get corporate America involved” in school issues, on the other. For the first time in the evening, she found her stump style, hands moving, eyes ablaze, a cheerleader in full blast.

As if to rescue her from her somewhat opaque corporate-America plans, the Oak Park senator asked if she was “referring to TIF” ([tax-increment financing], adding a prompter, “Right?” as if she had forgotten her lines. TIF cash (in part subtracted from schools money), he added, must be used “for its intended purposes,” that is, for economic development.

“TIFs are good,” Lightford said, “but for me [modest woman!] a TIF should not take too much money from schools.” Not too much, just enough.

The Oak Park senator responded reasonably enough that TIF renewals — continued diverting of money from schools for business expansion — are regularly signed off on by all involved taxing bodies, including school districts. Who presumably see their advantages, he might have added.

Lilly hung with Lightford and added, voice rising, “If we [were to] prioritize education, TIF wouldn’t be an issue.”

If only.


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