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Chicago Urban League
News Release     
                                                           
Media Contact
Roderick Hawkins
Chicago Urban League
(773) 451-3536
 

 

Urban League achieves major milestone in education funding lawsuit


In unprecedented action, civil rights lawsuit to have its day in court

 

 

CHICAGO, IL (April 16, 2009)-The Chicago Urban League announced a major milestone in its lawsuit challenging the state’s current system of public education funding today. In his ruling on the State of Illinois’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Judge Martin Agran declared that the Urban League lawsuit’s claim that the state’s funding system violates the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003 has merit and should be heard in court. This decision was historic in that previous education funding lawsuits were dismissed at the circuit court level.

 

“The decision to allow our education lawsuit to move forward in the court of law is an important victory for the children of Illinois,” said Cheryle R. Jackson, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. “It has been said by many that education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century. Allowing this case to move forward based on a civil rights violation claim kicks off the first education civil rights battle in the history of Illinois. The current funding system is not only unjust but it undermines the strength of our workforce and the economic competitiveness of our state. We can no longer wait, it must be changed now. We look forward to proving our case in court.”

 

Jackson was joined at today’s announcement by local education, civic and elected leaders at Roberto Clemente Community Academy for today’s announcement including: Rep. David Miller (29th District); Miguel del Valle, Clerk of the City of Chicago; Alderman Billy Ocasio (26th Ward); Michael Scott, Chairman, Chicago Board of Education; Ron Huberman, CEO, Chicago Public Schools; Dr. Byron Brazier, Pastor, Apostolic Church of God; Dr. Leon D. Finney, Jr, Chairman, The Woodlawn Organization; and Bobbie L. Steele, former president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

 

Originally filed in August, and amended in October, the co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit include several diverse Illinois families, the Quad County Urban League, based in Aurora and serving Northwest and Western suburbs and the Tri-County Urban League, based in Peoria and serving central Illinois. Amicus briefs were filed by several school districts, including Chicago Public Schools. The plaintiffs are represented, on a pro bono basis, by the law firm of Jenner & Block LLP.


 “We are thrilled by this victory,” said Lisa T. Scruggs, a partner at Jenner & Block and lead counsel for the lawsuit.  “Now the Plaintiffs turn their focus to litigating the disparate impact discrimination claim in the trial court.  We look forward to proving that the school funding system, as it is currently implemented, results in the unjustifiable and inequitable allocation of resources to those schools that serve predominantly minority student populations.”  

 

Elected officials, parents challenged to drive change now for education funding reform

 

Jackson shared that this victory for the Urban League lawsuit comes at a critical time as the state is debating how to fund needs across the state.  She encouraged state leaders to, like the Urban League, work now to change the current public school funding system.

 

“In Springfield there have been lots of debates and suggestions about how to change the current funding system, but there seems to be a lack of political will to choose a plan and put it into action,” she said. “The state doesn’t need a court ruling to make this change happen. However, if a civil rights lawsuit is what it will take drive the necessary change for the children of Illinois, then we are happy to go down this road as quickly as possible.”


Jackson also announced that the Chicago Urban League will, in the months ahead, launch a statewide campaign to engage parents and families around key education issues, and educate them on how they can challenge themselves and their elected officials to make the critical changes necessary to ensure a better educational system.

 

“We are losing generations due to under funded and underperforming school systems,” Jackson said. “Whether or not a parent has a child enrolled in public schools, it is necessary for all families to be fully aware of the impact poorly funded schools have on everyone in the state of Illinois. We are at risk of not being able to compete globally and must solve this crisis now.  This is not an African American or a Latino issue, but an issue for the entire state to be concerned about and engaged in.” 

 

More information about the lawsuit, including frequently asked questions and Illinois school funding facts can be found on the Chicago Urban League website (www.TheChicagoUrbanLeague.org).

 

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About the Chicago Urban League

Established in 1916, the Chicago Urban League is a civil rights organization that empowers and inspires individuals to reach and exceed their economic potential.  The Chicago Urban League supports and advocates for economic, educational and social progress for African-Americans through our agenda focused exclusively on economic empowerment as the key driver for social change. For more information, visit www.thechicagourbanleague.org.

 

About Jenner & Block LLP

Jenner & Block is a national, full-service law firm with approximately 500 attorneys and offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, DC. Founded in 1914, the Firm has grown and prospered because of an unwavering commitment to our clients, to the Bar, to our people and to public service. Jenner & Block has been widely recognized for consistently delivering excellent legal representation in the courtroom and the boardroom. The Firm has also traditionally served as a leader in public service and pro bono advocacy, having been consistently ranked as one of the top ten pro bono firms in the country by The American Lawyer magazine. In 2008, The American Lawyer recognized Jenner & Block as the number one law firm in the country for pro bono service.

 

 


 
 
 
 
Chicago Urban League
News Release     
                                                           
Media Contact
Roderick Hawkins
Chicago Urban League
(773) 451-3536
 
 
Urban League lawsuit gains statewide plaintiffs, Latino community support

 

CHICAGO, IL (October 16, 2008)-The Chicago Urban League has filed an amended civil rights lawsuit against the State of Illinois and the Illinois State Board of Education in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The amended lawsuit adds 12 families from across the state whose children are impacted by poorly funded schools. The Tri-County Urban League of Peoria also joins the suit. The original lawsuit, filed in August by the Chicago Urban League and Quad County Urban League, seeks a court order declaring that the current system of funding public education in Illinois is unconstitutional and a violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003. The amended lawsuit has also gained the support of leaders in Chicago’s Latino community. Details of the amended lawsuit were discussed today at Roberto Clemente Community Academy. 

 

“Today our lawsuit has been strengthened by 12 diverse families from around the state of Illinois who are fed up with the poor quality education their children receive due to the State’s discriminatory funding model,” said Cheryle R. Jackson, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. “We are also pleased to have the support of many leaders in Chicago’s Latino community. This is a fight that transcends race, class and geography. We must be united to win this battle.”

 

Jackson was joined by elected officials, civil rights advocates, ministers, education advocates and administrators including: Alderman Billy Ocasio (26th Ward); Alderman Manuel Flores (1st Ward); Alderman Rey Colon (35th Ward); Miguel del Valle, Clerk of the City of Chicago; Sen. Iris Martinez (20th District); Alberto Carrero, member, Chicago Board of Education; Theodia Gillespie president and CEO, Quad County Urban League; and Laraine Bryson, president, Tri-County Urban League. Parents of children in poorly funded public schools who recently joined the lawsuit of co-plaintiffs also attended today’s announcement.

 

"Our community is tired of a funding system that so deprives our schools that our students have to share books, and are so overcrowded that our schools are more daycare centers than learning institutions," said Alderman Ocasio.  

 

Theodia Gillespie, president and CEO of the Quad County Urban League added, “The current system of funding for our schools does not work. Elected officials in the state of Illinois have a responsibility to make sure all children receive a high quality education, regardless of their address or socioeconomic status.”

 

About the lawsuit

In court documents, the Chicago Urban League asserts that the civil rights lawsuit has been filed because of the State’s failed school funding scheme, the discriminatory impact that the scheme has on minority students, especially African American and Latino students and the inadequate educational opportunity it creates for thousands of Illinois public school children. 

 

The lawsuit challenges the State’s method for raising and distributing education funds to local school districts and the Illinois State Board of Education’s implementation of the system.  Represented on a pro bono basis by the law firm of Jenner & Block LLP,  the Urban League asserts that the State’s public school funding scheme (1) disparately impacts racial and ethnic minority students who attend Majority-Minority Districts in violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003; (2) violates the Uniformity of Taxation provision of the Illinois Constitution; (3) violates Plaintiffs’ right to attend “high quality educational institutions” guaranteed by the Education Article under the Illinois Constitution and (4) violates Plaintiffs’ right to equal protection under the Illinois Constitution.

 

 The Chicago Urban League and their co-plaintiffs want the court to agree that the public education financing mechanism in Illinois violates the Illinois Civil Rights Act and Illinois Constitution and order the State to take the necessary steps to eliminate the constitutional violation and remedy the statutory violation.

 

“The children all across the state of Illinois are entitled to a quality education that focuses on excellence,” said Laraine Bryson, president of the Tri-County Urban League. “Adequate funding that is equitable across all districts is required to make this a reality for all children regardless of race. We demand nothing less than the best for the leaders of tomorrow.”

 

Engagement across racial, class lines encouraged

Jackson, citing the widespread support the lawsuit has gained, encouraged more individuals and families to educate themselves about the disparities in school funding and to encourage elected officials to support revamping the current system.  “Whether you have a child in public schools or have the luxury of sending them to the school of your choice, we must all be engaged in this lawsuit and join in this fight for our children’s future. Anyone who wants our vote now and in the future must commit to fixing this broken system. The entire community benefits when all of our children receive a quality education.”

 

More information about the lawsuit, frequently asked questions and Illinois school funding facts can be found on the Chicago Urban League website (www.thechicagourbanleague.org).

 

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About the Chicago Urban League

Established in 1916, the Chicago Urban League is a civil rights organization that empowers and inspires individuals to reach and exceed their economic potential.  The Chicago Urban League supports and advocates for economic, educational and social progress for African-Americans through our agenda focused exclusively on economic empowerment as the key driver for social change. For more information, visit www.thechicagourbanleague.org.

 

About Jenner & Block LLP

Jenner & Block is a national, full-service law firm with approximately 500 attorneys and offices in Chicago, New York and Washington, DC. Founded in 1914, the Firm has grown and prospered because of an unwavering commitment to our clients, to the Bar, to our people and to public service. Jenner & Block has been widely recognized for consistently delivering excellent legal representation in the courtroom and the boardroom. The Firm has also traditionally served as a leader in public service and pro bono advocacy, having been consistently ranked as one of the top ten pro bono firms in the country by The American Lawyer magazine. In 2008, The American Lawyer recognized Jenner & Block as the number one law firm in the country for pro bono service.

 

 

 

 

 


 
 

Chicago Urban League
News Release     
                                                           
Media Contact
Roderick Hawkins
Chicago Urban League
(773) 451-3536
 
 

 

Chicago Urban League Files Civil Rights Lawsuit on School Funding

 

Lawsuit calls for an end to discriminatory practices that have left

African American and Latino children behind

 

CHICAGO, IL (August 20, 2008)-The Chicago Urban League has filed a lawsuit against the State of Illinois and the Illinois State Board of Education calling for the state’s current school funding scheme to be declared unconstitutional and in violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003. The lawsuit asserts that the State of Illinois has, for decades, discriminated against families based on race and has deprived African American, Latino and other minority children of a high quality education. The lawsuit, which was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, was announced today at Chicago Urban League headquarters on the city’s south side.

 

“Today we have gone to court to seek an end to decades of inadequate and unequal funding the State of Illinois has given our schools,” said Cheryle R. Jackson, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. “Our children, especially African Americans and Latinos, have been left behind because of poorly funded schools while their white counterparts in wealthy communities are thriving. Their basic right to a quality  education is being denied. Through our litigation and civic engagement around this issue, we want to make sure no more children are given a second-class education.”  

 

Jackson was joined by civil rights groups, ministers, education advocates and administrators including: Theodia Gillespie president and CEO of the Quad County Urban League, a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit; Mary Ellen Guest, campaign manager, A+ Illinois; Arne Duncan, CEO, Chicago Public Schools; Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., founder and president, Rainbow PUSH Coalition; Karl Brinson, president, NAACP Chicago, Westside branch; Dr. Byron Brazier; pastor, Apostolic Church of God; Dr. Leon Finney, pastor, Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church; Dr. Marshall Hatch, pastor, New Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church; Rev. Sen. James T. Meeks, pastor, Salem Baptist Church of Chicago; Rev. Otis Moss III, pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ and Rev. Stephen Thurston II, co-pastor, New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church.   

 

 

”Unbalanced and unfair school funding is hurting children all over the state of Illinois,” said Theodia Gillespie, president and CEO of the Quad County Urban League, which serves African Americans and other minorities in DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will Counties. “The system is clearly broken and must be fixed.”

 

About the lawsuit

In court documents, the Chicago Urban League asserts that the civil rights lawsuit has been filed because of the State’s failed school funding scheme, the discriminatory impact that the scheme has on minority students, especially African American and Latino students and the inadequate educational opportunity it creates for thousands of Illinois public school children. 

 

The lawsuit challenges the State’s method for raising and distributing education funds to local school districts and the Illinois State Board of Education’s implementation of the system.  Represented on a pro bono basis by the law firm of Jenner & Block LLP,  the Urban League asserts that the State’s public school funding scheme (1) disparately impacts racial and ethnic minority students who attend Majority-Minority Districts in violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003; (2) violates the Uniformity of Taxation provision of the Illinois Constitution; (3) violates Plaintiffs’ right to attend “high quality educational institutions” guaranteed by the Education Article under the Illinois Constitution and (4) violates Plaintiffs’ right to equal protection under the Illinois Constitution.

 

The Chicago Urban League wants the court to agree that the public education financing mechanism in Illinois violates the Illinois Civil Rights Act and Illinois Constitution and order the State to take the necessary steps to eliminate the constitutional violation and remedy the statutory violation.

 

"Illinois ranks 49th in the nation for the funding gap between rich and poor students, and white and minority students," said Mary Ellen Guest, campaign manager of A+ Illinois, the state's leading advocate for improved school quality and funding. "It should come as no surprise that Illinois also ranks near-last for the achievement gap between these groups of students."

 

Guest applauded the Chicago Urban League for its work in closing the achievement gap, adding, "Illinois' schoolchildren will be asked to compete globally for the high-tech jobs of the 21st Century. How many of them will be left behind?"

  

Call to action issued

Jackson encouraged citizens to learn more about the disparities in school funding, reach out to elected officials, their communities and the media to voice their support of the lawsuit. “No matter your race, gender, or economic status, students receiving low quality education affects all of us. An underfunded system leads to low quality education, and underachieving students. A child’s limitation should only be how big they can dream not which school district they happen to live in. This vicious cycle must end now.”

 

More information about the lawsuit, frequently asked questions and Illinois school funding facts can be found on the Chicago Urban League website (www.thechicagourbanleague.org).

 

###

 

About the Chicago Urban League

Established in 1916, the Chicago Urban League is a civil rights organization that empowers and inspires individuals to reach and exceed their economic potential.  The Chicago Urban League supports and advocates for economic, educational and social progress for African-Americans through our agenda focused exclusively on economic empowerment as the key driver for social change. For more information, visit www.thechicagourbanleague.org.

 

About Jenner & Block LLP

Jenner & Block is a national, full-service law firm with approximately 500 attorneys and offices in Chicago, New York and Washington, DC. Founded in 1914, the Firm has grown and prospered because of an unwavering commitment to our clients, to the Bar, to our people and to public service. Jenner & Block has been widely recognized for consistently delivering excellent legal representation in the courtroom and the boardroom. The Firm has also traditionally served as a leader in public service and pro bono advocacy, having been consistently ranked as one of the top ten pro bono firms in the country by The American Lawyer magazine. In 2008, The American Lawyer recognized Jenner & Block as the number one law firm in the country for pro bono service.

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