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From Springfield: Jones Finally Breaking Free of Blago?

More from Catalyst, this time in the form of an emailed report by Catalyst Springfield correspondent Aaron Chambers:  "Starting Monday, Senate President Emil
Jones Jr. will convene a week of legislative hearings in Springfield on
education funding."  Click below to read the entire story and see the schedule of events.

Catalyst article in full:

Starting Monday, Senate President Emil Jones Jr. will convene a week of legislative hearings in Springfield on education funding.

The hearings are aimed at focusing attention on the need for lawmakers to approve a budget so schools know how much state money to anticipate over the coming school year.

Schools chiefs around the state have expressed concern about the absence of a state budget, says Cindy Davidsmeyer, spokeswoman for Jones.  "It's not just us sounding an alarm."

The hearings will start with two days of testimony from teachers and principals on education spending and its impact on the classroom.

Politically, the hearings will put Jones, and education funding, in the spotlight once again. 

The hearings also appear to represent something of a political shift for Jones, who has been in lockstep with Gov. Rod Blagojevich through the entire spring session.  Jones threw his support behind the governor's failed plan to raise more money for health care and schools through a gross receipts tax.Though Blagojevich pushes to increase state spending on schools, he put far more energy this spring into promoting his plan for universal health care.

Davidsmeyer says Jones' link with Blagojevich was about policy, not politics.  She notes the two leaders largely shared the same policy vision and adds, "If he departed on the issues, we would depart from him."

State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), who chairs the Senate Education Committee, will chair the hearings.  Jones is expected to attend.

he state is running on a stopgap budget that expires at the end of July.

Here is the schedule of topics:

Monday, July 16 - Tuesday, July 17:  Education spending and its impact on classrooms.

Wednesday, July 18:  The state's foundation level and adequacy of school funding.

Thursday, July 19:  Poverty funding and funding for gifted education, special education and vocational education.

Friday, July 20th:  Ensuring achievement through accountability.

--Aaron Chambers, Springfield correspondent--

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