From AP - News Headlines -

Former Chicago Schools Head Tapped to Lead State Ed Board

(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn named Chicago schools chief Gery Chico as chairman of the State Board of Education on Tuesday.

Chico's "decades of experience" in education and administration will be a boon to the state's schools, Quinn said at an announcement in Chicago.

Chico became president of the Chicago school board in 1995 when the city took over the schools. He helped close a budget deficit, build new schools and repair old ones, and got credit for raising test scores.

Quinn said in Chicago Tuesday that Chico's "decades of experience'' in education and administration will be a boon to the state's schools.

"I really think it's important to have a leader of distinction, leading our mission of education," Quinn said. "I can't think of anyone better than Gery Chico."

The State Board of Education has less sway over Illinois public schools than a local school board. The state panel is a policymaking body that oversees state and federal grant money and implements education law.

Chico and Quinn said they would focus on a bipartisan reform law that the Legislature sent to the governor this spring and which deals mostly with teachers' rights and qualifications. Quinn also will make early childhood education and helping local governments to build new schools priorities. Chico said he would try to develop board partnerships with other educational organizations such as universities to bring new opportunities to the classroom.

"Teachers and education literally brought us to where we are today," Chico said. "And as the governor said, it is the heart and soul of our state."

Chico lost the Chicago mayor's race this year and finished fifth in the 2004 Democratic Senate primary that Barack Obama won.

Chico replaces Jesse Ruiz, who has served as chairman since September 2004. He was the first chairman appointed under a law signed that month by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich which the governor to name seven new members and the chairman.

The idea was to make the board more accountable to the governor, who months earlier had made an infamous budget speech in which he called the state board "a Soviet-style bureaucracy" in an effort to create an education department that answered to him.

Ruiz retained respect in the Legislature and education communities after the impeached governor's downfall and Quinn praised him Tuesday, saying he chose Chico after looking for someone with similar qualities.

Members of the Illinois State Board of Education receive no salary but are reimbursed for expenses and paid $50 a day when the board meets once a month.

(AP Photo/(M. Spencer Green)

Categories: Education, Government, Politics