As a community leader, I talk with parents and children everyday. They share their concerns and look for us to work together to solve the biggest problems facing our neighborhoods. Time after time each and every parent and child raises the same issue: education. Over the last eight years, I have worked with partners, parishioners and friends to award more than $100,000 in scholarships to deserving college-bound students from the Austin community. Everything comes back to properly preparing our children for college, professional careers, and the real world with quality schools.

Unfortunately, our legislators don’t seem to get the message. The governor and state legislators repeatedly slash education funding without regard for the impact it will have on our kids. The state is refusing to pay back the $300 million it owes Chicago Public Schools, and, recently cut another $77 million from education. Surely there must be other places to cut in the budget. If we can find the money to spend on countless programs most people don’t use or even understand, why can’t we find the money to spend on kids? I don’t know how our elected officials think but in my community children must come first. Every child has the right to a quality education in a safe and well-funded school. We already have several failing schools, not only in Austin but throughout Chicago, and several more on the path to failure if we don’t make changes. State budget cuts will add to the problem. I can’t keep telling parents and students it will get better if our schools are not given the resources they need to improve.

The governor and our state legislators should be ashamed. Mayor Emanuel and new CPS CEO J.C. Brizard have a bold plan to improve our schools and deserve the resources to follow through on promises they’ve made. Fortunately, it is not over yet. Our representatives still have an opportunity to roll back the cuts and do what’s right by our kids. The choice is simple: restore education funding now.

Rev. Ira J. Acree
Pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church