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Governor Pritzker Advocates for Education in Illinois at NGA Meeting

Written by on March 7, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – J.B. Pritzker attended the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington on Sunday where he discussed issues of education in Illinois. Two former Secretaries of Education were also in attendance.

Governor Pritzker directed questions as well as concerns to the former Education Secretaries from the Obama and Bush administration on what steps can be taken to improve education in Illinois, as well as the historically fraught relationship between governors and education secretaries.

“As governor I must say that it feels like we’re on our own” Governor Pritzker said. “I’m curious how you would suggest that governors, and states in general, interact with and get the most out of the department of education.”

Pritzker mentioned the issues that Illinois faces in the education department, such as a lack of funding for financial aid.

“I heard you say Louisiana’s made enormous progress in FAFSA applications. Great, I want to go do that, that’s one example. What else?”

Neither Pritzker’s veiled criticism nor his questions were met with a direct answer from either education secretary.

Rod Paige, the former Secretary of Education from 2001-2005 for the George H. W. Bush administration, admitted that past tensions between the two offices have created roadblocks before.

“You’ve got sometimes 50 ideas coming from that direction, we’re coming from this direction,” he said, pointing to a spot offstage with one hand and to to himself with the other hand.

His response lasted one minute and deflected the governor’s concerns, opting to discuss the importance of a good relationship between the two offices instead.

The response from John King, who was Secretary of Education during the Obama administration, was even more evasive.

“One of the assets the federal education department has is good data, and the ability to share that data. And help states identify who’s leading and who might be a good example, and also what are some of the challenges,” King said.

Governor Pritzker received no answer or advice on building a better relationship with the Secretary of Education department to make improvements in the future.

Elizabeth Kolze contributed to this story.

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