Chicago Urban League hosts economic summit

In the Chicago Urban League’s first-of-its kind spring summit held April 8, members of a CEO roundtable panel discuss the state of urban Chicago. Panelists include, from left, moderator Diann Burns, Wayne Watson, Barbara Eason-Watkins, Terry Mazany,

The Chicago Urban League’s April 8 spring summit, Education Equals Economic Empowerment, addressed the need for better public education funding and economic opportunities for African Americans.

The goal of the summit, said Herman Brewer, acting president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League, was to discuss how, working together, the city and region could advocate for quality education for all children, return more people to the workforce and secure more business opportunities for minority-owned companies.

“The near collapse of our financial system has been devastating, but the impact on communities of color has been catastrophic,” he said. “Some communities may never recover if we don’t act now. Some neighborhoods on the South and West Sides of Chicago have become modern day tragedies born out of the disappearance of education and economic opportunity.”

In 2008, the Chicago Urban League filed a lawsuit against the state of Illinois and the Illinois State Board of Education for funding disparities between school districts serving mostly minority students and ones serving predominately white students. The suit is ongoing and Brewer said the Urban League is currently completing the discovery process and expects a hearing to be set by the fall. At the summit, which was the first of its kind for the Chicago Urban League, the organization also unveiled its new education policy recommendations.

The publication, Opportunity Compact: Education 2010: A New Blueprint for Communities and Schools, urges that the state’s public education funding structure be targeted to support the following four priorities:

• Increasing expectations for students • Ensuring high need schools have high quality teachers and learning • Family Engagement In Learning • Ensuring quality early childhood education

Following the State of Urban Chicago address, a CEO roundtable convened to discuss strengthening the link between a quality education and economic empowerment.

The panel featured Mellody Hobson, president, Ariel Investments Inc; Wayne Watson, president, Chicago State University; Barbara Eason-Watkins, chief education officer, Chicago Public Schools; Valarie King-Bailey, CEO, OnShore Technology Group, and Terry Mazany, president and CEO, The Chicago Community Trust.

The panel was moderated by former CBS2 Chicago news anchor Diann Burns, who is the new host of the Urban League’s nextTV business and lifestyle television series.

Following the luncheon concurrent breakout sessions were held to address challenges in school funding, barriers to minority participation in the professional services sector and the job outlook for 2010 and beyond.

Contributors included: Mazany, Ralph Martire, executive director, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, Sylvia Puente, executive director, Latino Policy Forum and Lisa T. Scruggs, partner, Jenner & Block LLC.

Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender.


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