Families join funding lawsuit, Milken award winners

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FAMILIES JOIN LAWSUIT  Twelve families from across Illinois, whose children attend poorly funded schools, have been added as plaintiffs to the Chicago Urban League’s recently filed lawsuit challenging the state’s system of funding education. The Tri-County Urban League of Peoria also joined the suit, which charges that Illinois’ system of funding schools violates the civil rights of minority children and deprives them of an adequate education because it relies too heavily on local property taxes. A number of prominent Latino civic leaders are supporting the lawsuit, including Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle; aldermen William Ocasio (26th Ward), Manuel Flores (1st Ward) and Rey Colon (35th Ward); and School Board member Alberto Carrero.

SCHOOL SHUTDOWN, PRINCIPAL AWARD   Big Picture High School in Back of the Yards will close in June. The school, modeled after a successful program in Rhode Island that scraps classes in favor of internships and projects, was ordered to stop taking in freshmen in 2006; at the time, Big Picture and the district were wrangling over how much autonomy the school would have over its curriculum. (See story from Feb. 2007 issue here.)  The school’s principal, Alfredo Nambo, will be honored Oct. 23 with an Immigrant and Refugee Contribution Award from Changing Worlds, a nonprofit educational arts organization. Nambo is a native of Mexico.

MILKEN WINNERS   Cheryl Watkins, principal of Pershing West Magnet in Douglas, and Ronelle Robinson, 3rd-grade teacher at Cameron Elementary School in Humboldt Park, are the winners of the 2008 Milken National Educator Award. Watkins opened Pershing West under Renaissance 2010 and is an adjunct professor at National-Louis University. Robinson is a mentor teacher. Both will receive $25,000. Candidates for the Milken award are nominated, without their knowledge, by a panel appointed by their state’s department of education.