August 20, 2008 / 10:00 PM / 10 years ago

Group accuses Illinois of bias in school funding

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A civil rights group said Wednesday it sued the state of Illinois over its system of funding public schools, accusing it of racial discrimination by relying on funding that is “inadequate and unequal.”

The Chicago Urban League, in a lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, alleges that the state discriminated for decades against families based on race, depriving African-American, Latino and other minority children of a high-quality education. The lawsuit cites alleged violations of the state’s civil rights act and of the Illinois Constitution.

“Today we have gone to court to seek an end to decades of inadequate and unequal funding the State of Illinois has given our schools,” said Cheryle R. Jackson, the Urban League’s president and CEO, in a statement. “Our children, especially African-Americans and Latinos, have been left behind because of poorly funded schools while their white counterparts in wealthy communities are thriving.”

Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s office had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

The Illinois school funding system is heavily dependent on local property taxes, which leads to disparities among school districts’ spending. Illinois ranks 49th among states for the funding gap between rich and poor students and white and minority students, according to Mary Ellen Guest, campaign manager of A+ Illinois, a group advocating for improved school quality and funding.

Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Leslie Adler

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