Oak Park schools hosted state legislators a few days ago. It’s an annual grilling, which went this way in 2013 . . .

. . .  when Senators Harmon and Lightford and Reps. Lilly and Ford faced parents and taxpayers at Julian School, Oct. 9, 2013.

As recounted in Chapter 8, “Legislators go to school,” in Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters.

The legislators were welcomed cheerily by the district superintendent as people who had come for the “festivities,” which had been many months in the planning.

He noted “gridlock in Washington” as a problem, ignoring the much publicized, recently concluded Springfield version, in which legislators had been locked in combat about pension reform.

Indeed, legislators had just recently received their pay checks, two months late, held up by Gov. Quinn in an effort to get them to stop disagreeing with each other. Not a red cent until you stop bickering.

Small crowd:

“The citizenry,” also welcomed, had not materialized as expected. Dozens of empty chairs took up space in a small meeting room where 40 or so citizens were seated, including two Oak Park village board members and presumably the school board, which was not introduced.

Indeed, on entering this room — from the mall-like entrance to the school on a pleasant fall evening — it looked like a church, with all seated as far back as they could. What’s more, the entire front two rows were reserved and so marked — for whom it was never clear, because they remained unoccupied throughout the 90-minute meeting.

The superintendent

. . . read from a lectern to the left of two long tables — one for the interrogators (three mothers), the other for the legislators.

His text was a lengthy “strategic plan” statement salted with such school-professional staples as “challenge” and “risk-takers.”

He held his head down throughout, reading it, he said, so that the lawmakers would know “where our board is coming from,” which was pretty much where liberal-progressive school boards were coming from throughout the land.

What’s up?

He explained “why we are here,” reading several paragraphs. He congratulated the organizers of the gathering. It “took a lot of work,” he said. “It took a year,” spent presumably in formulating questions, prepping the questioners, and (probably most time-consuming) scheduling senators and representatives.

Introductions:

He introduced these one by one, requesting and getting “a hand” for each. He did the same for the three women at their table, members of the district’s Committee for Legislative Action, Intervention and Monitoring (CLAIM). They would do the questioning, he explained.

More more more in a day or so . . .

Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters is available in paperbackepub and Amazon Kindle formats.

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