New Lt. Gov. hopeful Simon says education is a priority everywhere

  • Sheila Simon speaks to women leaders of DuPage County in Quigley's Irish Pub in Naperville on Wednesday. Simon was in town as part of a local tour of suburban communities.

    Sheila Simon speaks to women leaders of DuPage County in Quigley's Irish Pub in Naperville on Wednesday. Simon was in town as part of a local tour of suburban communities. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Posted4/1/2010 12:01 AM

There's plenty wrong in Springfield, some female leaders of the Democratic Party in DuPage County say.

On Wednesday, they brought their concerns straight to the woman they hope can address some of those issues if she's elected in November.


Sheila Simon, who was selected Saturday to run as the Democratic Party candidate for lieutenant governor, met with about 25 women from the political, education and labor fields at a Naperville restaurant to hear what they thought should be the state's top priorities. The stop came as part of a statewide, multiday campaign tour.

Simon also visited Sherman Hospital in Elgin and stopped in Joliet before heading back home to Carbondale.

Not surprisingly, education was on the minds of many.

"Really, the priority is education everywhere," Simon said, noting she has heard about the issue from people in all areas of Illinois. "It's easy to get some agreement that this should be a priority. It's a little bit harder to get some agreement on exactly what we do to address that issue."

In Gov. Pat Quinn's proposed budget, elementary and high school funding would be cut by 17 percent without an income tax hike.

But Simon said the state's pension reform, additional cuts and a 1 percent tax increase, which Quinn advocates, would go a long way toward closing a $13 billion budget deficit while also restoring some much-needed money for education.

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"We really don't have enough money to go around right now, particularly for education," Simon said. "That surcharge will help to pay those bills that are unpaid right now, which is the reason some of these teachers are getting laid off, and hopefully provide some extra money for education."

That would be welcome news to Jane Russell, president of the West Suburban Teachers Union Local 571 and a vice president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

As Simon went around the room and asked for input, Russell told her teachers' moods throughout the state are not positive.

"We have a lot of glum members right now," she told Simon. "We are not particularly happy with some of the things that are occurring."

As of last week, more than 17,000 teachers had been laid off with a leading Illinois education group expecting that number to top 20,000.

Russell said she was glad several of the women in attendance set education as a top priority.


"If everybody says it, maybe something might begin happening," Russell said. "This is not good for students."

Simon's appearance in the suburbs so soon after her selection signals a push to help her become better known in the area. She is a law professor at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and has served on Carbondale's city council.

Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, said Simon would bring a gender and geographical balance to the ticket, giving him an edge politically come Nov. 2. Quinn faces two downstate tickets. State Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, the Republican candidate for governor, is running with Edwardsville resident Jason Plummer and Green Party governor candidate Rich Whitney of Carbondale is running with St. Elmo resident Don Crawford.

Amy Tauchman, the executive director of Democratic Party of DuPage County, said Simon's appearance shows she understands the political importance of the area.

"The collar counties are going to be pivotal to any elections that happen this season," Tauchman said.