Illinois Governor Elect Bruce Rauner Names Rev. James Meeks as Illinois State Board of Education Chairman

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner listens while Rev. James Meeks speaks about education Monday, Sept. 8, 2014 at the Ray and Joan Kroc Center. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune) (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)
Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner listens while Rev. James Meeks speaks about education Monday, Sept. 8, 2014 at the Ray and Joan Kroc Center. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune) (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner announced Saturday he has chosen Chicago religious leader and former Democratic state Sen. James Meeks to head the Illinois State Board of Education.Meeks, pastor of Salem Baptist Church on the Far South Side, endorsed Rauner for governor and was a member of the Republican’s transition committee. Like Rauner, Meeks backs the increased use of charter schools and vouchers as alternatives to traditional public education and has been critical of the Chicago Teachers Union.

“The good news is you are the voice of the administration and not your own voice,” said Meeks, who added that Rauner informed him of the selection on Wednesday. “It’s not up to me to advocate what my personal or religious beliefs are. I’m sympathetic to improving the quality of education in the state of Illinois.”

Meeks said his top priority is closing the “achievement gap” among Illinois schools. “If charters can do it, or vouchers can do it, whatever the board will think will close the education gap,” Meeks said.

Meeks, 58, has described himself as a close friend of Rauner and stayed at the Republican’s Montana ranch for fly fishing. Meeks said he met Rauner six years ago over the topic of education.

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Source: Chicago Tribune | 

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