State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg of Evanston announced today that he won’t run for re-election next year and that he instead will focus full-time after his term ends on his other career — advising the Pritzker family on its charitable efforts in the area of early childhood development.
Schoenberg was first elected to the state House in 1990 at the age of 30. He was elected to the Senate in 2003 and now serves as assistant majority leader.
He made his announcement at a Springfield news conference this afternoon.
“While I take very seriously my responsibility to my constituents on the North Shore and to the taxpayers of this state, I also know that my position in the State Senate is only one point of entry into public service,” Schoenberg said.
“The issue that has been the center of my passion and what motivates me professionally is improving the lives of children and families – especially in our most vulnerable communities. With this in mind, I’ve chosen to accept an expanded full-time role advising J.B. and M.K. Pritzker and their family philanthropy on initiatives in the area of early childhood development.”
Schoenberg has served as an advisor to the Pritzker’s for the past five years.
Schoenberg during his legislative career worked to provide increased transparency and accountability in state government and championed a comprehensive overhaul of state purchasing laws.
Schoenberg has also been instrumental in advancing a number of important public health initiatives, including ensuring greater access to quality healthcare through a hospital assessment law that has secured over $5 billion in new federal Medicaid funds for safety-net hospitals. He also gained nationwide attention in his bipartisan efforts to make Illinois a leader in stem cell research.
The Pritzker’s early childhood efforts, Schoenberg said, have included focusing on human capital development with Nobel Laureate economist James Heckman, helping to build Educare of Washington, D.C., and helping initiate the First Five Years Fund, the national advocacy organization led by former Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Cornelia Grumman.
He said the Illinois-incubated innovations are at a critical point of development and are drawing national and international attention both from a programmatic and policy perspective.
“In order to fully take advantage of this unusual moment, I simply need to dedicate myself with a singular professional approach to lead this work in a way that will require more focus, flexibility and consistency than the responsibilities my two full-time careers currently allow, Schoenberg added.
Top: Schoenberg announcing he won’t run again.
Schoenberg the Silent
I wrote the senator a couple of months ago by registered mail asking him why he takes all expenses paid trips to Israel with other Illinois politicians and prominent people from Illinois, trips funded by the Jewish United Fund with the express purpose of promoting Israel. This is a state version of the trooping to Israel of members of Congress
Since Israel is a democracy in a way completely alien to what we know in the United States (a state for Jews only with a token number of Palestinians who are kept politically impotent) and violates international law with the settlements in occupied land (laws that the U.S. recognizes), I asked Mr. Schoenberg how a person representing the Land of Lincoln, the Great Emancipator who freed the slaves, could be devoting any of his time in office to promoting ties with a foreign country that is actively ethnic cleansing native people from their land – as un-American a practice as is possible. We give native-Americans full rights as citizens, Palestinians have none.
Since there was no reply, even after I called his office and verified with his staff that the letter was received, there is no evidence of a desire to address the concerns of this constituent.
Reading the present story on his retirement from office that properly lauds his good work for children, I find it puzzling that he actively supports a country that arrests and imprisons Palestinian children under military law that allows no opposition to the practice, that prohibits family unification, that wrests fathers from their families in routine pre-dawn raids because those fathers have dared to protest non-violently against the seizure of their lands.
While American children will and have drawn benefits from Mr. Schoenberg's good work, Palestinian children cry out for attention with voices that few Americans will hear and that Israel does all it can to mute. That is not a country to promote.
Typical "retirement press conference." Let's only focus on the "supposed" successes. However, what is missing is that Senator Schoenberg exits stage left and has no accountability or culpability for the situation he has left to his constituents and everyone else in Illinois.
Cliff Brown highlights the good work Schoenberg has done for children. But during his 20 year tenure in Springfield the State of Illinois significantly lowered educational standards and we are now ranked around 40th out of 50 states. Also during his 20 years the State of Illinois amassed huge debt and unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities. Our state's credit rating is one of the lowest in the nation.
So Senator Schoenberg is leaving office while our children are undereducated and overly indebted. But he's no longer accountable for these critically important issues which will burden our children, especially impoverished and underprivileged children for decades into the future. Is he proud of these "accomplishments?"
Also, during his tenure, the corruption in Illinois politics was pervasive. I've never heard of impropriety of Senator Schoenberg, but as one of the senior members of the Illinois Senate and in the Democratic Party i didn't see him demonstrate any leadership on this issue either. It's much easier to look the other way. Easier yes, politically expedient, yes, morally and ethically right, NO.
It is good that he is leaving. He has been part of the problem with Illinois pols.
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