September 1, 2003
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Head Start program tops political agenda

August 31, 2003

By Jon Krenek

Job creation and the federal Head Start Program have as much in common as millionaire Republican U.S Senate primary candidate Andy McKenna and incumbent U.S Senator Dick Durbin.

Neither man will face the other in an election, but both stumped in Kankakee County within a day of each other over the weekend. The incumbent Democratic senator came to build support for the Democratic version of the federal Head Start program, which serves about 400 students locally. McKenna came to build support for his Republican primary race among labor leaders in Bradley.

President Bush is pressing changes in a Head Start reauthorization bill Durbin claims could harm the program.

"They come from families that are struggling, and this is an oasis from that, from a tough life," said Durbin, who visited classes at Head Start Proegler School in Kankakee on Friday. "I don't want Head Start to compete for funding with the child care, early education and pre-kindergarten programs that have traditionally been administered at the state level."

Kankakee County receives $2. 5 million in federal dollars directly under the program, which is matched with $600,000 in local funding, goods and services, according to Rebecca McBroom, director of Head Start of Kankakee County.

Under the Bush administration plan, the money would first go to the state.

"The school district has a great relationship with the state," said McBroom. "The main concern is if the money goes to the state, it might be diverted to another program."

McKenna, a Republican primary candidate for U.S. Senate, brought a message about Illinois job creation to the Bradley-Bourbonnias Annual Labor Day Parade. The millionaire president of Schwarz Paper Company of Morton Grove mixed with labor officials in Bradley, talking about creating jobs through new infrastructure, better international trade policies and support for small businesses.

"If you want to have a good family life, you need good jobs," said McKenna, 46, a husband and father of four children from Glenview. McKenna is one face in a growing crowd of GOP primary candidates vying to replace U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald in 2004.

His ground campaign includes 25 scheduled roundtable discussions around the state with local business and civic leaders to craft an economic development and jobs plan. In Tuesday's Daily Journal, a story will appear about one of those roundtable discussions with south suburban leaders on Friday.

McKenna said he felt comfortable among labor leaders in Kankakee County's Democratic stronghold because both share an interest in attracting good jobs.

"I want to bring forth the ideals of working people," said McKenna. "I want Illinois to be a place where we export products, not jobs."

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