Peoria mayor addresses education issues in State of the City Address

By WEEK Producer

January 28, 2014 Updated Jan 28, 2014 at 10:36 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis is laying out some big plans as a part of his ninth State of the City Address.

In his speech, the mayor highlighted a new downtown development corporation. It will launch early this year with the main purpose to drive development in the downtown and warehouse district.

He also talked about how city officials will make it easier for new development.

The mayor once again talked about a merger between the city's police force and the county and the challenges they face.

But perhaps the biggest issue he talked about was Peoria's education system.

While city officials don’t have any control over the schools, the mayor said the entire community needs to be focused on their success.

"We have to do more and we have to do it better,” he said.

Ardis said right now Peoria's public school system is holding the city back.

"Make no mistake about it, we're not going in the right direction,” he said. “People are not coming into our city because they think it's a good education system. You can't put lipstick on the pig."

Mayor Ardis said both the perception and the reality of District 150 have to change to get well educated graduates. That would, in turn, lead to a growing population.

Right now many people are migrating outside of the District 150 boundaries, one of the beneficiaries of that over the years has been Dunlap District 323.

"We're also focused on maintaining the strong reputation that 323 has built,” Ardis said.

More than 70-percent of Dunlap students actually have a Peoria address. That's why the Mayor is committing to better communication with their administration.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ardis said he will continue to work with District 150 administration on, what he calls, intense issues.

District 150 Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan was in attendance. She refused to comment after the speech.