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Lightford: We must limit the amount of children being expelled before kindergarten

Sen. Lightford discusses HB 2663

Children in public preschools are more than three times more likely to be expelled than children in kindergarten through 12th grades, according to a report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois. Today, Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) joined a group of law enforcement officials and colleagues from both chambers to discuss a proposal that would keep more at-risk preschool students in the classroom.

The proposal, which was approved in the House with significant bipartisan support 95-20, would prohibit the expulsion of children enrolled in early childhood programs receiving grants from the Illinois State Board of Education. The legislation focuses on transitioning children to programs that better fit a child’s needs.

“Disrupting academics is the last thing we should do,” Lightford said. “Children’s time in the classroom is vital, and we need to make sure we are connecting children with the right support.”

House Bill 2663 not only serves young children, but it also acknowledges that educators need more support when instructing children with behavioral and mental health issues. There are a number of programs that work with teachers and parents to prevent further difficulties and build on children’s social-emotional skills.

“Expulsion should always be a last resort, not the first option,” Lightford said. “This measure is a good start to ensuring the success of young children by focusing on their comprehensive development.”

The plan is currently in the Senate and will be heard in the Education Committee in the coming weeks.

McGuire: Rauner’s silence on higher ed harms neediest students (AUDIO)

Sen. Pat McGuire

State universities have made efforts to cut, but warn that the state suffers

SPRINGFIELD — Speaking after presidents from five state universities testified on how they’re responding to the lack of a state budget and the possibility of more reductions to come, State Sen. Pat McGuire said a generation of students are being harmed by the governor’s lack of a clear plan for higher education in Illinois.

“We’ve heard of ‘thousands of decisions,’ as Northern Illinois University president Douglas Baker put, to rein in costs and streamline programs,” McGuire said following the hearing, in which presidents explained in detail how they are attempting to triage staff and programs for possible reduction or elimination. “That action at NIU and other state colleges is in sharp contrast to lack of any apparent plan for higher education from the Rauner administration other than to let schools wither.”

Calling the Illinois House’s recently-passed stopgap measure “unsustainable,” Baker said universities need stability and predictability from state government. Speaking of years of reduced state funding for higher education, Baker said:

“Unfortunately, these kinds of cuts hit those with the lowest financial ability the most. It hurts the most needy students the worst, but it impacts all of them.”

“In the absence of any plan from the Rauner administration for how to stabilize and strengthen our state’s higher education system, I fear we’re creating a two-class higher education system in Illinois where those who can afford it will be able to earn college degrees, but those who can’t afford it are out of luck,” McGuire said.

McGuire, D-Joliet, is chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee.