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Lightford: Bridge programs create opportunity for students who may have a tougher time adjusting to college

lightford 053118SPRINGFIELD – While obtaining a college degree is increasingly vital to career advancement, low-income, racial minority and first-generation college students often struggle to transition into a college or university’s culture.

A plan led by Illinois Senate Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) that was signed into law on Friday seeks to ease the transition into college by allowing Illinois’ public universities to establish bridge programs. These programs would provide access, academic support and financial aid to underrepresented students.

“Our universities should be equipped to ensure the success of all students,” Lightford said. “Bridge programs create an opportunity for students who may have a tougher time adjusting to college by offering them support in areas often overlooked.”

House Bill 5696 requires each public university that establishes a bridge program to designate a full-time program director to establish guidelines and manage the program.

“Access is the first step to academic success that transforms lives. At the University of Illinois System, we are proud to provide the access to life changing experiences at our three universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield,” said University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen. "We're proud to stand with Senate Assistant Majority Leader Lightford, House Higher Education Committee Chairman Welch and the broad coalition of legislators who shepherded this bill through the legislature."

Bridge programs will be open only to Illinois residents, and priority will be given to applicants whose life patterns have been characterized by historical economic or cultural deprivation.

The law goes into effect immediately.

Manar: Limiting minimum wage no way to lure teachers to Illinois

manar 052118SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Andy Manar said he is disappointed but not surprised by the governor’s veto Sunday of a plan to raise the minimum wage for Illinois teachers for the first time since 1980.

For nearly four decades, state statute has required Illinois school districts to pay teachers a minimum salary of about $10,000. Based on decades of inflation, the minimum mandated salary today should be about $32,000.

Manar (D-Bunker Hill), the Senate sponsor of the measure, noted that there are teachers throughout Illinois today who live at or below the federal poverty line, something he said he finds unconscionable given the professionalism and dedication required to educate children.

It was hoped that raising the minimum salary would help Illinois tackle an acute teacher shortage crisis by sending a message that the work teachers do is valued and attracting more young people to the profession.

“Refusing to guarantee professional educators a livable minimum wage is no way to lure more teachers to Illinois,” he said. “I’m disappointed in the governor’s veto, and I know thousands of dedicated, hard-working, creative educators throughout the state are, too.”

Under the measure (Senate Bill 2892), the state would update the minimum mandated salary for teachers annually for the next four years. After that, subject to review by the General Assembly, it would be increased according to the Consumer Price Index. The phase-in looks like this under the proposal:

  • $32,076 minimum for the 2019-2020 school year
  • $34,576 minimum for the 2020-2021 school year
  • $37,076 minimum for the 2021-2022 school year
  • $40,000 minimum for the 2022-2023 school year

It is unknown if the General Assembly will attempt to override the veto.

Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin said members of the organization, which backed the minimum wage bill, also are disappointed but unsurprised by the governor’s veto.

“The governor repeatedly says he’s a friend of education, but his actions tell us otherwise. Senator Manar’s legislation would have been the best way to combat the teacher shortage in Illinois. Studies show the most effective way to alleviate a teacher shortage crisis is through respect and adequate wages,” Griffin said.

“By vetoing this bill, the governor is disrespecting every teacher, student and community in Illinois.  We are in the midst of a crisis the governor does not seem interested in fixing.”

Morrison’s proposal protecting access to medication for cancer patients signed into law

chemo 082718SPRINGFIELD – Insurance companies will no longer be able to impose step-therapy on stage 4 cancer patients under a new law signed over the weekend that was passed by State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield).

“No cancer patient should have to deal with an insurance bureaucrat to fight for the medication prescribed by their physician,” Morrison said. “Seriously ill Illinoisans must be able to rely on effective medical treatments to manage their conditions without interference from their insurance companies.”

Tom Cullerton’s new law strengthens employment protections for service members

veteran civjob 082718VILLA PARK— A new Illinois law will ensure service members’ rights are protected while they are serving our nation.

State Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) sponsored Senate Bill 3547 which modernizes state military service member employment rights. The updates to the law protect modern operational reserve forces.

This bipartisan measure was signed into law on Sunday and goes into effect Jan. 1, 2019.

“It’s important that we ensure state laws are modernized with the growing needs of our military members,” Cullerton said. “While our service men and women are sacrificing their lives to protect our country they should not have to fear losing their civilian jobs.”

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