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Fine fights for dignity in the workplace for individuals with disabilities

Senator FineSPRINGFIELD – To ensure dignity for all in the workplace, State Senator Laura Fine (D-Glenview) is pushing for workers with intellectual or development disabilities to have help seeking employment and negotiating fair compensation.

“The unemployment rate of individuals with disabilities is nearly three times higher than the statewide unemployment rate,” Fine said. “On top of that, a large portion of these employees make less than the minimum wage. It’s time we help workers receive the respect and dignity they deserve on the job.”

Senate Bill 2087 creates the Customized Employment for Individuals with Disabilities Act, which would establish a five-year pilot program with two main functions: To assist individuals with disabilities who are seeking work in finding employment, and to help workers with disabilities negotiate with employers to ensure they receive fair compensation.

The bill is an initiative of The Arc of Illinois, an organization that provides assistance to individuals with disabilities throughout the state. It passed the Senate Committee on Human Services with a unanimous vote and is scheduled to be heard by the full Senate.

Manar advances teacher shortage remedies

Senator ManarSPRINGFIELD – Aspiring educators no longer would be required to pass a basic skills test and student teachers could receive a paycheck under State Senator Andy Manar’s latest plan to address Illinois’ teacher shortage crisis.

In addition, the proposal would reinstate the 6 percent cap for teacher salary increases to be covered by the state. Last year, lawmakers lowered the cap to 3 percent.

Manar’s measure (Senate Bill 1952) was approved by the members of Senate Education Committee Tuesday. It received bipartisan support and has bipartisan sponsorship in the Senate.

“These are three things I hear in almost complete unison from teachers across the state – in both rural and large school districts – that in various ways impact the profession and the ability to recruit and retain qualified teachers,” Manar (D-Bunker Hill) said.

Three solutions are outlined the proposal:

  • Passing a basic skills test would no longer be a requirement to be a teacher. Research shows the test is a barrier to many qualified would-be teachers receiving their Professional Educator License in Illinois.
  • Removes the prohibition on student teachers being paid for their work. The plan would allow school districts, higher education, foundations and others to work together to solve local teacher shortages.
  • Reinstates the 6 percent cap for salary increases for teachers to be covered by the Teachers Retirement System. Last year lawmakers lowered the cap to 3 percent.

“The salary cap is something I hear about regularly from constituents who work in education. It poses a challenge for recruiting and retaining qualified teachers, and it creates unnecessary competition among school districts that are vying for the same teaching candidates,” Manar said. “We have to tear down barriers to putting teachers in classrooms, not create new ones.”

Last year, Manar passed a different set of measures to address the teacher shortage crisis, including slashing red tape to encourage educators outside of Illinois to apply for hard-to-fill jobs here, creating a short-term substitute teaching license and allowing downstate retired teachers to substitute in classrooms without jeopardizing their retirement benefits. The packaged was signed into law in June.

Link: “Our laws should reflect our values that victims and their rights should be protected”

Senator LinkSPRINGFIELD – Childhood sexual abuse victims would be reaffirmed in their right to bring civil charges against their perpetrator and those who fraudulently concealed their crime under a proposal advanced today by State Senator Terry Link (D-Indian Creek).

“Victims of childhood sexual abuse experience extreme traumas that often leave scars for life,” Link said. “While it is impossible to go back in time and prevent these horrific crimes from occurring, we should be doing everything in our power to seek justice for these individuals.”

Link’s proposal, contained in Senate Bill 1868, reaffirms the ability of victims of childhood sexual abuse cases to bring a civil claim against an abuser or an individual who fraudulently concealed the crime. The legislation builds off a law Link passed in 2013 that eliminated the statute of limitations on bringing civil claims for damages from childhood sexual abuse.

Link introduced the plan after a report issued by former Attorney General Lisa Madigan in December of 2018 revealed accusations of child sexual abuse against nearly 700 Catholic priests throughout Illinois.

Link’s measure would ensure victims are able to recoup civil damages if there is evidence that their perpetrator intentionally tried to conceal the crime.

“Our laws should reflect our values that victims and their rights should be protected,” Link said.

Senate Bill 1868 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon without opposition and will now head to the Senate floor for further debate.

Crowe to create scholarship program for non-traditional, vocational students

Senator CroweSPRINGFIELD – Non-traditional students seeking vocational training would be eligible for a new scholarship program under new legislation cosponsored by State Senator Rachelle Crowe (D-Glen Carbon).

“Our trade students are essential to the future of our economy,” said Crowe. “If we can encourage more people to take advantage of our trade schools when they have the opportunity a little later in life, we’ll be making better use of state resources and helping local job markets.”

The legislation establishes an Adult Vocational Community College Scholarship Program, run by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. To be eligible, a student must be over the age of 30 and unemployed but actively searching for work.

The scholarship would be enough to cover the cost of tuition and fees to attend the community college without exceeding $2,000 per recipient per academic year.

Senate Bill 1167 passed the Senate Higher Education Committee today and is scheduled for further debate before the full Senate.

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