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Lightford plan allows public universities to establish bridge programs

Asst. Majority Leader Kimberly A. LightfordSPRINGFIELD – 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 approved in the Senate Higher Education committee Tuesday 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.

“There are still so many young people who are going to college for the first time and moving away from everything they are familiar with, and that can be a nerve-racking situation,” Lightford said. “We have a very diverse population in our state, and our universities should be focused on inclusion so that all young people benefit from the world-class education they offer.”

Bush moves to create task force to study Illinois’ opioid epidemic

bush 050818SPRINGFIELD – A task force would study the extent to which opioids are being overprescribed in Illinois under a measure from Senator Melinda Bush that advanced out of a Senate committee today.

"There's no easy way to solve the opioid crisis in Illinois," said Bush (D-Grayslake). "In order to really get to the root of the problem, we have to take a well-rounded approach and come at the problem from all angles."

HB 4707 creates the Prescription Drug Task Force to study the extent of over prescription of opioids to patients and make recommendations to address the issue. The Task Force will consist of legislators, the Department of Human Services, health care organizations, law enforcement and parents.

"This task force will allow us to hear from experts across the state and come up with the best-possible legislative approaches to ending the opioid epidemic in Illinois," Bush said.

Aquino advances measure to gather classroom data, set reduced class size goals

aquino 041218SPRINGFIELD - In order to improve the state’s ability to study class sizes, school districts in Illinois would be required to report various sets of classroom data to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) under legislation advanced out of the Illinois Senate Education committee today by State Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago).

The legislation, House Bill 5481, aims to shed light on data related to class sizes and teacher caseloads in Illinois, while setting class size goals that give students their best chance at succeeding inside and outside of the classroom, according to Aquino.

HB 5481 requires school districts to report the following criteria no later than the 60th day of each school year:

  • the pupil-teacher ratios for each school district
  • the number of teachers employed by each school
  • the number of class instructors by grade level and subject
  • each individual class size and total caseload for each teacher

ISBE would be required to post the data on its website by Dec. 1 of the same year.

HB 5481 also sets the following class size goals for the General Assembly for the start of the 2020-2021 school year:

  • 18 students or less for kindergarten
  • 22 students or less for grades 1 through 5
  • 25 students or less for grades 6 through 12
  • 150 students or less for each teachers caseload

“Reducing teachers’ caseloads improves student performance at every level by maximizing student engagement, allowing for concentrated instruction and fostering better classroom relationships, all of which are major factors in a student’s long-term success,” Aquino said. “This bill sets the framework for giving our students their best shot at achieving their full potential.”

HB 5481 now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

Harris: Public universities should offer Black history course

harris 050818SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Napoleon Harris III (D-Harvey) is lead sponsor of legislation that would require every community college and public university to offer a course studying the events of Black History.

“We hear a lot of misinformation these days about the history of African Americans on television, social media and the internet in general,” Harris said.

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