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Education Committee looks at early childhood funding fixes

jbt 053018SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate Education Committee discussed solutions to statewide funding shortages for early childhood education programs this week.

State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) led the charge last year to establish an evidence-based funding formula to dispense state dollars to public schools more effectively and is ready to take on the issue of early childhood education.

“Our goal is to guarantee all Illinois’ children are given the opportunity to succeed,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “After last year’s effort, we are one step closer to ending education inequalities in our communities by funding schools the right way. The next step is to tackle the way we fund our early childhood programs.”

As a result of this new school funding formula, schools across Illinois received $350 million in additional funding this year while no schools received less funding than a year ago. Public schools across the 49th State Senate District received more than $22 million in new money for the 2018-2019 school year.

“This hearing reiterated the necessity to revamp the way we currently fund early childhood programs in Illinois,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “The current grant process is pitting schools against each other instead of promoting opportunities for all of our children.”

Dr. Kris Monn, Superintendent of Minooka Elementary School District 201, helped paint a clear picture on the difficulties local schools face due to uncalculated changes made to the competitive grant process. 

The Minooka School District routinely qualified for the early childhood funding grant in the past but was denied this year, requiring the school to self-fund part of the program to ensure children were not removed from their programs. 

“Two years ago this body made a monumental shift in how we fund education,” Monn said.  “Six months ago, we saw that the schools with the best grant writing received state dollars, instead of those who need it the most. There is a flaw in the way we decided to divvy up the dollars for preschools. I urge members of the General Assembly to push for a preschool funding program that drives dollars to the districts that need it the most.”

As the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Bertino-Tarrant pledges to work to revamp the way state dollars are allocated to early childhood programs during the upcoming legislative session.

Link moves to raise the age to purchase tobacco to 21

link 040618SPRINGFIELD – A longtime champion of stricter tobacco legislation, State Senator Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills) moved today to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a proposal to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21 years old.

“For the first time in years, tobacco use among teenagers is on the rise,” Link said. “Raising the age to purchase tobacco to 21 will cut down on access for teenagers and curb the next generation of adult smokers.”

It has been more than 10 years since Link’s Smoke Free Illinois legislation banning smoking in most public places went in to effect. Since Smoke Free Illinois, there has been a 20 percent decrease in hospitalization of various smoking-related diseases. But with the advent of e-cigarettes, tobacco use among teenagers is on the rise for the first time in years.

“Smoke Free Illinois was a major step forward in improving the health of our residents and making Illinois a better place to live,” Link said. “Tobacco 21 builds on those efforts and moves us one step closer to a healthier, smoke-free Illinois.”

Limiting access to cigarettes has proven effective in reducing the rate of tobacco use among teens. In October 2014, Evanston became the first Illinois community to adopt Tobacco 21. Since then, tobacco use among high schoolers has dropped by 37.5 percent.

Manar helps reverse veto of Lyme disease measure

manar lyme 111518SPRINGFIELD – Illinois physicians will not face discipline for recommendations they make to aggressively treat Lyme disease under a new law supported by State Senator Andy Manar.

The Illinois Senate on Thursday voted to override the governor’s veto of a bipartisan plan that permits Lyme disease sufferers to receive extended regimens of antibiotics under a physician’s care.

The plan clears the way for doctors to prescribe more aggressive treatments for Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses than are currently accepted under industry standards without facing disciplinary action by the state.

“Numerous people in my Senate district suffer from the life-altering effects of Lyme, and I believe this plan is a step in the right direction as we learn more about how to successfully treat the disease,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who co-sponsored the measure in the Senate.

House Bill 4515 creates the Lauryn Russell Lyme Disease Prevention Act. It requires state officials to form a Lyme disease prevention and outreach program and establish a 12-member Lyme disease task force.

The bill passed in the spring with overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly, but Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it in August. This week lawmakers voted to override the governor – 110-0 in the House and 48-0 in the Senate.

There were 237 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Illinois in 2016, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Harris overrides Rauner veto denying safe, affordable drinking water to poor suburbs

harris 111518SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Napoleon Harris III (D-Harvey) led a successful effort this week to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill to help economically disadvantaged communities in Cook County shore up their water infrastructure.

“Smaller Cook County suburbs lack the funding to make necessary repairs to their infrastructure and have a small chance of qualifying for state loan programs,” Harris said. “We now have a way for towns like Harvey and Ford Heights to access the capital funds needed to provide residents with safe drinking water.”

In October 2017 the Chicago Tribune found Ford Heights residents pay nearly six times more for the same water usage as residents of the wealthy, predominantly white town of Highland Park, and four times more for water than people living in Chicago. Similar problems exist in Harvey and Maywood.

Eight towns surveyed by the Tribune — Hometown, East Hazel Crest, Posen, Burnham, Riverdale, Flossmoor, Lyons and Maywood — lost more than 30 percent of their water. Of the 10 towns with the highest water rates, 50 percent have majority black populations.

The legislation would set up a drinking water grant program under the Illinois EPA to fix aging water pipes in Harvey, Ford Heights, Maywood and other towns.

The legislation goes into effect immediately.

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