The message was clear and the call for action united as members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus gathered outside the Senate chamber to voice their response to Governor Rauner’s State of the State address.
The press conference began with ILBC Chair Kimberly Lightford giving opening remarks setting the stage for a number of initiatives important to the African-American community to be discussed, including education equity, restoring essential social services and police brutality and incarceration reform.
Senators comment on this year's Black History Month theme, “The Crisis in Black Education.”
Over the years the crisis in black education has grown significantly. In urban neighborhoods, public schooling systems lack resources and have overcrowded classrooms, which result to students of color reaping the disproportionate shortfalls of the racial achievement gap.
In the past, whether by laws, policies, or practices, racially separated schools remained the norm in America. Because of that, black students today are underperforming and are not advancing like their white counterparts.
This year’s national theme, The Crisis in Black Education, focuses on the evolution of black education and its meaning as it empowers students to grow, achieve and prosper.
The governor’s budget address fails to help college students, vulnerable residents and disenfranchised communities. This was the core belief expressed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus at their budget press conference on Wednesday.
ILBC Chair Kimberly Lightford joined members in calling student activists and the governor to action. She challenged the governor’s proposal to sell an outdated, broken education funding plan as true reform and his failure to address higher education concerns.
“Funding our schools without reforming our unfair education system does more harm than good. No matter how much wealth you have, throwing money at a problem is not going to solve it without understanding the real issues at hand. Our decades-old funding formula has not done anything to meet the needs of today’s students. It has only led to the most regressive funding system in the nation."
SPRINGFIELD – Most of us would agree that if we could do high school all over again, knowing what we now know about how the world works, some of our academic questions and concerns might focus on more practical subjects – maybe simply inquiring about how to get through day-to-day adult life unscathed.
How do I stay out of debt? What is the best way to pay back mounting student loans? How do I prevent the guy in the apartment next door from stealing my identity?
A new law, pushed through the General Assembly by Senate Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (D – Maywood), will require those questions to be answered in Illinois public high schools.
After three years of the governor failing to fulfill his constitutional obligation to introduce a balanced budget, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus assembled for a press conference to say enough is enough. The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus is a collection of black legislators from both the House of Representatives and Senate.
"I am not sure what could be said about the governor's three years of inactivity," said Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood), chairwoman for the Joint Legislative Black Caucus. "Before he was sworn in he stated he wanted to shake things up in Springfield; in the process, he has shaken a hole in our state."
SPRINGFIELD- In 2012, 49 percent of Illinois public school students belonged to a racial or ethnic minority group, while only 16.7 percent of teachers did. Many studies show that the more teachers reflect the student body, the better the results in the classroom will be.
In light of this, minority teachers working toward additional degrees or certifications in Illinois could soon be eligible for the Minority Teachers of Illinois Program, under a proposal the Senate approved today.
Senate Bill 3319, which passed the Senate today, would allow minority teachers to apply to receive a grant for up to $5,000 a year.
“Studies show minority children have better academic outcomes when being instructed by a teacher belonging to their same racial minority,” said Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford, sponsor of the legislation. “A more diverse group of teachers with advanced degrees only creates more opportunities for our children.”
Teachers with appropriate degrees can teach dual credit courses, which award college credit upon their completion. This legislation would help expand opportunities for all children to get ahead on their college coursework while still in high school.
The proposal now heads to the House for consideration.
CHICAGO-Funding for programs serving children ages birth to three will continue to increase under a proposal that was signed into law today. Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) led efforts to ensure this funding increase would not sacrifice support for other early childhood programs.
Senate Bill 238 requires 25 percent of any increase in funding for early childhood education must go to birth to three programs.
“Educating our children requires us to invest the proper resources to ensure their success,” Lightford said.
CHICAGO—Senate Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) issued the following statement in strong support of Senate President John Cullerton’s speech detailing the necessity for need-based school funding reform Monday at the City Club of Chicago.
“Just as President Cullerton expressed so eloquently today, we must continue to shed light on one of the grossest injustices setting back Illinois today – the iniquities of our school funding system. Working together is the only way we turn our education system’s regression into progression. It’s the only way we turn systemic disadvantage into education equity. If we don’t act now in the interest of our children’s futures, it will be too late for another generation, and this, we cannot afford.” Sen. Lightford said.
SPRINGFIELD – State Sen. Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) issued the following statement after she voted to free up $3.1 billion in spending to sustain local communities, including motor fuel tax revenue, which has been held up by the budget impasse in Springfield. The measure passed the Senate and now goes to the governor for final approval.
“Today, my colleagues and I proved our resolve to make sure families and local governments have the money to continue functioning without a true budget in place,” said the assistant majority leader. “Now, we must shift our focus to what remains to be budgeted, prioritizing higher education and crucial community services, such as mental health and homeless programs. We have more work to do.”
The legislation releases motor fuel tax revenue for communities throughout Cook County – communities such as Bellwood, Maywood, North Riverside, Westchester, Oak Park and River Forest – that can be used to prepare for winter storms and repair potholes.
The exact dollar amount of how much communities are owed this year has not yet been released, but communities throughout Cook County received nearly $100 million in gas tax money last year.
Other areas of concern that have yet to be dealt with in the piecemeal budget process include MAP grant funding and other scholarships, services for rape victims, addiction treatment, immigrant language translation services, Teen Reach, epilepsy services and respite care.
Still, the legislation (SB 2039) does include the following components:
• $582.5 million to IDOT for local governments share of motor fuel gas tax revenues• $77 million for 911-related costs• $1 billion to the Lottery for prizes• $43 million to the Community College Board for career and technical education activities• $31 million to IDOT to purchase road salt• $2.5 million for breast cancer services and research• $165 million for home heating bill assistance
CHICAGO- A woman walked into U.S. Rep. Danny Davis’ office yesterday, drank out of a bottle of hand sanitizer, poured the hand sanitizer on herself and used a lighter to set herself on fire. The unfortunate incident highlights the mental health crisis in our state and across the country.
“We need to fully fund our state’s mental health services,” said Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood). “The story about this woman inflicting pain on herself should move us to acknowledge and support solutions for the mental health issues so many people are struggling with.”
In response to legislation filed today restructuring the Illinois school funding formula, State Senator Kimberly A. Lightford (D – Maywood) released the following statement.
Fairness in our school funding formula has been a topic of legislative debate and revision for decades, yet education equality remains elusive. At some point, justice has to become more than a promise. It must become a reality for all kids.
Senator Manar has worked tirelessly with leaders on both sides of the aisle and from all sides of the funding debate to construct a bill that takes the well-being of every student, every school and every district into account. It’s not too late for us to do what we should have done decades ago – pass fair education funding reform worthy of our students.
Like previous versions of education formula reform, such as SB 1, schools with fewer resources will receive more funding under the new version of the plan, but this legislation also allows more districts to qualify for additional funding through a widened adequacy grant, institutes a complete hold harmless for the next fiscal year and creates an evidence-based panel to oversee implementation of any changes.
The legislation is filed as Senate Bill 231.
SPRINGFIELD- Senate Democrats sent a measure to the House that restructures the formula for distributing funds to school districts throughout the state. Senate Bill 231 increases funds for districts in need while maintaining level funding for others. Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) released the following statement.
“The reality is that our current system for distributing funds to our schools is broken. This legislation may not be perfect, but if we don’t act soon we’re only going to continue failing to provide resources to children who need them most.
Our children should be prepared for their future no matter where they live. I urge my colleagues in the House to consider this measure to bring our state’s education system up to date. Our population is constantly changing and that requires changes in the way we educate our children.”
SPRINGFIELD – On Jan.1, 2016, students with developmental disabilities will find it easier to get the help they and their families need. Sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D – Maywood), a new law that goes into effect the first of the year requires the state to train public school case workers to register disabled students with PUNS (Prioritization or Urgency of Need for Services) database.
The database records information about individuals with developmental disabilities who are potentially in need of services. Experts have argued that due to a lack of awareness, PUNS is under-utilized, and therefore, people with developmental disabilities across the state are not getting the services they need.
“Our education system should be optimized to serve and develop all students to reach their fullest potential,” said Sen. Lightford. “This law is protecting our children and families from being overlooked or neglected through the power of institutional and academic synergy.”
The law will ensure students in Illinois public schools and parents have the information they need to register with PUNS if they so choose.
DHS and ISBE would develop a program for and conduct the training of public school employees so they are as prepared as possible to provide these students and their families with the information and advice they need. The law also requires ISBE to inform parents and guardians about updates with the PUNS waiting list through the school districts.
POINTS OF EMPHASIS
In addition, the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus has a list on its website of 16 pieces of the legislation that will become effective Jan 1.
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