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  • 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.

  • Senator Omar AquinoSPRINGFIELD – State Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, expressed his support for a group of Noble Charter Schools teachers in their effort to unionize. A number of Noble staffers recently signed an open letter asking the administration not to interfere with union organizing.

    “Hundreds of families in the 2nd district are served by the seven Noble schools in the area. It is very important that the Noble Charter Schools board does not interfere with unionization efforts,” Aquino said. “Noble Charter Schools negotiates contracts with Chicago Public Schools. It seems fair to me that the teachers should be allowed to collectively bargain for a contract with their employer.”

    Last Friday, over 130 Noble Charter School teachers signed an open letter asking the administration not to interfere with unionization efforts. With 12,000 students enrolled at 17 campuses around the city, Noble is Chicago’s largest charter school network. If they organize, Noble teachers will form the largest union of charter school teachers in the country. The teachers are organizing for more job stability, better teacher retention and a greater voice in network decisions.

    “I believe that unionization is the right choice for Noble Charter Schools,” Aquino said. “When teachers are brought to the table and given a voice, the quality of education improves. Out of respect for these workers, I call on Noble Charter School Network Superintendent Michael Milkie to keep his promise and stay out of the union’s organizing efforts. I believe that every person has the right to organize with their coworkers for better working conditions.”

    If formed, the Union of Noble Educators would join Chicago ACTS Local 4343, which represents over a dozen Chicagoland charter schools. Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, State Sen. Daniel Biss and Chicago Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa have already expressed their support for the teachers’ ongoing efforts to organize.

  • aquino 042518SPRINGFIELD – Individuals displaced by federally declared natural disasters would be eligible to receive a temporary disabled parking placard in the State of Illinois under legislation proposed by State Senator Omar Aquino (D –Chicago).

    While the state of Illinois currently recognizes out-of-state disability parking placards, the law aims to assist victims who were forced to flee on short notice, leaving documents such as disability placards and licenses behind.

    More than 1,600 Puerto Ricans have relocated to Chicago since the hurricane hit Puerto Rico on September 20, according to the City of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communication.

    The issue was brought to Senator Aquino’s attention by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, who partnered with the City of Chicago to facilitate a welcome center at the Humboldt Park Field House to help displaced families transition to Chicago.

     “Being a natural disaster refugee should not exclude an individual living with a medical disability from accessing benefits afforded to the rest of us,” Aquino said. “This legislation would remove another burden displaced families have to deal with in the difficult aftermath of a natural disaster.”

    The legislation, Senate Bill 2285, passed the Senate unanimously and now moves to the House for consideration.

  • aquino 052318SPRINGFIELD – Inmates in Illinois county jails who have not been convicted of a crime would be guaranteed an opportunity to vote under legislation advanced out of the Illinois Senate today by State Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago).

    The legislation, House Bill 4469, would ensure all current and former inmates are aware of their voting rights and given a fair chance to register and cast ballots.

    While individuals who are awaiting trial and have not been convicted are still eligible to vote, jails are not required to offer voting and only seven out of 102 counties in Illinois currently do so.

    HB 4469 would require county election authorities outside Chicago to work with county jail officials to create an absentee voting program. Cook County, which voluntarily launched its first in-person voting program during the March 2018 statewide primaries, would be required to continue providing a temporary polling location during elections.

    Ninety-four percent of Cook County Jail inmates are currently eligible to vote, according to voting rights organization Chicago Votes.

    “It is an injustice to exclude any eligible voter from participating in our democracy,” Aquino said. “This bill will secure voting rights and increase awareness for the overwhelming majority of detainees and former convicts who are eligible.”

    The measure would also require the Department of Corrections to educate former inmates on their voting status and provide voter registration materials. Convicted felons are ineligible to vote while incarcerated but regain the right following the end of their sentence.

    HB 4469 now awaits the Governor’s signature to become law.

  • aquino 052418SPRINGFIELD - 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 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; and
    • 150 student’s 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 awaits the Governor’s signature to become law.

  • aquino 031518SPRINGFIELD - As part of a public health initiative to increase awareness of the benefits of early cancer detection, the Illinois Senate adopted a resolution by State Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) declaring the first week of December 2018 as Cancer Screen Week.

    “Early screenings and detection are the best defense we have against cancer. Many preventable types of cancer occur with no signs or symptoms,” Aquino said. “This is about encouraging people to start a discussion with their healthcare providers about which screenings are right for them based on individual risk factors.”

    As many as 210,000 cancer deaths could have been prevented with early cancer screenings and treatment, according to the National Cancer Institute. Due to advancements in early detection and treatment, the cancer death rate declined by 26 percent between 1991 and 2014.

    Illinoisans are encouraged to visit cancerscreenweek.org for cancer screening resources. The legislation is Senate Resolution 1595.

  • aquino 050918SPRINGFIELD – Inmates in Illinois county jails who have not been convicted of a crime would be guaranteed an opportunity to vote under legislation advanced out of the Illinois Senate Executive Committee today by State Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago).

    The legislation, House Bill 4469, would ensure all current and former inmates are aware of their voting rights and given a fair chance to register and cast ballots.

    While individuals who are awaiting trial and have not been convicted are still eligible to vote, jails are not required to offer voting and only seven out of 102 counties in Illinois currently do so.

    HB 4469 would require county election authorities outside Chicago to work with county jail officials to create an absentee voting program. Cook County, which voluntarily launched its first in-person voting program during the March 2018 statewide primaries, would be required to continue providing a temporary polling location during elections.

    94 percent of Cook County Jail inmates are currently eligible to vote, according to voting rights organization Chicago Votes.

    “It is an injustice to exclude any eligible voter from participating in our democracy,” Aquino said. “This bill will secure voting rights and increase awareness for the overwhelming majority of detainees and former convicts who are eligible.”

    The measure would also require the Department of Corrections to educate former inmates on their voting status and provide voter registration materials. Convicted felons are ineligible to vote while incarcerated but regain the right following the end of their sentence.

    HB 4469 now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

     

  • aquino 021717SPRINGFIELD – In a recent Senate budget hearing, State Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, questioned Illinois State Budget Director Scott Harry. Sen. Aquino focused his questions on the elimination of state funding for immigration programs.

    “Did he have any conversations with the Trump Administration or the president? There’s no funding for immigration services within the Department of Human Services,” Aquino said. “It seems to be maybe a coincidence - if they haven’t had conversations - that you’re eliminating or potentially eliminating immigrant and refugee services at this time, especially considering what’s going on nationally.”

    Responding to Aquino’s questions, Scott Harry said that he did not know whether Governor Rauner had spoken with the Trump Administration and that the reductions in funding for immigration programs “are the same reductions that were introduced in the governor’s fiscal year 2016 budget.”

    The governor’s budget proposal does not fund immigrant-focused programs that previous budgets have funded. The proposal would eliminate $5.9 million in funding for immigrant integration services as well as $1.5 million for welcoming centers.

    “We must fight against Trump's hateful, divisive immigration policy wherever it exists,” Aquino said.

  • aquino 040417SPRINGFIELD — With no information available on how proposed program cuts will affect the state’s black and Latino communities, State Sen. Omar Aquino expressed disappointment with an incomplete budget plan for Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Department of Human Services.

    In an Illinois Senate committee hearing, State Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) asked Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Department of Human Services (DHS) secretary if his office had any demographic data on the effects of program cuts on minority communities. Director James Dimas responded that DHS only collects data when it is required by the federal government, as in the case of food subsidy programs like TANF and SNAP.

    “In order to improve, you need to measure,” Aquino said. “Governor Rauner promised smart government and business-style solutions, yet he doesn’t even attempt to gather important information that would help him govern.”

    Aquino then asked Dimas his office’s position on a piece of legislation in the Illinois House of Representatives that would require DHS to the collect demographic data of program recipients. He responded that DHS is neutral on the legislation.

    “There’s a reason the federal government tracks this information,” Aquino said. “In Illinois, we need to be asking the same questions: How does this affect our minority communities? When we cut a program, who do we hurt?”

    The legislation, House Bill 3131, is currently under consideration in the Illinois House.

  • aquino 120116SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) voted to override the governor’s veto of legislation that provides a more equitable state contribution to the Chicago Teachers’ Pension fund. Aquino released the following statement:

     “A pension is a promise and it is the state’s duty to ensure it is paid out to those who worked for it,” Aquino said. “However, there is an issue when funding becomes inequitable. Chicago taxpayers are paying for CPS teacher pensions as well as downstate teacher pensions, but residents living outside of Chicago don’t have to pay into Chicago teacher pensions. That’s not fair and that’s not how things should work. We need to make sure the system is protecting the taxpayers who pay into it.”

  • aquino 052617 2SPRINGFIELD –State Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, is the Senate sponsor of a piece of legislation that would update and broaden state hate crime laws. The measure was approved by the Illinois Senate today.

    The measure, which is sponsored in the Illinois House of Representatives by Rockford Democrat State Rep. Litesa Wallace, updates Illinois’ hate crime laws to include intimidation, stalking, cyberstalking and the transmission of obscene messages as potential hate crimes and allows civil penalties of up to $25,000. An initiative of the Illinois Attorney General’s office, the proposal aims to combat the recent rise in hate-related incidents and give victims peace of mind.

    “I am disturbed by the rising number of hate crimes across the country, and I want to make sure that hate has no home in Illinois,” Aquino said. “Sadly, the people committing these crimes are increasingly using technology and methods not covered in existing law. We must update existing law to match the realities of the information age.”

    A hate crime is any serious crime committed by reason of actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability or national origin of another individual or group of individuals. Intent must be proven in order to prosecute a hate crime.

  • aquino 042717SPRINGFIELD – State Sen. Omar Aquino, a Democrat from Chicago, spoke in favor of raising the minimum wage to $15 statewide. Aquino spoke at a rally in the capitol building, along with workers, activists and fellow legislators.

    “If we really want to help local businesses and stimulate the economy, we need to raise the minimum wage,” Aquino said. “If workers are paid at least $15 an hour, they’ll have more money to spend on goods and services in their communities. That money will go straight back into the economy. Raising the minimum wage is not just the right thing to do. It will inject money where it is needed.”

    The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is supporting a nationwide effort to raise the minimum wage, focusing on organizing workers in the service industry. While organizers support different wages depending on jurisdiction, they have consistently fought for a $15 minimum wage in Illinois.

  • Aquino floor 2016CHICAGO – Humboldt Park residents once again will be able to enjoy their neighborhood beach after the Chicago Park District completes renovations for its reopening, which is planned for August 5.

    The Chicago Park District closed the beach last summer because of the high cost of refilling the water in order to use the savings to make cost effective improvements to the beach.

    “It’s a place for people throughout the community to gather and enjoy their summer,” State Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) said. “I’m glad the park district was able to make adjustments to keep the beach open at a lower maintenance cost.”

    The Chicago Park District made improvements to the beach that eliminate the need for draining and refilling by adding a bubbler to maintain water temperature, quality and circulation. The beach, equipped with a 10-foot-deep swimming area, originally was set to reopen in July, but renovations were pushed back because of recent weather conditions.

    The Humboldt Park beach was built in 1973 and is the city’s only inland beach.

    Residents plan to celebrate the reopening of the beach this weekend. Also, to make up for the late opening, the park district plans to extend the beach season at Humboldt Park to give residents more time to enjoy their improved beach.

  • aquino 022217SPRINGFIELD – Shocked at the governor’s push to eliminate immigration services, State Sen. Omar Aquino’s first questions at a recent Senate budget hearing were to inquire whether the Rauner administration had coordinated the immigration cuts with the Trump White House.

    Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget director didn’t know if his boss had talked to Trump about the agenda, but he did remind Aquino and other Senators that this wasn’t the first time Rauner had publicly proposed eliminating state assistance for immigrants.

    “These reductions are the same reductions that were introduced in the governor’s fiscal year 2016 budget,” said Rauner Budget Director Scott Harry.

    Aquino said the hearing was a reminder that Rauner has been pushing an anti-immigrant agenda since well before Trump got elected and took office.

    “Maybe it’s Trump who’s taking his anti-immigrant cues from Rauner. This might explain Gov. Rauner’s silence while immigrants were being detained at O’Hare,” Aquino said after the budget hearing. “So much for the governor who said he was going to make Illinois compassionate and competitive.”

    Specifically, Rauner’s budget eliminates $5.9 million for immigrant integration services and wipes out the $1.5 million for welcoming centers intended to be the point of contact for immigrants arriving in Illinois.

    This is not the first time that Gov. Rauner has clashed with advocates for humane immigration policy. In 2015, along with then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Rauner released a statement in which he announced that he would suspend resettlement of Syrian refugees in his state.

  • aquino 041118SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) issued the following response today to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s statement that he would comply if President Donald Trump orders the Illinois National Guard to the Mexican border:

    “Governor Rauner’s support for sending Illinois National Guard troops to carry out President Trump’s deranged immigration policies demonstrates the governor’s open hostility toward communities in my district. This would be an irresponsible attempt to use taxpayer resources to distract the world from the president’s personal and professional scandals.”

  • aquino 042017If Donald Trump was hoping people would forget about his tax returns after he took office, he is likely very disappointed.

    Last Saturday, April 15, thousands gathered in cities across the country for Tax Marches organized to demand the release of the president’s tax returns and to protest the country’s current tax system.

  • Aquino: University of Illinois should provide safe space for undocumented studentsCHICAGO — In response to the University of Illinois deciding not to become a sanctuary campus for undocumented students, State Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) issued the following statement:

    “Failing to protect undocumented students is regressive to our American values. The University of Illinois deciding against becoming a sanctuary campus for undocumented students sends a message that we do not support people who are working every day to invest in their future and the future of our country.

    I am saddened for the students in Illinois who are living in fear and uncertainty, and I’m disappointed that our largest public university chose not to provide a safe space for them.

    President-elect Trump’s rhetoric targets not only undocumented students, but a number of marginalized communities throughout our state and country. We must be united now more than ever, and I will continue to stand with those who feel unsafe going into the next four years.”

  • aquino 042318SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Omar Aquino’s (D-Chicago) proposal to allow bilingual participants in an educator preparation program was recently approved by the Illinois Senate. The legislation would increase the amount of bilingual teachers by creating the Growing Future Educators Program, a pathway to a paraprofessional license.

    The measure, Senate Bill 2844, advances to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

    Aquino released the following statement:

    “Our students need bilingual educators and Illinois has plenty of talented people with firsthand experience as English language learners who are willing and able to do the job. The aim of the Growing Future Educators Program is to connect these talented people with careers in education while improving the capacity of our schools to educate bilingual students. I hope that this program receives the same bipartisan support that it has received in the Senate as it advances through the legislative process.”

  • aquino 062917SPRINGFIELD – State Sen. Omar Aquino, a Chicago Democrat, emphasized the importance of a balanced, full-year budget in bringing stability and certainty to community healthcare providers in his district and across Illinois. Aquino pointed to the toll that the budget crisis has already taken on Erie Family Health Center, a Chicago safety net healthcare provider that has been forced to work through a wide variety of issues over the last two years.

    “I am glad to hear that there is some bipartisan cooperation in state government as we work toward passing a budget,” Aquino said, referring to ongoing negotiations in the Illinois General Assembly.

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