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.
This Monday, Americans will pause to remember the tireless work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who dedicated his life to advancing civil rights and justice for African-Americans and other marginalized groups throughout the United States.
In honor of Dr. King, many Americans will take the day to volunteer in their communities. Serve Illinois, a state commission tasked with increasing volunteerism, offers information on a multitude of volunteer opportunities across the state.
This Monday, we remember the timeless words of Dr. King: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
As Gov. Bruce Rauner celebrates his first year in office, he should reflect on how he has failed to live up to his promise of ensuring Illinois is a compassionate and competitive state, a group of Democratic state senators and human service providers urged Wednesday.
Flanked by providers who, along with their clients, bear the brunt of Gov. Rauner’s budget impasse with the General Assembly, state senators Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) and Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) called on the governor to stop holding the state’s poorest and most vulnerable residents hostage in pursuit of an anti-family, anti-worker agenda that lacks legislative support.
SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey) announced Wednesday his intent to file legislation that will allow Illinois citizens to recall elected officials statewide.
“The purpose of this legislation is transparency and accountability,” said Harris. “We must hold our elected officials to a higher standard. If people decide they have lost trust in their elected officials, they should have the power to recall them.”
With the recent ill handling of the Laquan McDonald case and public outrage toward Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Harris said he was disturbed by the way things unfolded.
State Senator Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey) joined Annette Clark along with other officials, family and members of the Robbins community to honor the memory of her son with the dedication of the Honorary Rasul “Rocky” Clark Drive on the corner of West Lydia Avenue and South Hendricks Road in Robbins.
“This day means to me that my son’s legacy will never die, that his legacy lives on and he’s with us. It’s just a blessed day,” said Clark.
Rocky was a football player at Eisenhower High School in Blue Island when he was paralyzed during a game in 2000.
“If you knew Rocky, you knew one thing about him: He never complained,” said Harris. “Rocky showed compassion. He showed a huge amount of strength, determination and perseverance. We can all draw strength from Rocky because I know going through his times one thing remained the same, that beautiful smile.”
After his injury, Rocky went on to receive his high school diploma, attend college, coach football at Eisenhower and inspire many.
“Young people have to know that regardless of your situation, your surroundings or your communities, you can be any and everything that you want,” Representative William Davis (D-Hazel Crest) said. “He [Rocky] was that example for all of us.”
In 2010, the insurance provided to Rocky through the school district ran out, which forced him to rely on Medicaid, support from the state and his mother.
His situation shed light on the need for high schools to provide catastrophic injury insurance to all their athletes. Rocky’s Law was signed in 2013 and with its approval, Rocky’s legacy was cemented into Illinois history.
Across the country, tuition costs and students loans are soaring, but in Illinois, the problem has been further compounded by another issue. Students who receive financial aid from the state’s Monetary Award Program remain in limbo because the governor vetoed their funding.
Public colleges and universities have been fronting the costs to cover the MAP grants through the fall semester, but have indicated that generous gesture simply cannot continue. Last year, MAP grants assisted over 136,000 students in affording college.
Senator Pat McGuire (D-Joliet) is the chairman of the Higher Education Committee, and has been a vocal advocate for these students.
SPRINGFIELD – At a time when the public increasingly wonders whether the governor and legislative leaders are meeting to try to resolve Illinois’ budget crisis, State Senator Julie Morrison (D – Deerfield) held a press conference today to introduce a proposal she hopes will prod those leaders to the negotiating table.
The measure, Senate Bill 2190, would require the governor and the four legislative leaders to meet publicly at least once per week to negotiate on the budget whenever the state enters a new fiscal year without a spending plan in place.
Final Senate higher education hearing warns of students lost in limbo
CHARLESTON — As students prepare to register for their spring classes, they are unsure what the absence of a state higher education budget means for them.
When Eastern Illinois University’ student government board assembled at the start of the school year, they didn’t think they would have to worry about the state’s budget. Their main concern was finding innovative ways to get other students involved in on-campus organizations.
Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill) assembled the panel for its final scheduled hearing to hear from students like Jose Durbin, who are the future of higher education and our state government: He wants to be a state senator one day.
Durbin has already started looking at private loans that will end up being more expensive for him in the long run.
“Our public higher education institutions prepare our students to be the future leaders of Illinois,” said Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign). “It’s heartbreaking to hear students’ struggles as they work toward meeting their tuition costs and calculating budgets for their student organizations. We need to put a budget in place to guarantee students have the services and support they need to be successful.”
Every year, thousands of Illinois students take advantage of this vital state funding to help pay for the opportunity to receive a higher education. The average student with a MAP grant receives about $2,700 to help pay for tuition. As college costs continue to skyrocket in Illinois, these grants are vital to the sustainability of many students’ college careers.
Twenty percent — about 2,600 — of students at EIU rely on state assistance to cover their tuition expenses.
"We tell students from kindergarten on to study hard and get good grades so they can go to college," McGuire said. "We're hypocrites if we then allow the governor to pull the financial aid rug out from under them."
The Senate did pass funding for the state’s financial student assistance program, the Monetary Award Program (MAP). However, the House has yet to approve the funding.
GURNEE - State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, joined parents, child care providers and representatives of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to speak out in favor of restoring full funding and access to the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).
The program helps working families afford day care for their children. Under tighter restrictions imposed by Governor Bruce Rauner starting July 1, an estimated 90% of parents who apply for CCAP would be denied.
“The Child Care Assistance Program is a vital service for working families,” Bush said. “Parents should never need to wonder if it’s better to just stay home. I voted to reinstate CCAP funding, and I urge Governor Rauner to listen to parents and child care providers and do the right thing by signing that legislation.”
Report details compensation abuses, administrative bloat at state colleges and universities: Cunningham
Months of work by members of the media and the Illinois General Assembly have culminated in a special report detailing costly administrative practices at our state’s public universities and community colleges. The report brings to light growing administrative costs and generous executive compensation packages that have helped fuel tuition increases for Illinois students.
"This report found that many public colleges and universities have been too quick to award lavish benefits to their executives and increase the number of administrative employees they assign to non-instructional post," State Senator Bill Cunningham said. "While these practices are never welcome, they are particularly troubling during difficult budgetary times and when college tuition rates have grown faster than any other expenses faced by middle class families."
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