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lightford 101420 052020CHICAGO – Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) joined the Senate Education and Higher Education Committees for a hearing focused on language graduation requirements and mental health resources and recovery in Illinois elementary and high schools.

Wednesday’s hearing was the fifth hearing dedicated to education and workforce development, the second pillar of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ agenda to rid Illinois of systemic racism.

“Students have a better chance of gaining proficiency in a second language when they learn it early on,” Lightford said. “That effort can make a significant impact on our children’s career success the workforce.”

The committee was joined by its House counterparts to hear testimony from Chicago Public Schools, Proviso Township School District, Advance Illinois, the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Department of Human Services, Riveredge Hospital, the National Association of Mental Illness Chicago, the Chicago Teachers Union and the Illinois Collaboration on Youth.

“Children’s mental health services were severely cut during the recent budget impasse, showing that when resources are tight, Black children are the first to lose out on services they desperately need,” Lightford said. “We need to rebuild that structure and make wraparound services for our most at-risk children a priority.”

The agencies addressed whether current high school graduation requirements for world languages align with higher education learning standards and entry requirements. The groups also put an emphasis on the importance of mental health services and recovery, especially as it relates to Black children, as they reviewed current recommendations for bias and trauma.

The next hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 21 at noon, will focus on higher education.

Senate hearings can be watched live at https://ilga.gov/senateaudvid.asp.