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lightford02202019CW0865rCHICAGO – Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) joined the Senate Education and Higher Education Committees for a hearing focused on student support services reforms, teacher reforms and developmental education reforms for Illinois college students.

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

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous effect on college students and their mental health,” Lightford said. “It’s a necessity for students to have access to support services that keep them engaged and connected with other students, make them feel welcome and ease emotional stress. Colleges must ensure as many students as possible are receiving this assistance.”

The committee was joined by its House counterparts to hear testimony from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the University of Illinois, St. Louis University, Illinois TRIO, Partnership for College Completion, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Illinois Community College Board, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, the Illinois State Board of Higher Education, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and Advance Illinois.

“Developmental education is designed to help under prepared students have an easier transition to college-level coursework,” Lightford said. “The goal is to make sure they are able to address any deficiencies without hindering their educational journey.”

The agencies reviewed data collections of student enrollment and longitudinal outcomes in various developmental education models. They also explored more holistic approaches to student support services for university services and identified qualifiers to best impact students, especially as it pertains to Black students. Lastly, the groups discussed ways to expand Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways into teaching programs and explored options of moving a single scholarship platform for teaching candidates to easily navigate available support services.

“There is a teacher and school counselor shortage in schools and many Black students are likely to be impacted by these vacancies,” Lightford said. “It’s imperative that colleges start investing in mentoring a diverse teaching pool to aid students by implementing recruitment and retention plans for educators of color.”

The next hearing, scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 5 at noon, will focus on workforce development.

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