Last week, the Illinois Early Literacy Coalition held a day-long retreat where over 40 literacy advocates came together. With a wide range of life experiences, from regions across Illinois, we learned from each other and broadened our perspectives. Speaking for myself, I emerged feeling super energized to continue advocating for improved literacy instruction in Illinois…and, also, a little overwhelmed by the depth of the problem and the complexity of potential solutions.

One thing is clear: with a third of Illinois’ 4th graders reading below “basic” on the Nation’s Report Card, we have major work to do. Every student – no matter their background or zip code – deserves equitable access to evidence-based literacy instruction that meets their needs. Other states have gotten serious about literacy and adopted comprehensive plans to improve outcomes, with varying degrees of success. Illinois’ time to get serious about literacy is NOW.

If you want to be a part of the solution, add your name to the Illinois Early Literacy Coalition. We welcome people from all walks of life, who live up and down Illinois, who work in schools or not, who struggled to read or excelled, who speak one language or many, whose kids started reading before preschool or needed years of tutoring. There is a place in this coalition for every Illinoisan who is committed to advocating for equitable reading outcomes. Join us.

P.S. – I wrote this blog post a few weeks ago that summarizes my experience as I began digging into reading policy. If this is new to you, you might find it interesting. Or helpful. Or controversial. Either way, let me know if you have feedback.

The past few years have exposed a gap between the haves and the have-nots when it comes to issues like quality education, economic opportunity, and equity.

State and local elections have a profound impact on these issues and so much more. That’s why voting is one of the most important ways to elevate your voice on the issues which matter most.

It’s because of that impact that Stand for Children IL PAC is pleased to support a group of education champions for the General Assembly. The candidates we support in the June 28th Primary Election reflect the rich fabric of the Prairie State and stand up for the children of Illinois.

Today, we are pleased to announce the first round of Stand for Children IL PAC’s endorsements for the 2022 Primary Election:

  • Rep. Lindsey LaPointe (D) 19th District
  • Rep. Michael J. Zalewski (D) 21st District
  • Rep. Justin Slaughter (D) 27th District
  • Chelsea Laliberte Barnes (D) 51st District
  • Laura Faver Dias (D) 62nd District
  • Gregg Johnson (D) 72nd District
  • Rep. Kathleen Willis (D) 77th District
  • Rep. Tony McCombie (R) 89th District
  • Sharon Chung (D) 91st District
  • Rep. Natalie Manley (D) 98th District
  • Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R) 117th District

If you live in a district with an endorsed candidate, we’ll be in touch soon with more info about why we support their election. (We only endorse in contested races.) If you don’t, no need to worry; we will reach out soon as Election Day nears with more updates. In the meantime, sign this pledge to show you understand that elections matter.

Today is the day. The deadline to apply for the City of Chicago program that will give 5,000 qualified residents $500 per month for a year is today, Friday, May 13 at 11:59pm. Apply now if you haven’t already.

There are some eligibility requirements for people looking to participate. Those requirements are:

  • You reside in the City of Chicago AND
  • You are 18 years of age or older AND
  • You have experienced economic hardship related to COVID-19 AND
  • Your household income level falls at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level

Don’t miss this opportunity for $500 per month for 12 months, no strings attached. Be sure to apply now.

We want every eligible Chicagoan to apply before today’s deadline. We believe in policies that promote economic security and economic justice.

If you are eligible, I hope you will complete your application before the deadline. And please share the application link with your friends and family who might also be interested in applying.

This is Teacher Appreciation Week, and an important reminder that in these times of “culture wars” to consider what more we can do to support educators.

May I suggest that you read the recent op-ed co-authored by Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, and Stand’s Executive Officer Jonah Edelman. In this piece, published by Time.com, Weingarten and Edelman push back against the arguments being used to try to undermine public education.

“Just as extremists have used the Big Lie about the 2020 presidential election to undermine American democracy, far-right advocates of privatizing public education are using Big Lies to undermine public schools. Supporters of public schools must see these ugly attacks for what they are and take a stand against them.”

Edelman and Weingarten highlight examples of courageous, successful efforts by parents and the public to strongly support public schools and stand up for students’ success and well-being.

They point out that, just as we are seeing in real-time with Putin’s war on Ukraine, “unchecked disinformation and dehumanization cause untold damage and suffering.”

During this Week of Teacher Appreciation and every week, please thank those who are educating our next generation and consider the ways you can stand for children.

$500 a month with no strings attached might sound too good to be true. In this case, it isn’t.

To help Chicago residents recover from the pandemic’s economic impact, the City is giving 5,000 families $500 per month for 12 months, with no limitations on how the money can be spent. Chicago families will decide how best to meet their needs and goals with the money, no one else.

This pilot program is now accepting applications, but act now to be considered. The application window closes at 11:59pm on Friday, May 13. Apply now!

Chicago residents who meet all of the following eligibility requirements are eligible to participate:

  • You reside in the City of Chicago AND
  • You are 18 years of age or older AND
  • You have experience economic hardship related to COVID-19 AND
  • Your household income level falls at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level

Within days of the application opening, the Chicago Sun-Times reports, more than 100,000 Chicagoans have applied for the program. You can find more details about program qualification on the registration page. The program is run by the City of Chicago, not Stand for Children. We wanted to pass along this information because we believe in policies that break down the barriers that have led to economic insecurity for far too long.

Programs like have been rolled out in areas across California, including the city of Stockton. Results from that city’s program included residents who received the guaranteed income were healthier, showed less depression and anxiety, and went from part-time to full-time employment at more than twice the rate of those who didn’t.

I hope you’ll learn more about this opportunity and, if you qualify, apply today. Share the link with your friends and family who might also be interested in applying.

Governor Pritzker signed the budget this week, securing another $350 million for Evidence-Based Funding! Legislators adjourned early in the morning just under two weeks ago, bringing the spring 2022 legislative session to a close. Here’s a quick wrap-up on our priority issues and some next steps.

Expanding Access to Dual Credit: Both the Illinois House and Senate unanimously passed a bill to boost access to Dual Credit courses and give districts flexibility to launch and grow their own Dual Credit programs. If you haven’t already, take a moment to thank the legislators who led the way in the General Assembly.

Improving Literacy Outcomes: We’re collaborating with education advocates and our fellow members of the Illinois Early Literacy Coalition to improve the Right to Read Act so that it works for all students. We’ll be convening this summer with experts and leaders in the literacy field to ensure the bill is as strong as possible, with the goal of passing it later this year or next spring.

Growing CTE Collaboration and Access: House lawmakers approved a Resolution make access more equitable to Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses and to facilitate the partnerships needed for successful CTE programs to flourish. Join me and thank the lawmakers who made this House Resolution a priority.

Enacting Economic Security: In the fight for racial justice, Stand joined the Coalition to Make EIC Work, a group of dedicated organizations and advocates that fought to expand the Earned Income Credit. Lawmakers enacted a budget including a permanent expansion of the EIC, providing direct tax relief to more than 4.5 million working Illinois families. The Coalition will continue fighting to create a permanent Child Tax Credit.

Fighting for Youth Justice: The work with our partners in the Debt Free Justice Campaign continues as we grow our coalition and refine the bill to help make the most impact for Illinois youth and their families by eliminating juvenile court fees and fines. We know that creating a brighter future for us all includes ensuring our juvenile court system is just and fair for everyone, and aimed towards healing, youth development, and reducing recidivism.

Thank you for everything you did this spring to help ensure positive results for Illinois children and families. The work continues, and I know you’ll be there as we take those next steps soon.

Today marks the final day of spring legislative session here in Springfield.

Before things officially wind down, I’m happy to report that both the Senate and House unanimously approved a bill to boost student access to Dual Credit courses and flexibility for districts to launch and grow their own Dual Credit programs. Thanks to advocacy from folks like you, we’re just one signature from Gov. Pritzker away from helping better prepare students for life after high school thanks to these life-changing courses.

I hope you’ll join me and send a quick thank you note to the legislative leaders who championed this Dual Credit policy in the General Assembly. Take action with one click!

We’ll be in touch as things wrap up in Springfield, but in the meantime let’s thank these legislators for standing with Illinois Dual Credit students and their educators.

I’ve been so lucky in my life to be where I am today. I am deeply passionate about advocating for my family and my community. Now that I have managed to create better opportunities for myself, I am using my voice to help other families, not turn my back on them. But it wasn’t always like this.

I amplify my voice every chance I get because I am a reflection of what good can come from a broken place. I have experienced a few cycles of life where I fell behind. I have lived below the poverty line. I know those struggles. I know many in our community are struggling now.

For many families in that position, $600 can be the thing that stands between them and homelessness. It’s something that could help pay for after school programs that keep their children safe.

Right now, our leaders have the opportunity to fulfill the promises that they made to the constituents to make their lives a degree better because of their leadership. Expanding Illinois’ Earned Income Credit and creating a statewide Child Tax Credit would give over 4.8 million Illinoisans a refund of at least $600 (or more!) come tax time. It’s simply the right thing to do at a time like this.

I recently spoke at a rally with our Coalition to Make EIC Work partners, where I told my story and urged legislators to support this change. I hope you’ll join me and tell your legislators to support the bill in the General Assembly to give support to Illinois families that need it most.

Access to resources like this is what helped me and my family climb out of poverty. Let’s stand together and urge our legislators to do the right thing and make sure we’re all doing the right thing for Illinois families.

Session is scheduled to wrap up on Friday, April 8. That gives us just a few short days to tell our legislative leaders to stand with Illinois students and educators and include $350 million in new funding for the Evidence-Based Funding formula.

Our advocacy over the past few years has made a difference – this year, nearly $1.5 billion more has flowed through the equitable formula than when the formula was first enacted in 2017. Most importantly, it prioritizes funding for the school districts that need it most.

Let’s close out this spring legislative session with another positive step toward closing the school funding gap. With one click, please join me in urging your legislators to support an additional $350 million in Evidence-Based Funding for our schools.