For the better part of my time at Stand, a huge focus of mine has been improving the course offerings and opportunities for Illinois high school students in the most equitable way possible. From career and technical education to dual credit classes, I’ve been eating, sleeping, and breathing this stuff for years.

And today I’m proud to announce our latest project: the Dual Credit Advocacy Toolkit. Take a look for yourself!

This toolkit makes it possible for parents, educators, administrators, and community members to advocate for better dual credit opportunities in their school communities. Not only that, but it offers each person an individualized advocacy plan depending on their dual credit goal.

So whether you’re a teacher looking to get certified to teach dual credit at your school or a parent looking to make dual credit classes more affordable in your district, this advocacy toolkit has a plan for you. With just a few clicks and by telling us your goal, the Stand Advocacy Toolkit provides you with the steps and tips to help you achieve your advocacy goal.

This toolkit is the culmination of work put in by so many parents, students, and educators whose collective experience and dedication to equity made this possible. It’s through their work that we compiled these resources in a useful manner. We thank them and the Joyce Foundation for their continued support of our dual credit work and this toolkit.

It’s my hope, and the hope of all of us here at Stand, that the Stand Dual Credit Advocacy Toolkit provides the resources you need to grow your school’s dual credit programming. Working together, I know that we can improve the outlook for Illinois students across the state.

In my home state of Texas, as far back as I can remember, Juneteenth has been a celebration. Juneteenth parades and pageants and oratory contests all shine a spotlight on the beauty of Black culture and the community. We eat barbeque, drink “red” soda and spend time with family and friends.

Most importantly, we celebrate the emancipation of our formerly enslaved ancestors, the resilience of our people before and after emancipation, and the unifying magic of Blackness. Juneteenth means a lot to me, and I know it means a lot to folks here in Illinois as well.

It’s for these reasons and so many others that I was glad to see the State Senate pass a bill to make Juneteenth a State holiday! It should serve as a celebration of the progress we’ve made and a reminder of how much work is yet to be done for Black Americans to truly be free.

Let’s join together and thank the sponsors of this bill for working to get us this far!

Last year, in the midst of the pandemic and in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Juneteenth was quite subdued. It was a real moment of reflection and rededication to the work ahead. This year, freedom festivals and traditional celebrations are returning with a renewed emphasis on the strength of our communities!

All of these traditions and celebrations mean a lot to so many people. We’re not done yet, but let’s take time to thank the sponsors for getting this bill one step closer to becoming law!

Kim Payton was a force of nature when it came to speaking up for children and her community. She put in the hours, knocked on the doors, made the connections, and kept pushing for what’s right. She was like a superhero, standing up to make things better for everyone.

She was also a genuine and gracious person. It’s hard to comprehend that my friend passed away, but I will always remember her humor and warmth. Our relationship was woven together through the bonds of action and getting involved in something bigger than ourselves. We both wanted what’s best for our children and our communities. Working through Stand, we were able to accomplish so much together.

The photo accompanying this blog is one that I love. That’s Kim on the right in the bright pink top and me holding the sign. We were at a rally for fair school funding – another one of those events Kim never missed.

Kim joined the inaugural class of Stand Parent Fellows, taking her advocacy and connection to Stand to another level. She was a mentor to other parents, a friend to all, and a welcoming presence at each event she attended.

It’s because of that dedication and engagement that we are so proud today to announce the Kimberly Payton Parent Fellowship.

Kim is the only person we could possibly name our parent fellowship after. Her advocacy spanned years and her resolve to stand up for all children and communities knew no bounds.

This is a truly fitting way to honor Kim here at Stand. She will continue to serve as a role model for all parent members and fellows. Her example shines bright, and her personal motto, “each one, teach one, reach one,” is now imprinted into our work.

I miss my friend terribly. But as those pangs of grief come and go, I also feel a deep sense of gratitude for having had her in my life. I feel motivated to continue the work. I feel committed to making a difference.

I will honor Kim’s legacy. I hope you will, too, because the work begins again, in her honor.

It’s not very often that we get to send happy notes like this so early in the year, but today is one of those days. Thanks to the support from education advocates like you, Illinois took a big step forward in the fight to dismantle systemic racism and move toward education equity.

Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law the Black Caucus education package. We pushed for this moment because of the impact the law will have on Illinois students. The law has a plainly ambitious goal which we support wholeheartedly: reversing centuries of systemic racism in education and significantly bolstering opportunities for Black students.

Let’s send the Governor a big “thank you!” for making this a reality.

This new law moves the needle for Illinois students in important ways. 

Automatic enrollment in advanced courses will help remove implicit bias against minority students, helping open doors that were previously closed for too many students.

Equitable access to coursework will help Illinois students access college in ways they haven’t been able to in the past – no matter where they attend high school, all students should have access to the recommended courses needed for admission into any Illinois public university.

We have work ahead of us as the legislative session continues. Crucial education funding, which the State skipped adding to the budget last year, is desperately needed to keep Illinois on track to fully fund schools. And we must support early learners who struggle with literacy skills.

Let’s take this moment to thank Gov. Pritzker for signing the Black Caucus education bill into law. These changes will reverberate for years to come.

Then, let’s recommit ourselves to the work ahead.

Illinois and America are facing a reckoning with the systemic racism we have maintained since the country’s beginnings. Many people seem to finally realize that it’s not enough to just “not be racist.” Systemic racism keeps racist systems alive, even if we lived in a world without any racist individuals. We must commit to being anti-racist and push to dismantle those entrenched systems that perpetuate racial inequalities.

Our schools are among society’s most racially inequitable systems. The outgoing Chair of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, Sen. Kimberly Lightford, has used her skills as an education champion and rockstar negotiator to craft a comprehensive bill to advance racial equity for Illinois students. These changes have an ambitious goal: reversing centuries of systemic racism in education and significantly bolstering opportunities for Black students.

Stand has previously supported many individual concepts in this bill, and now we need to work together to ensure this package becomes law. Raise your voice and tell Springfield to move our state closer to racial and educational justice.

You can read a comprehensive summary of the bill in a previous blog post, but I wanted to call out a few highlights for you here. This will give you an idea of the great ideas included in this bill and why it must become law.

Academic Acceleration

  • Based on a Washington state law that tripled the percentage of Black high school students in advanced courses, this academic acceleration policy requires schools to automatically enroll students who meet or exceed standards into the next most rigorous course. It removes any element of implicit bias and opens doors for more students to eventually access courses that earn them early college credit.

Equitable Coursework for College Access

  • No matter where they attend high school, all students should have access to the recommended courses needed for admission into any Illinois public university. Yet the guidelines for high school graduation differ greatly from the admissions expectations set at our state’s flagship public universities. Students must have access to all courses expected for college admission and their schools can work creatively to ensure that happens.

Let’s work together, Illinois, to turn great ideas like these into law. This bill would take our state one step closer to dismantling systemic racism and making Illinois classrooms more equitable places. I hope you’ll join us.

The fight for educational equity doesn’t start or stop at the schoolhouse.

The shackles of inequity extend far beyond, including to our “justice” system and the way in which courts incarcerate individuals before they go to trial — simply because they cannot afford to post bond.

That’s why we are standing with Illinois Senator Robert Peters in his fight to end money bond and to pass the Pretrial Fairness Act. This is your chance to support this Education Champion, one of the brightest up and coming leaders in our State. I first got to know the Senator when we worked together on a campaign over a decade ago, and it’s been inspiring to see his ascent.

You have three opportunities to meet Senator Peters and learn how you can support a critically important way to dismantle systemic racism. The Senator will be joined by other members of the General Assembly in a series of virtual town halls.

  • Tuesday, October 20th at 7pm: Hosted by Senator Robert Peters (13th District) & Rep. Kelly Cassidy (14th District)
  • Thursday, October 22nd at 6pm: Hosted by Rep. Barbara Hernandez (83rd District)
  • Tuesday, October 27th at 7pm: Hosted by Rep. Robyn Gabel (18th District)

The townhalls are hosted by the Coalition to End Money Bond and the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice. Register to attend a virtual town hall event at bit.ly/PretrialTownHall.

Three years ago, education advocates flooded the state capitol with petitions, calls, and in-person visits fighting for evidence-based school funding. Thanks to your efforts, we won! Evidence-based funding has transformed classrooms across Illinois in districts that had long been deeply underfunded. 

What have your efforts gained? Updated curriculum. More social workers, school counselors, and classroom teachers. Modernized technology. Stronger relationships with families. Improved classroom achievement. Better supports for students and teachers. Lower property taxes.

Three months ago, we visited many of these schools so we could share with you the results of your advocacy. While the footage was shot before the pandemic, the stories remain relevant and the need for evidence-based funding remains critical. Indeed, the need is more vital than ever.

As difficult as it has been for schools and students to endure COVID-19’s brutality, imagine how dire the situation would be without evidence-based funding. My mind reels thinking about the enormity of weathering this storm without the most basic of technology, social-emotional supports, and educator supports made possible by the new school funding formula.

Grab your popcorn – and possibly some Kleenex – for your personal movie premiere of “Evidence-Based Funding Works! You’ll be transported inside five disparate districts across our state with one thing in common: evidence-based funding has made a world of difference for their students. Whether or not your school is featured, you’ll identify with their stories. After all, you helped make them possible by supporting this smart way of spending.

The story doesn’t end here. You’re probably reading about Springfield’s work on the education budget. We’ll be in touch soon with other ways you can take action. Until then, enjoy the show and thank you.

As I read last night’s election results, the term “public servant” started taking on a deeper meaning.

A public servant is typically defined as a government official, particularly someone elected to office, whose job is to serve the greater good.

I suggest, in this time of a global health crisis, that each of us strives to have a stronger “public servant” mindset in service of the greater good.

We are seeing by the minute the consequences of government action (and inaction) at all levels. The impact of decisions made by school boards and legislatures, as well as the federal government, are revealing themselves. Some decisions have been confounding, some discerning, others courageous.

Like it or not, each of us shares a degree of involvement in how things are unfolding. Through our votes, advocacy, and actions — and our complacency, indifference, and inaction — we played a role in picking the decision makers and influencing their decisions.

Eleven of the 12 Stand-endorsed candidates for the Illinois House and Senate won or appear headed for victory in their primaries. Some results aren’t definitive since there are large numbers of ballots in Chicago and elsewhere in the state that are yet to be counted. The full list of winning and leading candidates are:

For State Senate

  • Sen. Robert Martwick (D-10)
  • Sen. Robert Peters (D-13)
  • Sen. Cristina Castro (D-22)
  • Meg Cappel (D-49)

For State House of Representatives

  • Rep. Theresa Mah (D-2)
  • Rep. Thaddeus Jones (D-29)
  • Rep. Jaime Andrade, Jr. (D-40)
  • Janet Yang Rohr (D-41)
  • Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-60)
  • Rep. Barbara Hernandez (D-83)
  • Rep. Avery Bourne (R-95)

Thank you to everyone who played a role in their victories through your votes, dollars, phone calls, social media postings, and door knocking. I can’t imagine any of them anticipated the enormity of the responsibilities falling on their shoulders as public servants, should they win in November. Indeed, many are incumbents and already tasked with making consequential decisions on the state budget and other matters to get Illinois through these challenging times.

Every day is an opportunity for all of us to serve the greater good by educating ourselves on the issues, then taking action that makes a positive impact — through our votes and meaningful advocacy.

I hope with all my heart that you and your families are and remain healthy.

Paid for by Stand for Children Illinois PAC

Libraries, arts, safe and proper learning facilities, and engaging extracurricular activities. These are a few things that most parents and teachers would say all schools should have.

I agree. I had the opportunity to share my thoughts – including the need for strong extracurricular activities – at a recent budget workshop at Corliss High School in Pullman. I was joined by other Stand parents and educators, as well as a number of other parents from across the city.

The meeting had a community feel to it. Everyone was there with ideas on how to make funding our schools work better for Chicago’s students.

A priority of mine is making sure students have access to engaging activities during and after school. These are important to give the kids something to look forward to and help keep them out of trouble. Not only that, but tutoring services would help them achieve more in the classroom.

I heard plenty of other good ideas from parents and teachers. Things like adding librarians, music, and arts classes. Others mentioned the need for fun and safe facilities like gyms for sports and PE classes.

Another strong sentiment that I shared with most everyone there was the need for funding to be equitable and spread across the city, not focused in one specific area.

There were so many strong ideas discussed at the workshop. I encourage you to read more about them in this recent Chalkbeat article. I spoke with them about my ideas, and so did a few other Stand parents – see if you can spot us!