Together, we are making progress in our work toward economic justice for all Illinois families through the elimination of juvenile court fees and fines.

Now that bill to eliminate juvenile court fees and fines is up for final approval on the House floor. We must take a stand and urge our representatives to support this bill. We can fix this problem and move our state closer to economic justice.

We know that these fees and fines are not an effective accountability tool and can actually increase recidivism. They punish families living in poverty and deepen the economic injustice they already face.

Removing fees and fines does not impact a judge’s ability to order victim’s restitution, community service, or other appropriate non-monetary conditions that provide better opportunities for young people to take accountability for their actions.

We can hold young people accountable without pushing them into a deep financial hole. With your help, we can fix this problem! It’s on us to stand up and do what’s right. Tell Springfield to eliminate juvenile court fees and fines.

Let’s get this done – for Illinois youth, families, and communities.

Chicago flag

The days pass by and we get closer to the inauguration of Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, Chicago’s first teacher to become mayor! As his transition announcements continue, we want to ensure Chicago parents and community members have a voice, too.

I urge you to add your name to our virtual welcome card and tell Mayor-elect Johnson your education priorities. We plan to deliver the card to him soon after he takes office, so your feedback will make it to the Fifth Floor of City Hall.

As a parent of a current CPS student, I understand many of the issues facing the city and CPS. Many challenges lay ahead, along with a number of great opportunities. I want to see more equitable investment in our schools and to ensure that each child has access to high-quality literacy instruction. What issues do you want to see addressed by our new mayor?

Mayor-elect Johnson’s quest to unify the City continues. Let’s all work together to support our City, our families, our schools, and our future!

We’re this close to comprehensive literacy legislation passing the Illinois House. This is the time of year when the Illinois legislature finishes up bills and increasingly turns its attention to the budget. So this blog is doing double duty…we need a pro-literacy bill AND a pro-literacy budget!

The facts are stark: about 40% of Illinois students can’t read at even a ‘basic’ level. Most states have acted recently to ensure literacy instruction is evidence-based. It’s time to add Illinois to the list. Urge your representative to support SB2243, soon to be voted on the House floor AND increase early childhood education funding in the budget!

Literacy is complex. It starts with spoken language and exposure to rich vocabulary, experiences to build background knowledge, reading books out loud and learning about concepts of print. (Early childhood programs are SO important for this!) It also requires strong foundational skills with explicit instruction so students can connect the letters on the page to the sounds of speech to the meaning of the words.

Illinois needs a literacy plan so that all students, regardless of where they live or their home language, have access to evidence-based literacy instruction. Working together, we can set more Illinois students on the path of lifelong reading.

We’re nearly there, friends. With your help, we’ll get this done.

Chicago flag

For the first time, students in Chicago will see a teacher represent their City as its mayor – that is historic and exciting! We congratulate Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson on a hard-fought victory!

As a parent of CPS students, I’d like to invite you to join me in signing our card to welcome the new mayor! Tell him congratulations and add a note about your vision for Chicago schools – your priority issues and what you care about most.

Now that the election is over, Mayor-elect Johnson is on a quest to unify the City and bring people together. I whole-heartedly agree! Now is the time to come together to support Chicago, our families, our schools, and the future of our world-class City!

Before you get your weekend started, I wanted to get a quick note out to share an opportunity for you to lend your voice to the discussion of Chicago’s elected school board. The State Senate’s Special Committee on the Chicago Elected Representative School Board has added dates for five upcoming hearings:

  • April 5, 4PM – George Westinghouse College Prep (3223W. Franklin Blvd.)
  • April 6, 11AM – Imani Village (901 E. 95th St.)
  • April 12, 4PM – Copernicus Center (5216 W. Lawrence)
  • April 13, 4PM – National Museum of Mexican Art (1852 W. 19th St.)
  • April 17, 6PM (Virtual)

The first step in the process to transition to an elected board is to create boundaries for the new subdistricts. These hearings seek public input on the drawing of these new areas.

Are you interested in sharing your ideas with legislators about the elected board? Or in attending a hearing to learn more? How can I help support you to get involved?

Many parents and teachers I’ve talked to are hungry for more information about this monumental change in CPS’s structure. They have questions like: How will this impact the role of LSCs? Is a 21-member board too big? How can we ensure equitable representation on the board?

Here is a great chance for us to add our voices to this conversation and be the change we seek.

Reply here if there is anything I can do to support you as you raise your voice for our students.

We saw some strong progress on Stand priorities at the Capitol last week, friends.

The pace was fast and furious all week, with a deadline spurring legislators to act at the committee level.

The good news? Bills to help fix our state’s literacy crisis and eliminate juvenile court fees and fines progressed out of committee and moved one step closer to passage.

We couldn’t have done this without you! Last week, advocates submitted nearly 800 witness slips in support of these bills, a strong signal to Springfield that these are priorities with deep support across the state. Around 1,000 emails went to legislators in support of our priority issues, another sign of the support from advocates standing up for children and families.

A quick update on where things stand:

  • Early Literacy: HB2872, a bill instructing the State Board of Education to create a statewide literacy plan, and HB3147, the comprehensive Literacy and Justice for All bill to help fix the literacy crisis, passed the House Elementary & Secondary Education: School Curriculum & Policies Committee on Wednesday, March 8, with more stakeholder engagement work yet to come before a final vote in the House.
  • Youth Justice: SB1463 and HB3120 passed favorably out of the Senate Judiciary and House Restorative Justice committees, respectively. The bills would eliminate juvenile court fees and fines, a step toward economic justice for our state.

We will keep you posted as things continue to move in Springfield. Get ready for more advocacy opportunities to keep up the growing momentum on our legislative priorities!

Thank you for your partnership and support.

Governor JB Pritzker delivered his Budget Address earlier today. Education is a big focus of his plan this year and he’s calling it “Smart Start” – a proposal that would boost early childhood funding by $250 million! That is a big deal. It means 20,000 more preschool slots, better pay for childcare workers, facilities funds, and a boost in early intervention and home visiting programs.

I’m celebrating that part! I’m less enthralled with the funding increase request for the Evidence-Based Funding Formula for K-12 schools, set at the so-called “Minimum Funding Level” – $350 million. Remember: when we passed this funding formula five years ago, Illinois schools were the least-equitably funded in the country. The formula is working and shrinking those equity gaps, but Illinois is still among the most inequitably funded states. It’s on us to urge our lawmakers to support a $550 million increase for Evidence-Based Funding in this year’s budget. Tell your legislators that this is the year for a $550 million formula increase.

At the rate of $350 million per year, it will be 2047 before we fully fund K-12 education.

We’ve got to speed that up. Without a significant infusion of funds, the kids who will benefit from a fully funded system haven’t even been born yet.

This budget proposal is overall quite strong. The Governor has clearly prioritized education. Going beyond the “minimum” to give another $550 million to Evidence-Based Funding will complete the package.

I hope you’ll join us in asking for a $550 million increase to the education formula.

Congratulations to Dr. Tony Sanders on his appointment to the role of State Superintendent! Tony is an incredible advocate for educational equity and a visionary leader and bridge-builder. We partnered with Tony as members of the Funding Illinois’ Future coalition during the years-long battle to overhaul Illinois’ outdated school funding system, and are confident that he will bring that same commitment to equitable school funding to his role.

Tony has served at the agency previously, successfully advocated for legislation to improve educational equity, enhanced communications and family engagement programs at his district, and managed the second-largest school district outside of Chicago. (All while building rapport with the students he serves at U-46 through, among other things, clever snow-day-related banter on social media.) Those past successes are demonstrative of Tony’s ability to bring people together to make progress, transcending politics and other things that keep us divided.

We are especially eager to partner with Tony on the literacy work that is underway at ISBE. The literacy crisis is urgent and solvable – but not without strong leadership from ISBE. Many states have undertaken literacy reform and perhaps the most critical factor as to whether those changes succeed has been the leadership from the states’ education agencies through implementation. ISBE held a literacy retreat on October 25, 2022 as a first step and has continued engaging stakeholders toward a comprehensive literacy plan.

“Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”

President Biden has said those words often over the years, noting the importance of what’s included in each budget. They reflect our priorities and what we truly value.

And now we urge Governor Pritzker to make his next budget proposal a true reflection of what Illinois values.

We value education.

We value students having the support they need.

We value educators.

We value safe schools.

We value all these things and more. To reach that goal – something we all truly value – we must accelerate the pace of funding for schools. Our kids are counting on us to stand up for them.

I hope you’ll join me and urge Gov. Pritzker to include accelerated new funding for Illinois classrooms. We simply cannot wait any longer.

This should be in the Governor’s budget proposal. Because, after all, this is something we all value.

When Illinois overhauled its school funding formula five years ago, it came with a goal to fully fund our schools within a decade. So…are we halfway there? Not even close! In fact, a million students still attend underfunded schools.

Most years, the state has gone along with the Minimum Funding Level – $350 million. At this rate, it will take until 2047 to reach full funding.

This year, advocates are saying “minimum” isn’t good enough for our kids. We need a path to adequacy, not a path to mediocrity.

The State Board of Education will vote on its budget recommendation on Wednesday and has the opportunity to join the chorus of voices pushing to go beyond the minimum. That’s not a sure thing, though. The board’s finance committee met and recommended you guessed it – the Minimum Funding Level. Tell the board: increase school funding by $550 million because the minimum isn’t good enough for Illinois students.

Funding reform created an equitable framework for new funding. Every new dollar helps close the equity gap between low-income and higher-income districts. But our investments to date aren’t moving the needle. Illinois schools are still among the most inequitably funded in the country.

It’s time to step up and invest $550 million more in Evidence-Based Funding, putting Illinois on a path to adequacy 10 years sooner.