Illinois state capitol

The final week of legislative session is a sprint. The General Assembly’s big focus is wrapping up the budget for the new fiscal year. There are plenty of priorities included, but we are focused on a few and wanted to flag them for you.

Of course, we are aiming to continue boosting Evidence-Based Funding yet again. We expect that number to land at $350 million in new funding but continue to urge the legislature to accelerate that investment to close the funding gap more quickly.

We’re also focused on these budget priorities. We hope you’ll join us and ask your legislators to support these issues in the FY24 budget!

  • $3.15 million to grow Dual Credit opportunities across the state and to expand equitable access to these life – and career! – changing courses. Let’s support their futures!
  • $3 million to support the Minority Teachers of Illinois scholarship program. This will help address the teacher shortage AND increase the gender and racial diversity in the teacher corps, something that’s especially important for students of color to see representation like that in their classrooms.

We’ve got our work cut out for us, friends. With your help, and the help of folks across the state, I’m confident we can make a positive impact for Illinois youth and families in the new budget.

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.

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 Public School slogo

The next step on CPS’s journey to an elected 21-member school board is the drawing of district maps. The Illinois Senate has its last hearing tonight at 6pm – and it’s virtual! I hope you can tune in, share your perspective, and hear community input.

As a Chicagoan and CPS parent, it’s important to me that the elected school board structure works to support safe, equitable, stable, high-quality schools for our children. I testified last week at an earlier community hearing to share my perspective supporting:

  • A Functional Board Size. A 21-member board – the largest elected governing body for any school district in the country – makes it more likely that messy politics and factions will overshadow good stewardship of our schools.
  • Compensation to Enhance Representation. The new map must reflect the diversity of CPS and the voices of parents. Compensating members for their service on the board will enable everyday Chicagoans to serve.

I hope you’ll tune in this evening to watch the virtual Senate committee hearing or even weigh in with your own input. We’ll be in touch soon with ways to stay involved as this issue progresses in the General Assembly.

The legislative spring break is drawing to a close, so members of the General Assembly return to Springfield next week for the 5-week sprint to the end of session. Next week also brings another chance to fight for improving reading outcomes in Illinois.

The House is holding a committee hearing on Wednesday, April 19 for SB2243, a bill to create a statewide literacy plan at the State Board of Education. That means we need to rev up the advocacy machine and show the committee the deep support behind this bill.

Sending a witness slip to the committee is the surest way to show your support for this bill. Last time we had over 300 witness slips – let’s run up the score and get even more!

Follow these straightforward steps to submit your witness slip:

  • Click this link.
  • Fill in your information.
    • For “Representation,” you can enter Illinois Early Literacy Coalition, or something like “parent” or “self”
    • For “Position,” check “Proponent”
    • For “Testimony,” check “Record of Appearance Only”
  • Agree to the “Terms of Service.”
  • Click “Create Slip”

Thank you for taking a stand for Illinois readers. Be sure to share this email with your friends and family and ask them to submit a witness slip ahead of the April 19 hearing.

Illinois state capitol

Last week was a whirlwind at the Capitol and we’ve got progress to show for it! The pace was fast and furious all week, with a Friday deadline spurring legislators to debate bills well into the night.

The good news? Three bills in the ‘Literacy and Justice for All’ bill package passed the House or the Senate on Friday!

We couldn’t have done this without you! Advocates continue to send a strong signal to Springfield that these initiatives have deep support across the state. This month, we’ve sent over 1,500 emails to legislators in support of literacy and youth justice. (Did you send yours yet? Click these links and check it off your to-do list!)

A quick update on where things stand with these (and a few other momentous bills we’re supporting!):

  • Early Literacy: HB2872 and SB2243, bills 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 their first major hurdle! (That is, the House bills passed the House and the Senate bill passed the Senate. Now they will switch places and work their way through the other chamber.)
  • Youth Justice: SB1463 and HB3120 passed committee and we anticipate a floor vote in the Senate this week. The bills would eliminate juvenile court fees and fines, a step toward economic justice for our state.
  • Full-Day Kindergarten: HB 2396 requires school districts to offer full-day kindergarten by 2027. It passed the House and moves to the Senate.
  • Trauma-Responsive Schools: HB 342 responds to the Whole Child Task Force, created by the Legislative Black Caucus’s historic “education pillar” two years ago. Under the bill, which passed the House, the state would develop a Children’s Adversity Index, make licensure recommendations to ensure teachers are prepared to support children with trauma, and add ratios of social workers to the school report card.
  • Dual-Credit Teacher Shortage: HB 1213 passed the House, creating a scholarship program for teachers to pursue the coursework needed to teach Dual Credit.

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.

If you’re seeing this on Sunday evening, you’re like me and getting ready for the week ahead. And let me tell you, we’ve got a big week ahead when it comes to improving reading outcomes for Illinois students!

On the afternoon of Tuesday, March 21, the Senate Education Committee will hear the Senate version (SB2243) of legislation which would have the State Board of Education create a comprehensive literacy plan. We need to continue growing the momentum surrounding literacy bills in the General Assembly. The best way for you to do that is to submit a witness slip showing your support!

Submitting a witness slip in support of this bill is easy! Follow these steps now to make an impact:

  • Click this link.
  • Fill in your information.
    • For “Representation,” you can enter Illinois Early Literacy Coalition, or something like “parent” or “self”
    • For “Position,” check “Proponent”
    • For “Testimony,” check “Record of Appearance Only”
  • Agree to the “Terms of Service.”
  • Click “Create Slip”

I hope you will share this email with your friends and family and urge them to submit a witness slip before the Tuesday afternoon hearing. Together, let’s show Springfield the deep well of support for improving literacy in Illinois!

Last summer, ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune analyzed data that found nearly 12,000 tickets were issued to students from August 2018 through June 2021. Despite recent laws designed to prohibit schools from issuing fines and fees as discipline and referring truant students to police, school personnel referred thousands of students to local municipalities for the purpose of issuing fines and fees as a disciplinary consequence for school-based behaviors.

This is flat out wrong. Students should NOT be punished this way. Fines and fees can also vary widely across municipalities. The system is unfair to students, who must miss school to attend a municipal hearing that does not guarantee right to due process, like access to legal counsel.

Illinois is so much better than this. I hope you’ll join me and reach out to your state representative and urge them to support a bill in Springfield designed to end this unjust practice.

Consequences for most student misbehavior can and should be handled through a district’s discipline policy.

Contact your representative with just a few clicks to urge their support. Then, I hope you’ll share this link with your friends and family, too.

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.

smiling children in a classroom

I would usually not intrude on your Sunday evening unless it was a pressing reason. Tonight, I’ve got that reason.

On the morning of Wednesday, March 8, two bills in the Literacy and Justice For All package will be heard in the Illinois House. It’s vital for us to show committee members the strong support and momentum behind these bills!

Now is the time for us to act. You can make a difference for Illinois students and educators by submitting a witness slip in support of the two bills. One bill requires the State Board of Education to adopt a literacy plan for the state and the other enacts comprehensive literacy reforms for Illinois, including supporting districts with evidence-based literacy curriculum and supporting educators with evidence-based training and development.

Follow these simple instructions to make an impact:

  • Click this link.
  • Fill in your information.
    • For “Representation,” you can put your organization, the Illinois Early Literacy Coalition, or something like “parent” or “self”
    • For “Position,” check “Proponent”
    • For “Testimony,” check “Record of Appearance Only” if you don’t have a statement to submit.
  • Agree to the “Terms of Service.”

(When you’re done submitting a slip for that first bill, come back and submit one for this bill, too.)

Thank you for standing up for Illinois readers! Be sure to share this email widely with your friends and family!