English Illinois Staff

Jessica Handy

Executive Director

Jessica’s professional endeavors and “extracurricular activities” have focused on improving the structures and systems which shape lives.

As Stand’s Policy Director, Jessica helps set the policy priorities for Stand Illinois and manage outreach with parents, teachers, and other organizations around those efforts. During her ten years with Stand, she has helped champion significant policies, including ending the inequitable practice of pulling Title I dollars away from classrooms of low-income students and enacting a new, evidence-based school funding formula. Jessica is an appointed member of the Illinois Professional Review Panel to review the new school funding model. She has played a lead role in several policy reports and has frequently testified at the state Capitol.

Before joining Stand, Jessica spent five years in a variety of capacities for the Illinois Senate Democrats, including as their Policy and Budget Analyst for the Education and Pension Committees.

Jessica has a B.A. in Spanish and history from Millikin University and an M.A. in history from the University of Illinois, having written her thesis on issues related to the Chicago school reforms of 1995. Inspired by the early literacy policy work Jessica has undertaken with Stand, she is currently pursuing Orton-Gillingham training at the Springfield Children’s Dyslexia Center. The Springfield Business Journal selected her as a member of its 2021 “40 Under 40” class. She was a teen-mom to her now-adult daughter, Natasha, and became a licensed foster mom when Natasha went away to college. Jessica lives in Springfield, where children ages 5, 6, and 14 keep her on her toes.