Yesterday afternoon, the day after the elections, I was sitting in Sip of Hope coffee in Logan Square talking politics with another political activist and observer about the results.
About Democratic Party Governor-elect JB Pritzker’s promise to get us a fair income tax she asked, “Aren’t you a little skeptical he will do that?”
I’m always skeptical of any politician and the campaign promises they make. But a promise was made and now it is the time to do the work of making Pritzker and the Democrats in Springfield make it happen.
Democrats now own the Illinois governor’s mansion and have super-majorities in both houses of the state legislature.
Cassie Walker Burke, Adeshina Emmanuel and Yana Kunichoff of Chicago’s Chalkbeat provide a list of eight education issues the state and its political leaders need to address.
By the way, Cassie Walker Burke, Chicago bureau chief for Chalkbeat, will be a guest on this Friday’s Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers live at 11am on Chicago’s WLPN FM, 105.5 and streaming at http://www.lumpenradio.com, podcast later at hittingleft.libsyn.com and from Apple podcasts.
Steinmetz High School in northwest Chicago, where Emily Jade Aguilar graduated last year, had just four school counselors. In a school of more than 1,200 students, that simply wasn’t enough.
“We need more mental health resources in our schools,” said Aguilar, who spent Election Day knocking on doors with Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, “to have at least a safe space for 15 or 30 minutes where I could let someone know what is going on.”
Aguilar is 19, identifies as a trans woman, and voted for the first time on Tuesday. She has a clear demand for Illinois’ new governor, billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker: more funding for counselors, social workers and art therapy programs to help young people deal with the trauma and difficulty of navigating their lives in Chicago.
If Pritzker doesn’t deliver, Aguilar said, he’ll hear from her and other Chicago students. “I want to tell the governor he should be ready to pay attention to us,” she said.
Their eight issues:
(Ralph) Martire said, “job No. 1 is refinancing the pension debt.” In the last legislative session, lawmakers from both parties strongly supported refinancing the debt. Pritzker could lead on the issue as early as spring if he decides to, Martire said.
“The main thing the governor can do is utilize his post as a bully pulpit.”
Child care assistance.
A state program that provides affordable child care to low-income, working families is losing children and providers.
The racial gap.
A new state ratings system tied to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act can penalize schools where one group of students struggles compared with their peers. But the first batch of ratings have left some educators scratching their heads, since a single metric can plunge an otherwise average school into a lower performance category, triggering state intervention. Some insiders question if Pritzker will push to revisit the state’s plan for ESSA, as the federal program is known, with an eye toward tweaking the ratings system.
Elected school board for Chicago.
State Rep. Sonya Harper, a Democrat from Chicago, said she wants the new governor to build a solid relationship with the city’s new mayor and show he cares about city schools, “to make sure schools were funded equitably and more transparently.”
Harper said she hoped the governor would be in “full support” of an elected school board in Chicago — an idea that Pritzker has said he supports.
Pritzker also has said he would support a moratorium on charters, but spoke favorably of the idea of school districts having a school choice portfolio. Good charters, he told Chalkbeat Chicago, are “worthy of support.”
Chris Yun, an educational policy analyst with the disabilities rights group Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago, said that the governor should marshal more resources for the independent state monitor overseeing Chicago’s special education program. A state investigation earlier this year found the district routinely delayed and denied students services in violation of their rights.
Before Pritzker can realize his vision of a universal pre-K system, he’ll have to figure out how to recruit more people to staff centers and programs. That will start with better compensation. Child care providers generally earn less than their K-12 counterparts, and the profession tends to see high turnover.
And issues of poverty.
One in three Illinois children grows up in a household that is within 200 percent of the federal poverty line.