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La Shawn K. Ford
PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
2:06pm
Fri Nov 20, 2015

Federal Grant Stirs Debate Over Charter Schools In Illinois

The debate over charters schools is heating up in Illinois. Advocates on both sides of the issue are speaking out about a five-year, $42 million federal grant Illinois won in September to support the creation of new public charter schools.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
11:18am
Tue May 13, 2014

Illinois Bill Looks To Ban Criminal History Questions From Private Employer Job Applications

Illinois could soon become the fifth U.S. state to "ban the box" that inquires about criminal history on initial applications for most private sector jobs.

The state House recently voted 63-53 to approve the "Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act," which would require private employers or employment agencies in Illinois with 15 or more employees to evaluate an applicant's skills and qualifications before asking about criminal history. Under the measure, sponsored by State Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan), employers would be allowed to conduct background checks and request conviction information from applicants, but not until later in the interviewing process. 

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
3:34pm
Thu Mar 6, 2014

10th District Race: Candidates Sound Off On Elected Chicago School Board, TIF Reform

Three of the five candidates vying to unseat incumbent State Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) in the crowded 10th District Illinois House race took part in a forum Wednesday night, discussing everything from education to TIFs. Progress Illinois was there for the discussion. 

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
1:25pm
Fri Oct 11, 2013

State Sen. Lightford: Flurry Of Charter School Bills Expected In Upcoming Legislative Sessions

At an education forum in Oak Park Wednesday, State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) said she plans to introduce legislation to help stop the Illinois State Charter Commission's "hidden agenda" of expanding charter schools across the state.

The Illinois legislature set up this special charter governing body back in 2011. The commission has autonomy from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the power to override local school boards if they reject applications from charter companies looking to open schools in their communities. A number of education activists have blasted the commission, saying its sole purpose is to override these charter denials.

"This independent authorizer, they've hired a lobbyist that has a salary, and there's a hidden agenda," Lightford said at the forum, held at Oak Park's Percy Julian Middle School. "(School) funding would come away from you and go directly into this situation, and I think it's something we all should be very mindful of."

Lightford said she would introduce a bill at some point during next year's legislative session that would get rid of the commission's override powers and give charter authorizing responsibility back to ISBE.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:43pm
Fri Oct 4, 2013

Quinn Pulls Criminal Background Question From State Job Applications

Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday issued an administrative order that "bans the box" on applications for state government jobs, requiring state agencies to evaluate an applicant's skills before asking about criminal history. 

Going forward, applicants will not have to check a box on state employment applications indicating whether or not they have pled guilty to or been convicted of any criminal offense other than a minor traffic violation. State agencies are still allowed to conduct background checks and request conviction information, but not until later in the interviewing process.

"It just removes that first hurdle," said DeAngelo Bester, co-executive director of the Chicago-based Workers Center For Racial Justice. "A lot of times when people apply for a job and check that box off, that application is thrown in the garbage. This will at least give them the opportunity to get an interview."

Quick Hit
by Michael Sandler
11:53am
Fri Jul 26, 2013

Emergency Hearing Called To Discuss Sex Abuse In IL Juvenile Facilities

In the wake of a Bureau of Justice Statistics report that revealed Illinois’ juvenile detention facilities have some of the highest sexual abuse rates in the country, state legislators have called an emergency hearing to discuss the issue.

The Restorative Justice Committee will meet July 30 at the Michael A. Bilandic Building in downtown Chicago, and testifying before them will be Department of Juvenile Justice (DOJJ) Director Arthur Bishop, as well as members from the prison watchdog group the John Howard Association and officials from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.    

“Before pointing fingers, we need to ask questions,” State Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), the committee chairperson, told Progress Illinois. “We want answers from the results of the study, and solutions moving forward.”