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Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Fri Oct 2

Chicagoans Speak Out On 2016 Budget With Progressive Aldermen At Town Hall Meeting

Chicagoans vented their frustrations over items in Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2016 budget proposal, including a record $588 million property tax hike, during a Thursday night town hall meeting hosted by the city council's Progressive Reform Caucus.

In addition to the proposed property tax increase, the three progressive caucus members at the meeting, Alds. Scott Waguespack (32nd), Nicholas Sposato (38th) and John Arena (45th), got an earful from residents about Emanuel's proposals to privatize the city's 3-1-1 non-emergency operations and increase fees on taxi cabs and ride-hailing services, like Uber and Lyft.

Emanuel wants to outsource 3-1-1 operations to save the cash-strapped city an estimated $1 million annually.

Debra Powell, a 3-1-1 operator of 10 years, said the privatization plan could cost 58 call center jobs and negatively impact the quality of service provided to Chicagoans.

"You don't know who you're going to be talking to when you call 3-1-1 and it's been outsourced," Powell said at the budget town hall meeting, held at the Copernicus Center on the Northwest Side. "I would rather speak with someone who lives in the city, born and raised, knows the neighborhoods. We have ... 58 operators there who live all across the city, ... so we pretty much can relate to all the residents calling in."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Wed Sep 30

Education Organizers Turning Attention To Elected School Board After Dyett 'Victory' (VIDEO)

Education activists celebrated the 34-day Dyett hunger strike during a rally at the Thompson Center Tuesday evening and vowed to press candidates on the issue of an elected Chicago school board during the 2016 state legislative elections.

The rally, attended by approximately 150 people, comes over a week after about a dozen Chicago parents and education advocates ended their hunger strike to keep Bronzeville's Dyett High School open. Dyett closed in June after being slated for phaseout in 2012.

"I'm really proud of the Dyett hunger strikers. They stood up for what they believed in," Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza told Progress Illinois at the rally. "They won. They kept their school open."

Still, Sadlowski Garza said it was unfortunate that parents had to put their health and lives at risk to improve education in their community.

"No one should have to starve or fight for a fully-funded education, not in the world we live in now," she said. "Kids, regardless where you live or the color of your skin, everyone should get an equal education."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Tue Sep 29

O'Hare Workers Join Fight For $15; Fast Food Laborers Bring Wage Campaign To Chicago Suburbs

The local Fight for $15 movement continues to gain steam as an increasing number of Illinois low-wage workers join the call for better pay and the right to unionize without retaliation.

Initially spearheaded by fast food workers, the national Fight for $15 campaign has since picked up support from service employees from other industries. On Tuesday, the movement welcomed security officers, janitors and passenger service workers at O'Hare International Airport, who are joining the campaign due to their "poverty wages."

O'Hare workers rallied with their supporters outside the airport Tuesday morning to officially kick off their entrance into the Fight for $15 movement.

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
Fri Sep 25

Chicago Soup Kitchen Sees Uptick Of Those In Need, Leaders Blame Ongoing Budget Standoff (VIDEO)

A soup kitchen on Chicago's North Side says they've seen an uptick in the number of individuals depending on their free meals since the state's budget impasse started nearly three months ago.

On Thursday, representatives from the kitchen joined with state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) and other nonprofits to call for an end to the standoff and urge lawmakers to fully fund the services Illinois' most vulnerable citizens depend upon.

"A lot of the folks that come to the community kitchen rely on services that are being slashed, so they have to come here," said Rev. Marilyn Pagan Banks, executive director of A Just Harvest, which serves free meals every day to people in need at 7649 N. Paulina St. in the Rogers Park neighborhood.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Mon Sep 21

Rauner's Child Care Cuts Could Deal Economic Blow To Illinois, Say Small Business Advocates

Advocates for low-income working families in need of affordable daycare are sounding the alarm over the potential economic impacts of the Rauner administration's recent cuts to the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's CCAP restrictions, which will shut out an estimated 90 percent of new applicants from the program, "will harm the Illinois economy and cost taxpayers more in the long run," SEIU* Healthcare Illinois Vice President James Muhammad said on a Monday morning conference call.

He was joined on the call by small business advocates from the Main Street Alliance and Small Business Advocacy Council as well as a policy expert from Innovation Illinois, a Chicago-based progressive think tank.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Mon Sep 21

Study: Teacher Diversity Lacking In Chicago, Several Other Major U.S. Cities

At a time when minority students comprise over half of the nation's public school students, a new study shows that minority teachers are sorely underrepresented in public elementary and secondary schools in Chicago and several other major U.S. cities.

The Albert Shanker Institute (ASI), a think tank affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), took a comprehensive look at teacher diversity in nine U.S. cities -- Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington.

On average, about 6 in every 10 teachers in these cities are white, while only 1 in every 10 students is white, the study found.

"As a general rule, there is a serious underrepresentation of minority groups in the teacher workforces in each one of these nine cities," ASI's Executive Director Leo Casey said last week during a press conference about the study. "And that underrepresentation is particularly marked for black and Hispanic teachers."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Tue Sep 15

National Report Details 'True Cost' Of Incarceration On Families

A national report released Tuesday aims to shed light on the hidden impacts mass incarceration has on families and their economic stability, health and well-being.

Over 20 community-based organizations from across the country, including the Chicago-based Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ), spent more than a year developing the report, which is based on over 1,100 surveys of formerly incarcerated people, families with incarcerated loved ones and employers.

"Everyone knows about the $80 billion that our cities and states and the federal government (spend) locking people up, but what is not known is the amount of money that we incur when ourselves and loved ones get locked up," WCRJ's Executive Director DeAngelo Bester said at a Tuesday press conference in Chicago.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Tue Sep 15

Irregular Work Schedules Taking A Toll On Families, Experts Say

Unpredictable and non-standard job schedules can negatively impact the development of children and adolescents whose parent work such shifts, and policy changes are needed to improve workplace scheduling practices, experts argue in a recent issue brief published by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

Children of all ages whose parents have erratic or non-standard job schedules are at higher risk for adverse cognitive and behavioral outcomes, reads the brief, authored by University of New South Wales lecturer Leila Morsy and EPI research associate Richard Rothstein.

"When parents can't predict when they will or won't be working, their entire home lives are disrupted -- they engage less with their children in critical activities like reading and telling stories," Morsy said in a statement. "In many states, parents working irregular schedules even lose eligibility for child care subsidies."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Mon Sep 14

Illinois Women Won't Achieve Equal Pay Until 2065, Report Finds

The year 2065.

That's when Illinois women are projected to achieve equal pay in the state, if the current rate of progress in closing the gender wage gap continues, shows a recent report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR).

Of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, women in Illinois -- who currently make 80 cents on average for every dollar earned by men -- have the 25th shortest wait until they will see equal pay.

In other states, women born today probably will not achieve pay equality during their lifetime if current trends continue.