A group of Chicago students is ratcheting up the pressure on state lawmakers to get behind "common-sense" school disciplinary policies.
Student leaders with Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) argue zero tolerance discipline policies have resulted in zero gains in schools across the state. Dozens of students demonstrated at the Chicago Public Schools' (CPS) downtown headquarters Wednesday morning before marching to the Thompson Center to call on state officials, including Gov. Pat Quinn, to fix "broken" school discipline policies across Illinois. The group wants state lawmakers to set limitations on the use of disciplinary actions that eat up classroom learning time and have a disproportionate impact on students of color.
"Students want to stay in school. Students want to learn, and they want discipline (policies) that make sense," said Jose Sanchez, VOYCE's Safe Schools Consortium coordinator.
The philanthropic and non-profit community in Illinois is bracing itself for what is expected to be a "painful" budgetary year.
"It's going to be tough," said Valerie Lies, president and CEO of the Donors Forum, a member association working to strengthen the state's philanthropic and non-profit sector. "I feel like we haven't even started to dig ourselves out, and I think [this] gubernatorial election will be an important one."
Gov. Pat Quinn said he is willing to consider putting off the date when the the state's controversial pension reform law takes effect while the measure works its way through the courts, the Illinois Radio Network reported Monday.
With the media and public spotlight on Chicago's pension crisis, the non-partisan research center Good Jobs First is turning the attention to the city's controversial tax increment financing, or TIF, program.
"It's really hard to ignore the evidence that TIF has had some sort of impact on pensions," said Tommy Cafcas, research analyst at Good Jobs First, which works to promote corporate and government accountability.
"We know that TIF costs grew, and they started growing really quickly after 2000. We know that general fund revenues declined ... and we know that the city addressed its budget gap in part by making inadequate contributions to public pensions, so it seems reasonable that TIF plays a role in how the city thinks about addressing the pension issue."
Illinois women make 78 cents for every dollar that a man earns, which is an especially disheartening statistic on Equal Pay Day.
“If someone does the same work, they should earn the same pay,” said Gov. Pat Quinn, who observed Equal Pay Day with fellow lawmakers Tuesday. “Yet here we are in 2014 — 51 years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act — and women on average still don’t earn as much as their male counterparts in the workplace. We won’t be satisfied until all workers are equally compensated for the same work, regardless of their gender. When women succeed, our economy grows.”
In Illinois, female workers who feel their lower wages are attributed to gender-based pay discrimination can seek assistance at the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL), which is tasked with enforcing the Illinois Equal Pay Act. Female workers across the state have been successful in getting the money due to them, according to the agency.
While speaking to reporters Monday, Gov. Pat Quinn said he does not support Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's call to increase city property taxes by $250 million over a five-year period to help shore up two city pension funds.