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Local leaders share need for state to invest in construction, jobs (VIDEO)

Asst. Majority Leader Iris Y. Martinez and Sen. Omar Aquino

More than two dozen community agency leaders turned out at a recent forum to tell local senators that the state is overdue on a new program that puts people to work building up our communities.

It’s been nearly a decade since the state last invested in roads, bridges and school construction.

Assistant Majority Leader Iris Y. Martinez and Senator Omar Aquino hosted the town hall and workshop to make sure local agencies know how to apply for state funding and assess the local needs as support grows across the state for a new, state-sponsored construction program.

“We wanted to make sure we expanded what people knew about the capital bill, that it goes into infrastructure, it goes into brick and mortar stuff, and how we’re going to be creative in making sure that we’re getting equitable dollars in our districts,” Aquino said.

Over 30 local community agencies ranging from health, social service, the arts and afterschool programs gathered at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture for the Oct. 24 event.

“The two-year budget impasse hurt many organizations out there, so now we want to make sure we engage them so that we will be able to start doing some new things,” Martinez said. “I think the most important thing is our civic engagement, so our constituents can see that we’re working for them and we’re ready to respond to their concerns.”

Speakers included Becky Locker, Director of Policy and Budget for the Illinois Senate Democrats; Jen Walling, Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council; Colleen Smith, Legislative Director for Illinois Environmental Council and Representative Luis Arroyo.

Tom Cullerton urges residents to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs

Sen. Tom CullertonVILLA PARK – State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is proud of the efforts made by DuPage County Law Enforcement to safety dispose of unwanted prescription drugs, vitamins, dietary supplements and pet medications year long.

More than 10 local police departments will participate in National Drug Take on Saturday, Oct. 27, but Cullerton wants to remind residents that many of these locations are available year-round to promote efforts to eliminate the abuse of controlled prescription drugs.

“The opioid addiction does not discriminate,” Cullerton said. “We must work together to keep unnecessary drugs out of our homes to prevent and eliminate the opioid crisis in our communities.”

Staunton schools benefitting from increased funding

Manar 101718STAUNTON – Smaller class sizes, school safety improvements and more emotional and behavioral support for students are some of the gains Staunton public schools have experienced as a result of school funding reform, State Senator Andy Manar learned during a recent tour of the district.

“Staunton schools are seeing significant benefits from the new school funding formula,” Manar said. “The district is making long-overdue changes and improvements that make good sense for families and students in this community.”

Staunton public schools are seeing more than $770,500 in additional money in the first two years of the new formula. Some of the changes that have been possible as a result of the increased funding:

  • Five new teachers and three support staff hired.
  • Decreased class sizes. For example, the addition of another fifth-grade teacher means there are about 26 students in each fifth-grade class, rather than the 34 or 35 students that would have been in each room otherwise.
  • Addition of a part-time counselor at the junior high and elementary school.
  • Established a peer intervention program that enables students to tutor, coach and mentor other students who are having difficulties
  • Expansion of the district’s agriculture program, which is offered to students in junior high and high school.
  • Expanded music education offerings.
  • Addition of a family engagement position for preschool families. Parents can borrow materials from the school district and be connected with available community resources.
  • 1:1 student computer program offered to fifth graders and ninth graders.
  • School safety improvements, including a new website that offers more transparency and better communication with parents, plus the addition of Navigate Prepared, an app that helps superintendents, principals, school staff and first responders know which students are in the building and receive alerts about emergencies.

“Now, for the first time in a long time, as a result of evidence-based funding we are having conversations about where we can drive our dollars to have the greatest impact on student learning versus the discussions of the past where we talked about what programs and services we could cut that would do the least harm,” said Dan Cox, superintendent of Staunton Community Unit School District 6.

The school district serves about 1,300 students in the Staunton area.

Hutchinson announces funds for Kankakee River State Park

hutchinson 042718SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) announced the release of a $1.8 million grant to help reopen the Kankakee River State Park’s campgrounds to visitors.

“This is welcomed news for Kankakee residents who have missed the opportunity to enjoy these public lands for the last three to four summers,” Hutchinson said. “I am excited to see families and visitors at the Chippewa and Potawatomi campgrounds again.”

The money for the campgrounds was included in the FY19 budget and is a part of more than $14 million in capital improvement projects at state parks and recreation areas managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The Potawatomi campground closed before the 2015 season for planned improvement and the Chippewa site closed after the 2015 season due to a failed water well. These closures have been cited as a reason for recent attendance decline at Kankakee River State Park.

The campgrounds are expected to reopen in spring 2019.

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