Promising Progress for Illinois

shutterstock_685265023.jpg
 

There is nothing like tangible progress to keep the momentum going towards positive change.

This past month saw progress for technological innovation, triumphs for teachers and workers, a bipartisan-supported budget, and a new tax credit for families who adopt.

Let’s look back at a few of the most important advancements.

divider.png
 

New Requirements Could Mean Influx of Qualified Teachers

 

At the end of June, Governor Rauner signed a bill to reduce the shortage of qualified teachers in Illinois. Strict licensure agreements have meant that one in five open teaching positions goes unfilled, and schools have struggled to find substitute teachers.

The bill, HB5627, allows teachers with out-of-state qualifications to receive equivalent licenses in the Illinois teaching system. It also increases the time that retired teachers can fill in as substitutes without jeopardizing their retirement benefits.

This is a victory for school systems and teachers alike. Improved access to substitute teaching licenses and the introduction of short-term licenses will prevent vacancies in teaching positions—vacancies which can disrupt students’ education.

 

State Budget for 2019 Passed

 

Illinois’s budget for fiscal year 2019 passed with bipartisan support. After Governor Rauner’s leadership set the tone for negotiations, the $38.5 billion budget passed with a vote of 97-18.

Not only does the budget exclude new tax hikes, but it provides increased funding for education and implements pension reform. The pension reform reduces caps for end-of-career “spiking” and pension buyouts.

This was the first time in four years the state has enacted a full-year budget on time, and the timely passage prevented over $1 billion in extra spending from the default budget. The budget garnered support from both parties, accounting for the interests of Illinoisans across the political spectrum. Senators praised the budget as “balanced,” “stable,” and “realistic.”

 

Tax Credit Aims to Encourage Families to Adopt

 

Also included in the 2019 budget is the first-ever tax credit for families who adopt Illinois children. At $5,000, it’s a strong incentive for families to grow through adoption.

“There are many Illinois families who are seeking to build their own families through adoption,” said Kim Perez, President and CEO of Evanston-based adoption agency The Cradle, in an interview with Women Working for Change. “I think it’s an incredibly family-friendly decision to implement this tax credit. Raising a family is expensive, and this tax credit will certainly help Illinois families to adopt.”

By alleviating some of the financial challenges of adoption, the tax credit encourages families to provide nurturing homes for children in need.

 

Discovery Partners Institute Funded

 

A key innovation designed to attract and keep STEM and entrepreneurial talent within Illinois is the Discovery Partners Institute, or DPI. Proposed last fall, the DPI will be an academic campus and professional network to foster entrepreneurship and research.

The purpose of the DPI is to build partnerships and train the next generation of researchers in collaboration with corporations and universities.  After a recent approval, the DPI will indeed become a reality.

In June, the DPI secured the necessary $500 million in state-allocated funds, effectively green-lighting the project. With an office opening on Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago, strategic international partnerships on the horizon, and classes slated to begin this fall, the DPI could revolutionize Chicago as a center for enterprise. Governor Rauner hopes the tech hub will create “an economic engine for Illinois and the Midwest that surpasses Silicon Valley.”

To learn more about the DPI and what it means for Illinois, view our story here.

 

A Victory for Free Speech in Janus v. AFSCME Ruling

 

The Janus v. AFSCME ruling, decided by the Supreme Court in June, was an important victory for workers’ rights and freedom of speech. In this pivotal ruling, the Court ruled in favor of restoring government workers’ First Amendment rights.

In the court’s opinion on the case, the justices decided it violated the Constitution to force non-union workers to pay fees to unions, as unions make political decisions on behalf of all workers.

The court also stated that the rise of public-sector unions has corresponded to an increase in public spending. Emily Raimes, Vice President of Moody’s Investors Service, noted the Janus decision “may lower public union revenues, membership and bargaining power in the 22 states that can no longer allow mandatory fees,” and ultimately result “in a positive long-term impact on government finances.”

The decision impacts five million government workers across twenty-two states, reaffirming protection of their First Amendment rights.

 

Looking Forward

 

We are experiencing a promising time for Illinoisans. Legal victories in technology and workers’ rights have set the stage for economic prosperity, and bipartisan efforts have confirmed that Illinoisans’ voices are being heard.

 
 
 
 
hayley bierkle