640px-Chicago IL - The Austin NeighborhoodLast December, a Chicago girl was beaten and raped half a block from one of the city's "Safe Passage" routes to and from school. In response to this incident and other anecdotes from parents and students about the lack of safety along "safe passages," State Senator Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) is sponsoring legislation that would make parents of children who live along "safe passage" routes eligible for financial reimbursement to pay someone to drive their children to school.

"As a parent, I don't want to have to worry that my child won't make it home safely from school," Lightford said. "Too many parents in Chicago have to face this fear every day."

When CPS closed 50 schools last year, the students from those shuttered facilities were sent to new "welcoming schools." Though each welcoming school has a "safe passage," many parents were – and still are – concerned that these routes pass through dangerous areas known for gang violence and along dangerous streets known for high crime rates.

A CNN story about the December rape case is available here.

The legislation now returns to the Illinois House, which must vote to accept a Senate amendment before the legislation can go to the governor.

"I'm grateful for Senator Lightford's hard work to get this legislation out of the Senate on behalf of all the children who live in 'safe passage' neighborhoods," said State Representative Mary Flowers (D-Chicago), who is sponsoring the plan in the House. "I look forward to the governor signing it."

Category: News Releases

seal jpgState Senator Kimberly A. Lightford believes that Illinois' current charter school approval process creates conflicts of interest that could result in biased decisions. In an effort to prevent another Illinois ethics scandal, she is sponsoring a plan to make sure that the decisions are made by a neutral body that is completely open to public scrutiny.

Under current law, charter schools apply for approval from local school boards. If the school board denies the application, the charter school can appeal to the State Charter School Commission. Lightford is very concerned about the commission's funding structure.

The charter commission is financed by public and private grants and a 2.5 percent fee charged to all charter schools whose appeals it approves.

"The public body that reviews charter school appeals should not receive financing from pro-charter school organizations," said Lightford, who served as Education Committee chair before accepting a position in Senate leadership. "We need a neutral body to make these decisions, and I believe the State Board of Education is the way to go. It is widely respected by members of both political parties from every corner of the state."

Lightford's legislation would turn appeal-review authority over to a racially and geographically diverse board appointed by the state superintendent of education. The nine-member Charter School Appeal Board would have the authority to overturn local school boards' decisions to deny, revoke or not renew charter applications. The State Board of Education would have 90 days to overturn the appeal board's decisions before they become final.

The legislation, House Bill 3754, now returns to the House of Representatives, which must vote to approve an amendment before the measure can go to the governor's desk.

Category: News Releases

TechDay2State Senator Kimberly A. Lightford has never been someone who backs away from a challenge. She's also a dedicated champion of Illinois' public education system with a firm commitment to equality, improvement and opportunities. This year, she's taken on hot-button issues like school funding, student discipline and charter school reform.

School funding reform

"The best investment we can make is in our children's future," Lightford said. "We owe each and every child in this state an education that will prepare them to engage in our growing and changing economy and to become happy, responsible members of society."

Lightford believes the biggest challenge currently facing Illinois' education system is an outdated funding system, made worse by years of budget cuts. The current formula, established in 1997, only distributes 44 cents of every school-funding $1 based on need. The other 56 cents are distributed based on a complicated system of grants. This problem has worsened over the past few years as the General Assembly cut school funding to balance the budget. Poor school districts generally suffered larger budget cuts than wealthier school districts due to the unfair funding formula.

"First and foremost, we have to stop cutting education funding," Lightford said. "How can we expect our state and our children to succeed in a 21st century economy if we don't give them the skills we need? But in the meantime, we need to find a way to make sure state dollars get to the schools and students who need them most."

Read more ...

Category: News Releases

Senator Lightford and the 4th District Gentlemen's Committee hosted their 4th annual "Mammograms for Mother's Day" on May 10, 2014. Lightford is committed to decreasing breast cancer deaths and increasing early detection.

With a group of more than 20 men from her Gentlemen's Committee, Senator Lightford visited several beauty salons to encourage the women to have mammograms. A staff of registered nurses from Loyola Hospital and Loretto Hospital informed women of possible health risks and answered questions.

Lightford distributed more than 200 bags containing vital information about breast cancer awareness.

Category: News Releases

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