lightford smile may2015SPRINGFIELD – Students with developmental disabilities may soon find it easier to get the help they and their families need. Sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D – Maywood), the prospective law would require the Dept. of Human Services (DHS) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to train public school case workers to register students with the PUNS (Prioritization or Urgency of Need for Services) database.


It is widely argued that due to a lack of awareness, PUNS is under-utilized, and therefore, in some cases, people with developmental disabilities across the state are not getting the services they need. The legislation is an attempt to ensure students in Illinois public schools and parents have the information they need to register with PUNS if they so choose.


"The PUNS database was instituted to ensure that people with developmental disabilities were never overlooked and always given help," said Sen. Lightford. "Through this legislation, we can ensure that the database reaches its fullest potential so that these young people in the greatest of need can achieve their fullest potential too."


DHS and ISBE would also have to develop a new program to provide resources and training for case workers so they are as prepared as possible to provide these students and their families with the information and advice they need. The measure also requires ISBE to inform parents and guardians through school districts on the PUNS waiting list.


Senate Bill 226 now goes to the House of Representatives for further discussion.

Category: News

lightford smile floorSPRINGFIELD – Students in districts with limited course options may soon be able to access a wider variety of courses thanks to legislation pushed through the Senate by Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D – Maywood). The option of taking classes from an outside authorized provider would be available to students who can demonstrate an impediment to being able to take another course at school or participate in another academic activity.

"A student's potential should not be limited by his or her ZIP code," said Sen. Lightford. "The courses available to students in one area of the state should be available to students everywhere to ensure that we are giving all our young people the most comprehensive education possible. Equality of opportunity at the high school level now will lead to more equitable opportunity as the next generation applies for college and enters the workforce tomorrow."

Starting with the 2016-17 school year, qualifying juniors and seniors would be allowed to take up to two of these special courses a semester. By the 2018-19 school year, all qualifying high school students would be able to enroll.

Under this prospective law, the State Board would authorize course providers who meet a specific set of criteria for a period of three years, and the Board would also maintain a public catalog of courses available for students. The cost of each course would be negotiated between the provider and the State Board, which would transfer course payments to the provider on behalf of the responsible school district.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1679, now goes to the House for consideration.

Category: News

This Mother's Day weekend, on Saturday, May 9th, Senator Lightford will be holding her 4th Annual Mammograms for Mother's Day Awareness Event. The senator will be visiting several beauty salons throughout her district to discuss the importance of mammograms and other health practices in the fight against breast cancer. It is estimated that there were nearly 67 thousand new breast cancer cases in Illinois in 2014.

 

Senators Mothers Day Event 2015 flier

Category: News

lightford presenting 4 15SPRINGFIELD – A 2012 study found that Illinois suspends more African-American students than any other state in the U.S., including a Black-White suspension disparity that is the highest in the country. To address this all-too-apparent disparity and the overall frequency of out-of-school discipline, legislation has passed the Senate that will help to ensure that all students are in school and off the streets as much as possible.


"The students who are being tossed out of the school environment are the very students who should be kept within school boundaries at all costs," said Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, sponsor of the legislation. "We need to keep young people in school learning how to succeed and off of the street corner learning how to fail. Expulsions and suspensions should only be a last resort."


The legislation, Senate Bill 100, would address the frequency and racial disparity of suspensions and expulsions in several ways, including the following:


• Disciplinary removals of longer than 3 days must be limited to instances where the student's presence is an on-going threat to the school, and all other options have been exhausted.
• A school board must state how a suspension and expulsion is in the best interest of a school before disciplinary action.
• School districts must establish re-engagement policies for disciplined students.
• Suspended students must be given the opportunity to make up their work.
• School officials must limit suspensions and expulsions to the greatest extent practicable.


Original research into state records has shown that in the 2010-2011 school year, Illinois students lost 1,117,453 instructional days due to disciplinary actions, 95 percent of which were for minor offenses.


"Illinois' highest-need students are dropping out of school or ending up in the criminal justice system - at an enormous cost to Illinois taxpayers - for incidents that could have and should have been addressed within the school environment," said Sen. Lightford. "The confines of the education system are much more advantageous for these students and the future of our state than those of the penal system.

 

Category: News

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