Editorial Roundup: Illinois
Arlington Heights Daily Herald. August 11, 2021.
Editorial: Striking a blow against 'period poverty'
Illinois struck a blow for human rights last week, when Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed bills requiring colleges and universities and many homeless shelters, to stock menstrual products.
Long underrecognized as a human rights issue, these new state laws try to break down barriers to feminine hygiene products such as tampons and sanitary napkins for those who can't afford them.
State Rep. Katie Stuart, an Edwardsville Democrat, laid it out in terms everyone can understand.
'We all agree, collectively, that soap, toilet paper, napkins, tissues, seat covers and all those other things are provided for us in public spaces,' she said. 'In fact, we probably don't really ever think about it until we're in a situation where we really need something like that, and it's just not there.
'This legislation puts menstrual hygiene products in that same category, which is exactly where they belong,' she said.
We couldn't have said it better. Each month, countless women lack the basic products many of us take for granted. These bills do not make access universal, but getting free tampons and pads on college campuses is going to be a big deal to students who are struggling to get an education with little ready cash available to them. No young woman should have to sacrifice hygiene and personal health by coming up with poor substitutes to handle a menstrual cycle.
House Bill 641 requires state universities and community colleges to stock feminine hygiene products in any restroom in a college building that serves students. That bill passed the House 74-37 and the Senate 42-13, each with mostly Democratic but some Republican support. It takes effect immediately.
House Bill 310 requires homeless shelters that serve women and youth to make menstrual hygiene products available free of charge, although the rule 'is subject to the homeless shelter's general budget.'
House Bill 155 requires the Illinois Department of Human Services to apply for a waiver to the federal government to allow the use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP funds) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children to buy diapers and menstrual hygiene products.
Currently, the federal government does not offer such a waiver. But according to state Rep. Barbara Hernandez, a Chicago Democrat, advocates are formally asking the federal government to take this step.
This bill had unanimous, bipartisan support in the General Assembly.
The availability of menstrual products regardless of the ability to pay is catching on -- finally -- as a basic human right around the globe. We are grateful to Illinoisans who are waging this fight for the women of this state.
Champaign News-Gazette. August 15, 2021.
Editorial: Ongoing shooting incidents are our No. 1 problem
The time for decisive action
has long since passed.
The shootings just keep on coming - No. 163 happened Thursday near Champaign Central High School. In Urbana, the number is over 64. No one was killed Thursday, but what about next time?
Considered in that context, congratulations are due to Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman for stepping up enforcement of illegal gun possession in communities like Champaign, Urbana and Rantoul.
'Recognizing that gun violence is fluid across multiple jurisdictions, the sheriff's office is taking a proactive approach to help reduce gun violence in Champaign County,' Heuerman said in a statement disclosing that deputies had seized six firearms last weekend from those who were not in legal possession of them.
That's a start, but still a drop in the bucket. It's time for local authorities to step up their efforts and work together in an all-hands-on-deck effort to identify the bad guys and strip them of their weapons.
Given the current level of mindless violence, what else could be more important?
That would send a message to the shooters and would-be shooters that there are serious consequences for driving around locked, loaded and looking for the next victim.
Special task forces already exist. But how about adding more manpower to the already-established Champaign County Street Crimes Task Force, which has long focused on illegal weapons and drug reduction?
Heuerman is correct that these outrageous crimes are being committed across multiple jurisdictions. Why not create an enhanced, coordinated response that operates in the same fashion?
All police agencies work together to some degree, but it's hardly an exaggeration to say that the string of shootings that's been going on for months now requires an extraordinary response.
Various public officials - elected officials, ministers, law-enforcement officers - have been calling for an end to this madness for months. The only response from those responsible has been more shootings, more injuries, more deaths and even more firepower.
It ought to be obvious that this scourge will not stop until it is lawfully put to an end.
Some have suggested that police and prosecutors cannot arrest and charge their way out of this problem. That plaintive cry is just an excuse for doing nothing but waiting for the next 'shots fired' call to 911.
For starters, very few - if any - of the wrongdoers have legal authority to carry a firearm. There are tried-and-true legal means to stop them, find and seize their weapons and then charge them for illegal possession. Word gets around.
These individuals are not easily dissuaded from engaging in illegal activity, particularly as it relates to the endless cycle of violence and retaliation. Indeed, they show signs of being beyond persuasion.
They are mostly impulsive, living in a world where the future is not a concern, life is cheap and the gangster lifestyle is worthy of emulation.
These young men may not feel the same in 10 years, when they are older and more mature. But they clearly feel that way now.
Still, all of them surely want to live. None of them wants a life behind bars. They must realize at some level that there is far more to life than seeking whatever rewards participating in these shooting sprees gives them. There's a better path for them to follow.
But the first step toward a community solution is disarming them and protecting the public. The current situation is intolerable, and it must be attacked with every available law-enforcement resource.
Chicago Sun-Times. August 12, 2021.
Editorial: Chicago and Illinois lose when CPS fails to serve special education kids
The failure dates back decades. And it has to end.
We'd like to avoid the word 'intentional.'
That's the word parents often use when complaining that administrators at the Chicago Public Schools are dragging their feet when it comes to providing full legally required services for students in special education programs, and when it comes to compensating families that have been forced to pay for such services out of their own pockets.
CPS has a history of falling short when it comes to providing educational services for kids with disabilities, which is why parents might understandably suspect that the district's recent failures to do the job right, as required by state law, is at least somewhat intentional. That CPS is simply trying to minimize its responsibilities.
But we don't know that. Maybe - actually, certainly - there's real truth to the district's defense that the service delays of the last two years were caused by the teachers' strike of 2019 and the pandemic. Remote learning is always second best to in-class learning, and often third best when it comes to kids with disabilities.
Failure for decades
We know this for sure: CPS continues to fail to meet the needs of too many kids in its special education program, and that's nothing new. It is a failure that dates back decades. It has to end. We're also inclined to believe, given the district's track record on this, that the blame lies heavily with the administration of CPS itself.
It's hard to figure otherwise when you consider, as recently reported by WBEZ and the Sun-Times, that 60 employees in the CPS special education department have left in the last two years. What, other than internal dissent and frustration, might explain that? And when you also consider that some 120 school psychologists, social workers and language therapists just last month signed a letter to CPS officials detailing 'grave concerns regarding the current leadership' of the district's special education office. The letter cited 'spiteful, obstructive and incompetent behaviors.'
On Thursday, the district took an overdue step in right direction, announcing that it is offering cash payments of between $400 and $4,000 to families whose disabled children were wrongly denied special education services, such as for transportation or therapy, between 2016 and 2018. But it remains on CPS to get this right - let's see how this plays out.
And it is on the Illinois Legislature to put more pressure on the school district.
State Rep. Fred Crespo, (D-Streamwood), who three years ago sponsored the law that requires CPS to provide compensatory services to families short-changed by the district, said lawmakers could pass new legislation to give the Illinois State Board of Education more monitoring authority over any school district that fails kids in these situations.
After a state investigation in 2018 concluded that CPS for two years had illegally refused vital services to thousands of kids, state officials ordered the district to make up for the disservice by setting aside $10 million to help the families recover.
But the results of that compensatory services program, as WBEZ and the Sun-Times found, read like another layer of defeat.
Records show that 10,515 special education students were wrongfully denied services in 2018, and only 214 students - or 2% - have received compensatory assistance as of July 2021.
Some 1,500 children have been identified as potentially harmed by this CPS failure. Yet only 16 of those students, or 1%, have received compensatory help, with another 360 deemed ineligible for compensation because they could not prove their case.
Danger of falling behind
When CPS fails to provide adequate resources and support, kids fall behind. In some cases never to catch up.
'We are also looking at a bump of students who will end up institutionalized or incarcerated, if CPS continues to fail,' Amber Smock, advocacy director for Access Living, the Chicago-based disability rights organization, told the Sun-Times Editorial Board. 'Although Illinois is seeing major progress and heavy investment in criminal (justice) system reform, that work is meaningless when CPS special education fails students from the outset.'
In 2018, the Illinois State Board of Education appointed an independent monitor to ensure that CPS was not denying or delaying special education services to students. The stated goal was a 'road to transformation.' But special education advocates warned at the time that a single monitor would not sufficiently do the job in the third largest school district in the country. Three years later, that appears to have been the case.
Crespo told us he'd like to see the monitoring effort expanded, with two monitors instead of one, and locked in for at least two more years.
Three years ago, when we were working on an editorial about a shortage of nurses at CPS for kids with disabilities, the late Marca Bristo, then president of Access Living, told us the real heart of the problem is how society values - or fails to value - kids with disabilities. When those kids are finally seen as equals, she said, the services they require no longer will be seen as 'extras.'
That was less a criticism of CPS than of us all.