Thanks to those who participated in our flu vaccine event this week. It may still feel like Summer but flu season will be here before we know it. This week I was in Chicago again for a Personnel & Pensions Committee Meeting. There are 15 individuals under Federal indictment for a scheme to defraud taxpayers and foster care programs of $3.2 million. And, yet another case of hypocrisy from the leader of the Chicago Teachers Union. Plus, there’s a lot happening around McHenry County!
Personnel & Pensions Committee
Again this week, the Personnel & Pensions Committee met in Chicago and heard continued testimony on the Tier 2 pension program. We heard several requests for changes from DHS employees, teachers, university employees, retired teachers and others. As I testified during the hearing, I am grateful for the approach this committee has taken to draft pension changes – everyone has been invited to the table and the discussion is happening in public instead of in a back room. That is how legislating should be done.
However, I am concerned that any bill put forward dealing with pensions is going to turn into an omnibus bill that includes pension sweeteners and other structural changes to the pension systems instead of introducing a narrowly tailored bill solely focused on bringing Tier 2 into compliance with the federal safe harbor requirements that I have written to you about previously. There may be other pension changes needed in the future, but a narrow and specific solution to the safe harbor problem will continue to be my focus throughout these hearings and is the most responsible way forward.
DCFS Employee Under Federal Indictment
As I have written to you many times, my top legislative priority is to reform our child welfare system and we all know that the Department of Children and Family Services is extremely broken and in desperate need of reform. Now, we know there is more that needs reform than we originally anticipated.
In a now unsealed 41 count federal indictment, a former DCFS worker and 14 other individuals are being charged in a conspiracy to defraud taxpayers of $3.2 million intended for childcare programs. If found guilty, each person will face up to 30 years in prison. The alleged six-year scheme involved overcharging rates and payments to daycare centers that did not exist.
There will always be bad actors looking for ways to exploit and defraud. However, there should also be safeguards in place to make defrauding government programs as difficult as possible through accountability, transparency, and oversight. Additionally, we need to narrow the focus of DCFS and transfer duties outside of child welfare, like the administration of childcare grant programs, to other agencies like the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
Hot Topic of the Week:
Hypocrisy At the Top At The Chicago Teachers Union
This week, an article from Wirepoints brought to light that the head of the Chicago Teachers Union sends one of her own kids to a private school. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“Stacy Davis-Gates is undoubtedly Illinois’ most prominent and rabid opponent of school choice — and pretty much everybody and everything associated with it, all of which she labels racist or worse. As president of the Chicago Teachers Union, vice president of the American Federation of Teachers and executive vice president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, she is at the forefront of its campaign to kill Illinois’ meager Invest in Kids Act, which currently gives about 9,000 disadvantaged kids scholarships to attend private schools. ‘It must be game over’ for the program, the CTU says.”
This article comes during a heated debate in state government about whether the Invest in Kids Program, a scholarship tax credit program that provides scholarships to private schools for low-income families, should be renewed. The school her child attends, Chicago’s De La Salle Institute, has an annual tuition rate of $14,750, but is an active participant in the Invest in Kids Program, using donations from the program to provide scholarships for students who otherwise could not attend De La Salle.
This is just another example of those in leadership subscribing to the mantra of “rules for thee, but not for me.” If Davis-Gates had her way, all low-income students would be forced to attend their often underperforming local unionized government school. Yet her own child gets to attend an elite non-unionized private school of her choice. Is it possible that a non-union private school actually provides a better education? Maybe Davis-Gates’ actions speak louder than her words.
This is a great testament to the importance of renewing the Invest in Kids Program that allows students whose parents don’t bring in teacher’s-union-boss-level salaries to attend high quality private schools of their choice. This is an issue that is expected to come up in the upcoming Veto session. I am a strong advocate for the Invest in Kids Program, and I hope that articles like this will encourage my colleagues to support giving access to high quality schools for every student in the state.
Happenings Around McHenry County:
It’s Apple Orchard Time!
McHenry County is full of great things to do in the fall, and among our great fall attractions are the many apple orchards and pumpkin patches which offer a chance to enjoy crisp autumn days while you pick your own apples and watch the leaves turn. To plan your trip, click here.
Spring Grove Storytelling Festival
After having been shut down during COVID, my longtime friend Jim May is bringing back the Spring Grove Storytelling Festival on September 23rd. Jim is an Emmy award-winning professional storyteller and author who will once again bring together an all-star cast of storytellers who will provide master classes along with great stories of all types. The festival concludes with “Ghost Stories Under a Late September Moon”. This is entertainment for the whole family and a great way to greet the onset of autumn.
Old Courthouse Center Re-Opening
The restoration of the Old Courthouse Center in Woodstock is completed. The City of Woodstock along with Studio GWA have been working for a decade on this project of restoring all three stories, including the addition of an elevator, and new gas, water, and a geothermal heating and cooling system. Please take some time to check out the project and the tenants. You can learn more at their website.
The Week Ahead:
I’m going to be out of touch for the next two weeks. If you are unable to reach me, please call or email my office and we will get back to you as quickly as possible.
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