In an effort to ensure students spend more time learning and less time taking tests, State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) is sponsoring legislation to cap the number of standardized tests Chicago Public Schools administer each school year. 

Senate Bill 2156 limits schools to four standardized tests per year. Cunningham filed the legislation after hearing from teachers and parents in his district who feel too much of the school day is being spent preparing for and taking standardized tests. Cunningham is a Chicago Public School parent and a former member of the Local School Council for Sutherland School in Beverly.  

"There is too much emphasis on standardized tests scores that do not always adequately reflect the learning abilities and achievements of students." Cunningham said. "What's more, testing is very costly to schools.  That money could be better spent elsewhere.”

Currently, Chicago Public Schools’ calendar includes two full weeks of testing and 10 full school days of preparation.   

“Standardized testing has an important role to play in the education process, but testing students more than four times a year becomes too disruptive to the regular curriculum,” said Cunningham. 

Other states are taking action to lessen high stakes testing. For example, the Texas House of Representatives “zeroed-out” standardized test funding in its budget recommendations.

Category: Press Releases

Cunningham-Hastings-022813br0235Illinois could potentially save $105 million if we use the federal funding that is being offered to us.  We would be foolish to let these federal dollars go to waste, especially when we have our own financial troubles.  In a few short months the legislature will need to craft a budget and the savings will come in handy,” said State Senator Bill Cunningham (D- Beverly).

Key components of Senate Bill 26:

  • All adults with incomes at or below 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Limit ($15,415 for an individual) will be able to enroll in Medicaid starting January 1, 2014. Currently, adults are eligible for Medicaid only if they have disabilities or care for dependent children.
  • The federal government will reimburse Illinois for 100 percent of the costs of covering these newly eligible enrollees through 2017.
  • The reimbursement rate will decrease gradually after 2017 but stay at 90 percent after 2020.
  • If the federal government fails to reimburse the state at 90 percent or above, the newly eligible clients will become ineligible; Illinois will not be stuck with the bill.

Expected benefits include:

  • Access to routine, coordinated care for 342,000 low-income adults
  • Fewer unnecessary and uncompensated emergency room visits
  • An influx of $1.1 billion in federal dollars in the first year and more than $12 billion in federal funds in the first eight years of the expansion
  • Job creation in the health care sector
  • $105 million in annual savings to the state as federal funds replace state expenditures on mental health, HIV/AIDS drugs and other areas of spending
  • A reduction in the burden on hospitals and local government currently caring for the uninsured
  • Better preventive care and mental health care for a vulnerable segment of the population
Category: Press Releases

State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) is sponsoring legislation to allow students with disabilities the opportunity to receive physical education credit if they participate in outside athletic programs. 

Under current state law, high school students who participate in interscholastic athletic programs can receive waivers that allow them to skip P.E. classes. But Illinois students who have physical and developmental disabilities can't take advantage of such waivers because the high schools they attend rarely offer athletic programs designed for students with disabilities.

“We can’t treat some students differently than others. If student athletes can get P.E. waivers, students with disabilities who participate in athletic programs should be able to get P.E. waivers, too,” Cunningham said. 

Parents of a student with disabilities brought this idea to the senator because their child participates in sports outside of school, and they believe he should have the same right to a P.E. waiver as other children. 

If Cunningham's bill becomes law, students with disabilities who participate in athletic programs outside of school could apply to their local school board for a P.E. waiver. A number of sports programs could qualify for the waiver, including wheelchair basketball, sled hockey, the Special Olympics and many others.

“I want people to know my door is always open, and I encourage my constituents to bring me ideas for legislation,” Cunningham said.

Category: Press Releases

Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) is sponsoring legislation to provide more funds for the Chicago Police and Fire pensions by using any newly established gaming revenue generated by a Chicago casino.

 Senate Bill 1564 will deposit a minimum of 20% of all proceeds collected by gaming revenue in the City of Chicago into each the Chicago Police and Fire department pension funds. 

“Should the General Assembly grant the City of Chicago the ability to open a casino, a badly needed source of revenue will become available. It would be wise for the city to use a portion of that revenue to address its most pressing financial issue—funding pensions for our public safety workers,” Cunningham said. 

The Chicago Police and Fire pension funds are among the worst funded in the state. In addition to years of government underfunding, the Police and Fire pensions have been negatively impacted because Chicago public safety employees are not part of the workers’ compensation system. As such, the police and fire pension funds are drained of millions of dollars to pay officers and firefighters who have been injured on duty. No other government pension funds are as dramatically affected by disability payouts.

"Because the Police and Fire Funds have this additional drain on their financial resources, they need a new, additional source of revenue to make up the difference," Cunningham said. "Tapping casino revenue is the best potential solution to this underfunding problem."

Category: Press Releases

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