042116CM1404ResizeSPRINGFIELD—Senator Bill Cunningham passed legislation out of the Illinois Senate prioritizing agriculture education in the state.

Senate Bill 2975, subject to appropriation, would create a grant to fund up to 50 percent of the personnel costs for an agriculture education teacher. If a school district is creating a new agriculture education program they could receive a grant to fund 100 percent of personnel costs in their first two years and 80 percent in the third and fourth year.

“We need to prioritize agriculture in our schools. Our economy is driven by agriculture and yet so many students throughout the state have very little opportunity to learn about it,” Cunningham said. “This legislation would allow schools like the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences to easily maintain or create agriculture education programs.”

The legislation would also add agriculture education as an area of identified staff shortage which would make scholarship money available for those who want to go into agriculture education. Only 61 percent of agriculture jobs will be filled with qualified graduates in the coming years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We need to emphasize the careers agriculture offers, and one of those is teaching the next generation about those opportunities,” Cunningham said.

The legislation now moves to the House for further consideration.

Category: Press Releases

040516CM0405ResizeSPRINGFIELD—Senator Bill Cunningham passed a measure that would help bring justice to victims of sexual assault by ensuring police departments follow-up on potential matches on DNA test kits.

Senate Bill 2221 would require that if a police department did not follow up with the state police on a positive match, then the state police would notify the proper state’s attorney. The legislation also requires that an annual inventory be taken by both the state police and local police of all DNA kits in their possession.

This legislation comes in response to a situation that occurred in the Village of Robbins, Illinois. The local police department was notified of a positive match on a DNA test kit. The department though did not follow up on the potential match.

“With an issue like sexual assault, we need to take every imaginable step to bring justice to all of these cases. The ramifications of not following up on these matches could be devastating to our criminal justice system,” Cunningham said.

The legislation now moves to the House for further consideration.

Category: Press Releases

Cunningham passes higher education reform packageSPRINGFIELD—Community colleges and state universities may see a lot of changes coming soon when it comes to administration pay and severance packages.

State Senator Bill Cunningham proposed a reform package after the Senate Democratic Caucus Report on Higher Education Executive Compensation revealed lavish perks, golden parachutes and a lack of transparency in hiring and firing of administrators.

“This was about taking steps to protect taxpayers and tuition payers from abuse by college and university administration,” Cunningham said. “Lavish perks, like country club memberships, were forcing students to pay more and taxpayers to cover more costs when tuition was not enough.”

The legislative package consists of six bills:

•    Senate Bill 2155 would require that the Illinois Community College Board to conduct a peer review of the community colleges for their compliance with transparency laws, bonus payments, contract provisions and the Open Meetings Act.
•    Senate Bill 2156 ends the current practice of allowing bonuses, housing and vehicle allowances, or club memberships to be considered pensionable income.
•    Senate Bill 2157 requires that community college trustees must complete four hours of professional development leadership training.
•    Senate Bill 2158 prevents lame duck community college boards from renewing or signing a contract with the college’s chief executive before a new board is sworn in.
•    Senate Bill 2159 limits severance for state university executives to one year plus benefits, limits the length of a contract to 4 years and forbids automatic rollover clauses.
•    Senate Bill 2174 requires state university board members must complete four hours of professional development leadership training.


“Public officials need to be held accountable and that includes our state universities and community colleges,” Cunningham said. “Making our higher education system more transparent will prevent costly mistakes later down the road.”

The legislation now moves onto the House.

Category: Press Releases

041216CM0495ResizeSPRINGFIELD—Many students and communities throughout the state could be receiving much needed aid soon after the State Senate approved Senate Bill 2046. Senator Cunningham had the following statement:

“These programs and services are vitally important to all communities in the state, and we must take steps to ensure they don’t end,” Cunningham said. “This is about ensuring the government keeps its promise to our students who should have received MAP grants. This is about keeping sexual assault prevention programs functioning. We cannot just let these vital services go defunct.”

SB 2046 is now headed to the governor’s desk.

 

Category: Press Releases

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