Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Rauner: Child Abuse & Neglect in Illinois

Child Abuse & Neglect in Illinois

The latest International Monetary Fund report issued today urges policy-makers in the United States to do something now to correct the increasing levels of poverty as our middle class shrinks.

“The nation's economic well-being, it (the report) said, is threatened by factors including the shrinking middle class—now at ‘its smallest size in the last 30 years’—as well as ‘income and wealth distribution [that] are increasingly polarized’ and rising poverty. ‘One in seven Americans is living in poverty,’ including 40 percent of whom are working, the body added.” (

In an interview with PBS news reporter Judy Woodruff,  IMF Managing Director Christine LaGarde warns that future trends in America may assure the likelihood of increases in this dangerous trend.  The numbers of active workers in the US economy is declining; the needs for workers’ child care and the elderly care will continue to squeeze those families currently working, especially in low-wage, service sector areas. 

Without any concerted and bi-partisan effort to address these building needs now (child care assistance, increasing the earned income tax credit, assistance with elder care), we can expect only anemic growth in economic recovery and the continued withering of the middle class.    

Meanwhile in Illinois, the Fiscal Policy Center at Voices For Illinois Children cautions that another year without a budget will prove even more disastrous for Illinois families, communities and their/our children. 

Who is threatened, specifically? 

Children.  Poor children. 

If you’re a child about to emerge into this world of Illinois, current statistics indicate you’ll have a bit better than 20% chance of being born into poverty.  Not that you’ll have any choice in the matter.

But you won’t be alone. 

If you live in Cook County, you’ll be just one of nearly 311,000 kids with too little and a significantly lesser chance of a meaningful life (up from 264,000 in 1999).  The numbers in Springfield, Illinois, where the Governor warned us there may be some pain as he turns Illinois around, have nearly doubled in that same time frame; from 6,103 to 11,457. 

Ten percent of those children will dwell in the lowest shelf of “deep poverty.”  That is, those poor souls living at 50% or more of poverty.  A single mother and child with an income of less than $8000 per year.  A family of three, at less than $10,000. 

According to the Fiscal Policy Center’s latest brief:  “The harm is widespread – ranging from afterschool programs and autism services to lifesaving cancer and HIV screening and support services for seniors.  While many providers of these critical services have been given contracts to continue to provide services at the level of the last fiscal year (which ended June 30), others have been issued new contracts with lower service levels.  In either case, outside of consent decrees and federal pass-through funds, many critical state priorities still lack state funding.  As a result, even providers that are pillars of the public service delivery system such as Lutheran Social Services have been forced to lay off staff, turn away those in need, and shut program doors “ 

This is just some of last year’s (2015) damage.

Comprehensive Community-Based Youth Services suffered NO state funding (over $16 million in FY15), and the federal pass-through dollars make up less than 17% of annual program budget.  CCBYS programs and staff provide emergency services for roughly 7000 youth in crises or runaways (ages 10-17).

Early Intervention Services: NO state funding (over $85 million in FY15; FY16 contracts issued but no payments without budget enacted.  As a result, hundreds of new children needing services were shut off in September as well as the suspension of assistance and transportation to over 4000 families.    

Home Visiting (Child Development and Coaching for at-risk new parents): NO state funding in FY15 $16.5 million); new contracts issued FY16 but no payments without enacted budget FY16.  Some federal matching from last year helped modestly (900 families), but there remain nearly 6000 at-risk families in need of services.

Intensive Pre-Natal and Family Case Management: NO state funding of $36 million FY15; FY16 contracts issued with severe cuts to federally non-funded Qualified Health Centers, but no payments without enacted budget FY16.  Services were severely impacted last year, especially in downstate regions to the point that rebuilding will require long-term efforts even if FY16 budget were enacted.

Redeploy Illinois: NO state funding FY15 ($4.8 million); programs serving hundreds of youth through cost-effective programs steering young people away from incarceration.  As a result, twenty-three counties no longer serve to assist youngsters in finding alternatives to behaviors that will lead to jail.

I could go on…

Reminder: Over 600,000 children in Illinois are qualified as impoverished. 

Imagine a city over four times the size of Naperville populated by starving or needy children.  You’ll get the idea.

Bruce Rauner confided to the Editorial Board of the Chicago Tribune that he’d be running again in 2018.  The Tribune brandishes him as "the Governor Who Won't Back Down." There's a laurel that bears cautious consideration.  

For, Rauner also “asserted” that his administration has been “heroic” in keeping state government afloat as he presides over the budget impasse(s).  “‘I have to say, I give our team and our administration tremendous credit for being able to run the government for 18 months with massive deficits and no budget,’ Rauner said.  ‘It’s an extraordinary performance by the leaders in our team.  We’re doing heroic things.’”

Just a few of the other youth and elderly service programs that will feel the “pain” of these “heroic” actions?

Safe from the Start (violence protection for kids), Teen Pregnancy Prevention Grants, Teen REACH After School Programs, Autism Program of Illinois, Centers for Independent Living, Community Care Program, Domestic Violence Shelters and Services, Epilepsy Grants, Family Planning Programs, Funeral & Burial Assistance Programs, HIV/AIDS Prevention Programs and Treatments, Sexual Assault & Services Programs, Home Delivered Meals for Seniors, Substance Use and Prevention Programs, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Program, Home and Adult Day Care Services, U of I Sickle Cell Clinics, Aid to Public Colleges and Universities, Child Care Assistance Program, Civil Legal Aid, Emergency and Transitional Housing, Employment & Training Programs, Affordable Housing Programs, Homeless Prevention Services and Supportive Housing, Homeless Youth Services, Reentry and Rehabilitation Services, Immigrant Services, and MAP Tuition Assistance Programs.

Heroic, indeed.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

An Au Naturel Learning Experience: Or Where Have You Gone, Dr. Skinner?

An Au Naturel Learning Experience:  or Where Have You Gone, Dr. Skinner?

A post today on Peter Greene’s Curmudgucation reminded me of the compelling appeal of simplicity wedded to technology when even I was a child many decades ago.  My mother, a personal secretary to Dr. B.F. Skinner at Indiana University, was convinced by the good doctor that her newborn’s participation in his groundbreaking research on “Baby Boxes” and the positive effects of a continuous optimum climate on a child’s rearing would be beneficial – to her, to me, and probably to her regular and assured appearance at work.   

Nearly 300 infants were placed in these temperature and climate controlled enclosures, but early new media releases of the invention did more, understandably, to dissuade the public from accepting the concept rather than flock to this “brave new” science.  In fact, the early accounts of his own daughter Deborah’s happiness in “his box” accompanied pictures of the infant with her nose and hands pressed against the glass.  It was no great stretch after that for critics to connect her condition to any other rat looking for levers or reward pellets for good behavior. 

By the way, I find myself partial to artisanal cheeses.

When I read the following blog-post by Mr. Greene, who remains an articulate and ever-present warrior against the danger of these “new sciences” of educational testing and accountability gone terribly awry, I am reminded of the darker sides of B.F Skinner’s conceptualizations in the hands of companies like Pearson.

His entire blog is attached and available at

Posted: 18 Jun 2016 08:08 AM PDT
So I stumbled across the Connections Academy blog Virtual Learning Connections (a friendly resource supporting K-12 school from home). In particular, I stumbled across this post-- "5 Reasons Why Parents Choose Virtual School Kindergarten." The piece is written by Carrie Zopf, a teacher at one of the Conections Academies. Connection Academy is the virtual charter chain purchased by Pearson in 2011, and they would love to just hook your five year old up to a screen. And it is from way back in 2014, but it still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

 It's a great little listicle, combining the sales pitch with the "everybody's doing it and here's why" peer reinforcement. So what are these five great reasons to put your child in virtual kindergarten?

It's easy!! You can have breakfast and then walk into the next room and plunk your child down in front of the computer! Or go to the store and then plunk. More family time, more adaptability to your schedule. More like not actually sending your child to school at all.

Frequent parent-teacher communication. Though Zopf says this is "much like in a traditional school," talking to your child's teachers is super-easy! And since all the learning is online, you can see everything right there. In fact, you can see everything the teacher can see. Plus you actually have the live child there with you. Actually, why would you even need to talk to the teacher. What is the teacher even doing?

Active participation. You can get right in there and help, because you can see every lesson, see every assignment. When your child is trying to work through worksheets assignments, you'll be right there. Right there. Boy, I hope you have some educational training. I also hope that you have the self-control and toughness not to just feed your child the answer when she gets frustrated. Zopf notes that being involved in the child's education is the primary reason that parents go this route.

Real world learning opportunities. Cyber-k still has field trips and stuff, so your child will still get out in the world and occasionally interact with her "classmates." Also, your five year old can sign up for a foreign language.

A safe learning environment. Your child doesn't have to go out into the big scary world. According to Conection's own parent survey, keeping their child safe and in the home was a major motivator for parents. So if you are the biggest helicopter parent ever, cyber school is a good choice for you.

Zopf also cites a study that suggests that small children are great at figuring out "unusual machines," though she completely skips the issue of screen time for children and the controversies around reading comprehension and computers. There's also an app to help you obsess over academic skills while your toddler is still toddling.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Summertime Blues? Here's an Idea...

Summertime Blues?  Here’s an idea…

According to the National Weather Bureau, it was the hottest May on record.  Ever.  To me, June has seemed a bit steamy too.  On the other hand, the colder nights are only 3 ½  months away.

Next week there’s a meeting in Country Club Hills to identify goals, successful strategies, and upcoming needs for the over-thirty church sites that provide shelter, care, food, and housing assistance for the large populations of homeless on the South Side of the city.  Other collective programs are meeting in other areas too. 

Because the shelters are more critically needed during inclement weather, these preparatory meetings normally take place in late summer.  But, if next ”season” is like this last year in Illinois, the Governor may jeopardize what was a desperate struggle to keep assistance programs alive further.  Rauner had promised that “there would be some pain” as we moved toward his vision of a more business-friendly environment, but his victims have been those most vulnerable. 

In just two weeks, Illinois will start its second year without a state budget.
We're still urging lawmakers to put aside their differences and pass a balanced budget with adequate revenue before then. Meanwhile, it's also vital that Governor Rauner sign Senate Bill 2038, an emergency funding bill that would provide more than $700 million for human service programs, including those that serve seniors, children and people with disabilities.

The bill includes nearly $225 million in state funding for programs such as homeless shelters, supportive housing, rental subsidies, foreclosure prevention and housing construction. This funding—as well as additional funds for affordable housing—would have been available 11 months ago if not for the state budget impasse. It's been languishing on Governor Rauner's desk for nearly a month now. It passed through both the House and Senate with bipartisan support.
Call the Governor at (217) 782-0244 NOW and urge him to stand up for our children, families, and communities by signing Senate Bill 2038!
Each day that goes by without this bill being signed into law means that more families in Illinois needlessly become homeless because service providers have to turn them away.
    The Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless has had to reduce its hours, cut back services, and sell properties that once sheltered those experiencing homelessness.
    Helping Hands of Springfield is only keeping its shelter open thanks to increased donations.
    The latest round of cutbacks at Community Elements, a mental health agency in Champaign, included shutting down its Roundhouse shelter for homeless youth, eliminating sack lunches, and greatly reducing its residential program for men transitioning from homelessness to self-sufficiency.
...the list goes on and on. We can't let it get any longer. Call the Governor today and tell him to sign SB 2038!

Housing Action Illinois

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