Originally published in Injustice Watch on May 25, 2021.

Illinois is poised to become the first state to require that public schools teach their students the history of Asian Americans, who have endured an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Illinois Senate passed the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History Act, known as the TEAACH Act, by a unanimous vote of 57-0 on Tuesday. The legislation, introduced in January by Illinois State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, D-Glenview, passed the state House in April. The House has to approve a Senate amendment before it will head to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk for his signature.

The bill would require every elementary and high school in the state to devote a unit of curriculum to the history of Asian Americans in the United States, including in Illinois and the Midwest. School districts would have until the start of the 2022-2023 school year to comply.

The TEAACH Act requires schools to include in U.S. history courses the role that Asian Americans have played in advancing civil rights and highlight their contributions to the country’s development.

State Sen. Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said education is one part of a “multipronged” strategy to tackle the rise in discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Addressing the issue will also require better hate crime reporting, more representation in government, and training people to be better bystanders who intervene when they witness anti-Asian harassment, he said.

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Category: In The News

Originally published on WREX on May 19, 2021.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Gov. JB Pritzker says the state’s ready to move forward into the next phase of the Rebuild Illinois capital spending plan. Pritzker announced a new six-year $20.7 billion construction plan to improve highways on Wednesday.

The Illinois Department of Transportation said they kept construction projects on schedule throughout the pandemic without cutting any projects. Acting Director Omer Osman says IDOT stands prepared to work on even more projects over the next six years.

This plan will help reconstruct over 2,700 more miles of roads and nearly 8 million square feet of bridges between 2022 and 2027. The Pritzker administration says $3.3 billion of the program has been earmarked for the next fiscal year. Officials say the state is investing $5.79 billion in highway reconstruction and preservation and $4.82 billion for bridge improvements. That’s completely separate from $2.59 billion for strategic expansion, $1.43 billion to support engineering and land acquisition, and $1.21 billion for safety and system modernization.

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Category: In The News

Originally published on Heart of Illinois ABC on May 19, 2021.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.- A new study conducted by a nonprofit advocating for gun control shows Illinois ranks fifth in the country in homicides among Black people. Ninety percent of those victims died from gun violence.

Violence Policy Center Executive Director Josh Sugarmann explained why his organization conducts the study each year.

“The goal of our work for this study is to help support community advocates, organizations on the ground working to stop this violence,” said Sugarmann. “At the same time, we’re helping educate policy makers and the public regarding the reality of gun violence in America.”

Kathleen Sances, President of the Gun Violence Prevention PAC, stressed Illinois is leading the nation for all the wrong reasons. In fact, she said the Violence Policy Center’s study only increases the need to pass Senate Bill 568.

“Gun violence is an equity issue,” said Sances. “We must act now to get communities across our state moving in the right direction.”

Democrats have pushed for several gun reform proposals this year to try and find a solution to this problem. One of the plans would increase restrictions for gun owners by requiring fingerprints and increasing background checks.

Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago) said Senate Bill 568 would not only address mass tragedies like the 2019 Aurora shooting. He argues it could also address the shootings that take place every day across Illinois.

“There are too many people getting killed by gun violence,” said Villivalam. “One is too many. This legislation needs to move forward in this General Assembly in order for us to reduce gun violence and keep our kids safe.”

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Category: In The News

Originally publish in The Daily Line on April 5, 2021.

Mass transit became an immediate casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, as nationwide stay-at-home orders and crowding concerns drove Americans away from trains and buses.

The drop-off did not spare Chicago-area transit networks, which saw a freefall in ridership in April and May 2020, according to a March 25 report from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute. Even as the region began to partially reopen in June, CTA buses saw a 50 percent decline in trips compared to 2019, while CTA trains suffered a loss of 77 percent and Metra lost 89 percent of its riders.

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Category: In The News

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