Illinois Schools Call on State Board to Restore Local Control
I believe firmly that state government should be supporting and assisting school districts to make the best decisions possible for the safety of their students and staff, while providing districts with the flexibility and local control they need to deal with changing situations in their communities. Superintendents from across the state evidently agree, because this week hundreds of superintendents from smaller school districts sent a letter to Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), asking them to allow districts to make their own decisions on COVID-19 protocols for the fall.
This letter follows a similar effort from the members of the Large Unit District Association (LUDA), which includes more than 50 Illinois school districts with enrollments of more than 3,500 students. In their letter, LUDA members requested updated guidance from the state, and that “social distancing, quarantining, and masking guidelines in schools be consistent with health guidelines of Phase 5 as applied to other venues in Illinois.” Our local superintendents are engaged on this issue and need to be able to make these decisions locally.
On July 9, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued new guidance on the use of masks in schools, and stated that students who are fully vaccinated can go without masks unless they are riding the school bus or if their school makes a local decision to require masks. Since the vaccine is only available to those 12 years of age and older, these CDC guidelines would not remove a mask requirement for younger students. Within a few hours of the announcement of the CDC guidelines, IDPH announced that Illinois would follow the CDC recommendations with regard to masks in school.
I still view this as a government overreach. Local school boards should be making these decisions.
Senator Wilcox Attends Presidential Speech in Crystal Lake
It’s not very often when a sitting President visits our small-town America, but on July 7, McHenry County College welcomed President Joe Biden for a visit to the campus. As the State Senator who represents the area where MCC is located, I was extended an invitation to this event.
In a speech to an overwhelmingly Democratic crowd, the President spoke about his “Build Back Better” plan and his “American Families Plan,” and outlined a comprehensive list of expensive new programs he referred to as “free” and “paid for.” I took issue with the President’s rhetoric, because as we all know, nothing is “free.” Someone has to pay for every entitlement, and in this case, the President plans to yet again place new burdens on businesses and corporations. There are also undeniable inflationary consequences tied to his plan, and inflation directly impacts taxes consumers pay.
Noticeably missing from the Biden speech was any mention of personal accountability, responsibility, or the value of working hard to earn a nice living. While Illinois is appreciative of federal dollars, we cannot forget that federal dollars are still our taxpayer dollars. When federal funds sent to Illinois dry up, our state will remain faced with staggering debt and a majority party that has an insatiable appetite for spending.
Community Events Planned for 32nd Senate District
Next week my summer events calendar includes three different events for the people of the 32nd District.
We still need about 10 more blood donors to fill our schedule for a Monday, July 12 blood drive I am hosting alongside Skyline Cruise Night at the McHenry Outdoor Theater. Versiti Blood Center will be on site from 4:30-7:30 PM at the theater, located at 1510 N. Chapel Hill Road in McHenry, and all who attempt to donate will receive a code for a free ticket to Summerfest. There is still a great need for blood donations, so I hope to fill the donation schedule for this upcoming event. Click here to register, and I hope to see you there!
On Tuesday, July 13 at 6:30 PM I will partner with State Senator Donald DeWitte of the neighboring 33rd District and the Illinois Housing Development Authority for a free webinar to help those struggling to pay their rent navigate a rental assistance application process. Anyone who has lost wages due to COVID-19 and struggles to meet their rent obligation is encouraged to participate in this free online event. The window for applications is open now through 11:59 PM on Sunday, July 18. Participants in our virtual event will learn about eligibility requirements, receive tips on how to fill out the form, and receive information for completing a form when a landlord is unresponsive. Presenters from IHDA will also share the answers to frequently asked questions and provide time for participants to ask their own questions. The seminar will be held on Zoom, and those who wish to participate must register. When an individual registers for the event, information for how to join the Zoom event will be sent via email. Click here to register for the rental assistance webinar.
Then next weekend on Saturday, July 17 I invite residents to join me at the DamYak Challenge in McHenry. This fun-filled event takes place from 8:00-10:00 AM in the heart of McHenry. Online registration for this 4.8-mile kayak event is now open. The goal of the event is to raise awareness and fund for Kids In Need McHenry County, a non-profit organization created to identify and provide kids in need with important recourses to help them have a happy and healthy childhood. If you’d like to join me for a fun morning on the water, click here to learn more and to register.
IDOC Still Delaying Many Prisoner Transfers
Sheriffs are still struggling to transfer convicted felons out of county jails and into the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) prisons where the criminals are supposed to be serving their sentences. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Pritzker’s administration halted these types of transfers to help stop the spread of the virus in the prison system. In July 2020, however, the Governor issued a new executive order authorizing IDOC to resume the transfers.
According to numerous county sheriffs, however, IDOC is still delaying and dragging their feet on processing many transfers. Unfortunately, most county jails aren’t equipped or staffed to hold large numbers of state inmates indefinitely. This week I joined several colleagues in sending a letter to the Director of IDOC.
The Illinois General Assembly appropriated $50 million to help counties cover the costs, but there is uncertainty over whether that is enough to cover the actual costs, and how the funding will be distributed.
Watch Out for Text and Email Scams
Illinois drivers are being targeted by scammers phishing for their information via text and email. According to news reports, some Illinoisans have received what appears to be an email or text from the Illinois Secretary of State’s (SOS) office saying that the individual’s license has been suspended. Officials from the SOS, however, say that they only send important communications like that by mail.
Officials from the Illinois Department of Transportation say that they too have been contacted by hundreds of people who have received similar emails and texts, leading them to believe that thousands of residents have actually been targeted. In both cases, officials urge people not to click the links contained in the emails and texts, but to report them to the appropriate authorities.
Constituents are also reporting suspicious texts from an entity claiming to be the IL Department of Employment Security regarding suspension of unemployment benefit accounts. IDES will not text you. This is a scam.
The FBI offers tips to avoid becoming a victim of phishing and spoofing types of scams at: https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/spoofing-and-phishing