Capitol Report from Senator Craig Wilcox

Senate Republicans Push Back Against CTU’s Demand for $1 Billion in Additional Funding

Hundreds of members of the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) took a taxpayer-funded day off to travel to the Capitol on May 15 to demand $1 billion more in state funding for Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

Hypocrisy was on full display as the union’s members took a day away from the classroom, forcing the district to spend significant taxpayer dollars on substitute teachers, while also paying salaries of the CTU members who traveled to Springfield. Senate Republicans held a press conference as they arrived to highlight the special funding CPS already receives that is not made available to other schools in the state. The press conference took place at the same time as a committee for which I serve as the ranking Republican. Otherwise, I would have been standing with my colleagues to denounce the CTU demands. Click here to watch that press conference.

Under the Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) model, school districts are divided into a four-tier system with Tier One school districts being those that have the greatest need for new state funding to adequately educate their students. Tier 1 school districts are located across the state, with some here in the 32nd  District. CPS, a Tier 2 district, does not get to jump to the head of the line.

As mentioned, CPS already receives a disproportionate share of the state’s education resources through special carve-outs and unique grants. For these teachers, where an overwhelming majority of their students are not performing at grade level in reading or math, to come to Springfield and demand even more special treatment, is simply outrageous.

The demands made by the Chicago Mayor and the CTU members are tone-deaf to the fiscal realities Illinois faces in crafting the Fiscal Year 2025 budget. Senate Republicans will continue to stand up for taxpayers as well as for equal funding for schools throughout Illinois.

Wilcox is Leading Republican on Bipartisan Bill to Provide Psilocybin Treatments

Bipartisanship is often elusive in Springfield, but this year I am partnering with Democrat Senator Rachel Ventura on a bill that would provide a new treatment option for individuals who suffer from mental health conditions that can be extremely treatment-resistant, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in veterans. Senate Bill 3695 would provide for the medicinal use (not recreational) of Psilocybin, a psychedelic substance, with the consent of a healthcare professional and with treatments administered in controlled, supervised settings. Through the legislation, retail sales of the product would be prohibited.

In addition to providing a new medicinal treatment option, SB 3695 would facilitate additional research into the safety and efficacy of psilocybin use and establish an advisory board that would create a training program, ethical standards, and licensing requirements.

I have done a great deal of research into this treatment option and have considered filing a similar psilocybin bill focused on mental health and medicinal use for more than two years. Senator Ventura and I have worked together since the legislation was discussed in a subject-matter only committee hearing last month, and as a result of our conversations the bill language has changed significantly to a point where I am comfortable that the bill truly focuses on medicinal use of psilocybin. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Executive Committee where I am hopeful it will be heard early this week.

Illinois Pays Tribute to Fallen Firefighters in Annual Memorial Ceremony

State leaders gathered on May 14 to attend the 31st Annual Fallen Firefighter Memorial and Medal of Honor Ceremony.  Click here to view a short, moving tribute from the ceremony.

The service and ceremony were held at the Bank of Springfield Center, bringing together scores of firefighters from across Illinois to honor and remember their fallen brothers and sisters.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, the toll on firefighters’ lives continues to rise, with 25 casualties recorded already this year in the United States.

Spring Planting Trails Behind Last Year Amidst Seed Inventory Concerns

Spring planting in Illinois is well under way but is currently trailing last year’s pace. However, farmers were able to make recent headway thanks to a spell of dry weather and average soil temperatures. 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Illinois farmers have so far planted 42% of their corn acres and 39% of their soybean acres. That’s far behind where they were at the same time last year, when the Illinois corn crop was 81% planted and soybeans were at 74% planted. 

In 2023, Illinois led the nation in soybean production, yielding nearly 649 million bushels and ranked second in corn production, producing more than 2.27 billion bushels of corn. 

Farmers will continue to be on the roadways in the coming weeks, as they finish planting season. Drivers should be aware that most agriculture equipment will be travelling much more slowly than car traffic. 

Legislation to Save Money on Local Road Projects and Improve Government Transparency Advances

The General Assembly has passed legislation to require Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) road studies on traffic and environmental impact to be made public, which could potentially provide savings on local projects while improving transparency on state decisions.

House Bill 5138 specifically requires that IDOT make public any study or survey that concerns traffic or the environmental impact of road construction projects.

The legislation, which I was proud to support, passed the Senate on May 16 and now heads to the Governor.

Craig Wilcox

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