Update from Senator Bennett: March 27

Bennett Advances Legislation to Remove Roadblock for Aspiring Teachers
The Illinois Senate Education Committee voted unanimously to advance legislation from Senator Tom Bennett that would remove one of the biggest issues stopping prospective teachers from making it to the classroom. His legislation would suspend the current edTPA requirement, a much-criticized evaluation program that has regularly been cited as a major factor in the worsening teacher shortage. “We continually hear that the current edTPA requirement is one of the biggest roadblocks for prospective teachers in education programs,” said Bennett. “This legislation will waive the requirement for two years, helping to get more teachers into classrooms while we develop a better system.” Under current law, prospective teachers are required to pass the edTPA requirement to complete their education program. The edTPA standard has been criticized for being difficult, inaccurate in predicting future performance, expensive for education students, and for taking too much time away from in-classroom training. The requirement has also been blamed for keeping diverse teachers out of classrooms. Senate Bill 1488, filed by Bennett, would waive the edTPA requirement through August 31, 2025. The legislation would also create the Teacher Performance Assessment Task Force, which would be tasked with developing a new evaluation system for teaching students. The task force would be required to present its findings no later than August 1, 2024. The legislation passed the Senate Education Committee on March 22nd.
Dollars Sheet
Back to Business Grants Applications to Open
It was announced this week that the State of Illinois is offering $175 million in recovery grants for the Back to Business (B2B) program. Through this program, businesses in three select categories that have been hardest hit by the pandemic will be able to apply for grants from April 5th through May 10th. These three categories are restaurants, hotels, and creative arts organizations. In total, $75 million will be available for the hotel grants, while $50 million will be available for restaurants and creative arts organizations respectively. Grants are wide ranging, from $5,000 to $50,000 for restaurants, up to $1,500 per room for hotels, and $5,000 to $250,000 for creative arts organizations. Businesses in either the restaurant or creative arts categories may be awarded with flexible spending to support loses, however for those in the hotel category, 80% must be used for payroll related costs with the remaining 20% being flexible spending. More information about the program and the exact requirements to apply for the grants can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s (DCEO) website. The DCEO has also compiled a list of over 100 community navigators and their contact information for those looking for support or help in navigating the B2B application process. Additionally, there will be four different informational webinars hosted by the DCEO over the next weeks, more information is located on the DCEO’s website.
Makers Madness
IMA Announces Final Four for Makers Madness Competition
This week marks the final week of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association’s (IMA) fourth annual Makers Madness contest. Voting will be open until midnight on Sunday, March 26th, and the winner will be announced next Wednesday, March 29th. All votes can be cast on the Makers Madness website, with one vote per day per device. Last year the title of “The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois” went to the all-electric R1T truck made by Rivian and manufactured in Normal. Out of the almost 250 products that were originally nominated, the final round has narrowed the field down to four strong contenders. From Carmi comes the Drug Terminator, manufactured by Elastec, a portable drug disposal incinerator for drugs, associated paraphernalia, and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) designed for law enforcement use. Next, from Murphysboro comes the 17th Street Barbecue’s bottled barbecue sauce. Nationally recognized for its food, the business is largely responsible for Murphysboro’s title of “Barbecue Capital of Illinois” as declared by the Illinois State Legislature in 2014. From Flora is Hella Electronics’ 77GHz Radar for Driver’s Assistance and Automated Driving, which is used to record and evaluate the radar’s surroundings in 360° detection. One of the world’s largest suppliers of radar sensors, Hella Electronics is one of the leaders in the 77GHz radar market. Rounding out the final four is the Rosenberg Moon Habitat from Ingersoll Machine Tools, Inc. in Rockford. A 3D-printed living space, this product is meant to be constructed on the moon and was designed to fit inside a SpaceX Starship.
Dollar Pipeline
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $1,363,208,883 to state vendors, including 19,586 pending vouchers. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $139 billion. At the same point last year, the estimated amount owed was a little less than $2.5 billion.
Ford County
Did You Know?
While Illinois was admitted to the Union in 1818, the organization of counties didn’t begin until two years later and continued over multiple decades. You may not be aware that Ford County, which lies within the 53rd Senate District, was the last county to be organized. Ford County was officially organized in 1859, in the shape of an inverted “T,” and is named after former Governor Thomas Ford. The county is 41 miles long from North to South, 27 miles wide from East to West, and contains 486 square miles. The county seat is Paxton.
This Week in the 53rd Senate District
Tom Bennett

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