Update from Senator Bennett: May 20

CTU’s Day Off

Hundreds of members of the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) took a taxpayer-funded day off at the Capitol 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. Republican lawmakers held a press conference to highlight the special funding CPS receives that’s not made available to other schools in the state that face far greater financial challenges.

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. Since the funding formula was passed, and with additional state support, CPS has already improved and moved up from Tier 1 to Tier 2.

For many years CPS has received a disproportionate share of the state’s education resources through special carve-outs and unique grants, such as hundreds of millions from the Chicago Block Grant that was written into the CPS base as part of the formula.

Republican lawmakers also hit on the fact that in a tight budget year for the State of Illinois, 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. Members of the Senate Republican Caucus say they will continue to stand up for taxpayers as well as provide equal funding for schools throughout Illinois.

Illinois Pays Tribute to Fallen Firefighters in Annual Memorial Ceremony

State leaders gathered in Springfield on May 14 to attend the 31st Annual Fallen Firefighter Memorial and Medal of Honor 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.

This occasion included a tribute to five Illinois firefighters who died in the line of duty last year: 

  • Chicago Firefighter/EMT Jermaine Pelt
  • Chicago Fire Lt. Jan Tchoryk 
  • Chicago Fire Lt. Kevin Ward
  • Chicago Firefighter/EMT Andrew “Drew” Price
  • And Maroa Countryside Fire Protection District Chief Larry Peasley

Another 12 firefighters from around the state were honored with medals of honor or valor for acts of outstanding bravery.

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. Among them was an Aurora firefighter who tragically lost their life in the line of duty just last month. 

Also, congratulations to Firefighter/Paramedic Bill Perry of the Coal City Fire Protection District for receiving the Medal of Honor for his quick actions and courage to save life.  Congratulations to the Minooka Fire Protection District for receiving the Firefighter Excellence Unit Citation Award for their excellent teamwork and professionalism in service. 

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. 

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $941,717,627.50 to  state vendors, including 16,515 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 time last year, the state’s accounts payable stood at a little less than $2 billion.

Did You Know?

There are 5 scheduled days left until session adjourns, things in Springfield are amping up! This week will be filled with a flurry of committee hearings, rigorous debates, and floor votes as we take final action on numerous bills and await the Governor’s final budget proposal. Inevitably, the most controversial pieces of legislation will be introduced at the last minute, but I will keep you informed as we navigate through the next few busy days.

This Week in the 53rd District

Tom Bennett

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