Senate Week in Review: Jan. 22-26, 2024

SPRINGFIELD – Senate Republicans and advocates for Illinoisans with intellectual and developmental disabilities are celebrating a victory as they convinced the Pritzker Administration to halt funding cuts for Illinois’ most vulnerable.

Following the discontinuation of a popular scholarship program for low-income students, several private schools have announced they are planning to shut their doors for good.

A statewide task force is offering its suggestions for saving the struggling local news industry, and the Illinois Department of Agriculture is spreading the word about new grants to help local food systems.

Senate Republicans applaud pause of budget cuts for disabilities programs

Senate Republicans are applauding a decision by the Illinois Department of Human Services to halt proposed budget cuts to programs serving the Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled (I/DD) community. The Pritzker Administration’s proposed cuts would have amounted to 2.5 million fewer hours that Direct Support Professionals could provide services in group homes, where approximately 10,000 adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities reside. The proposed reduction would have totaled nearly $90 million dollars, affecting 90% of all group home residents.

The proposal generated strong bipartisan pushback from lawmakers who are concerned about the I/DD community. State Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) and her Senate Republican colleagues signed a recent letter calling on the Pritzker Administration to halt the cuts. The Administration also received other letters and petitions from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

During the week, the Pritzker Administration confirmed that the cuts will not happen until at least the end of the fiscal year.

Tracy said pausing these cuts is a good step in the right direction, adding that she will continue to advocate for the Administration to put a permanent stop to the proposed cuts.

Discontinuation of scholarship program pushing private schools to close

Democratic leadership’s refusal to extend the popular Invest in Kids scholarship program is beginning to reverberate across the state. Recently, four private schools announced they would be closing their doors due in part to the loss of the Invest in Kids Scholarship program.

The four schools include Notre Dame Academy in Belleville, St. Odilo in Berwyn, St. Frances of Rome in Cicero, and St. Ann in Nashville.

The Invest in Kids scholarship fund was created through bipartisan compromise that was part of a larger education funding reform law signed into law in 2017. The program was designed to help provide a choice to low-income families in struggling school districts by offering them a chance to find schools that better fit their children’s needs. The program encouraged donations to K-12 scholarships by offering a 75% Illinois income tax credit on the donations. Since the inception of the program in 2017, more than $308 million in private donations were made, providing more than 38,000 scholarships to help low-income K-12 students.

The original program was set to expire without legislative action at the end of 2023. Thousands of students and their families visited the Capitol throughout the year, asking legislators to extend the program so they could continue the successes they were experiencing in their new schools.

Despite the bipartisan outpouring of support for the program, Democratic leadership refused to allow a vote on legislation to extend the program.

Tracy said she supports legislation to save the program and will continue to advocate for new legislation to restart the program to help students across the state receive the best possible education that fits their unique needs.

Task Force seeks to reverse local news decline

News deserts are a growing issue throughout much of the state. More than a third of Illinois’ 102 counties rely on a single source for their news. This was part of the findings from a state task force created to study the decline of local news in Illinois.

The Illinois Local Journalism Task Force, a panel made up of current and former journalists, legislators, and other appointees, recently presented lawmakers with policy recommendations to prevent the development of more news deserts in the state.

Since 2005, Illinois has lost 232 newspapers and 85% of its newspaper journalists (highest loss percentage in the country). The state task force also found that five Illinois counties don’t have a local news source at all while four other counties are at risk of losing their single news source in the next five years. The report included potential ideas to fix this issue such as using subscription, advertising, and payroll tax credits, along with the possibility of state-funded journalism scholarships.

The report is available at .

Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure grants available

The Illinois Department of Agriculture is working to give the middle sections of the food supply chain a boost, designating $6.4 million to go to Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure (RFSI) grants.

This allocation will go toward the post-harvest, pre-retail sale level of the food supply chain. Examples of the mid-level food supply chain are the processing, manufacturing, storing, and transporting of all non-meat food. The grants fund the cost of equipment or the expansion of capacity and infrastructure.

These grants will help the future of farming by giving assistance to smaller farms and ranches, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, underserved producers, veteran producers, and underserved communities. These grants are the product of listening sessions with more than 300 distributors, growers, and producers on how to create a better food system for Illinois. Applications for these grants will be available from January 22 to March 15. For more information, visit

Jil Tracy

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