Protecting DCFS employees; possible new school testing policy

Legislation filed to protect DCFS workers from assaults
We have seen far too many reminders of how often the jobs of state employees require them to put themselves at risk to protect Illinois residents. The latest reminder came in the case of Pamela Knight, a Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) investigator who was brutally beaten in September while trying to take a 2 year-old child into protective custody. Ms. Knight died earlier this month from the injuries she sustained in the attack. Her accused assailant is now awaiting trial on multiple charges.

As a response to this terrible act of violence against a state employee, my colleagues Representatives Brian Stewart, Tony McCombie and Tom Demmer introduced HB 4147, a bill that would lead to tougher penalties for anyone who attacks a DCFS worker in the performance of their duties, making it an aggravated felony. The bill would ultimately provide DCFS employees with the same protections as law enforcement officers and firefighters who put themselves in harm’s way. I was proud to sign on as a co-sponsor of this bill.

The job which the state’s DCFS investigators perform can be dangerous at times, and the state should be doing all it can to protect them and to penalize those who do them harm. Representative McCombie led the House in honoring slain DCFS employee Pamela Knight as the House held a moment of silence in Knight’s memory.

State Board of Education looks toward potential expanded use of college admissions tests
Illinois students take a series of college aptitude exams during their four years of high school. Now the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is considering taking a major step toward simplifying the student testing regimen that is currently used by Illinois high school students. The change would involve identifying an existing standardized test for college aptitude, such as the SAT exam, and using it as the standard test to be administered to all freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

From ISBE’s point of view the goal would be to further utilize an already significant data set which is compiled by the SAT’s administration. The existing test results could be used to gather additional information about the performance of Illinois schools and student academic growth.  For Illinois students and their families, the incentive would be that the students could take the additional aptitude tests for free. It is argued by some that performances on college aptitude tests may, under some circumstances, improve upon retesting. The ISBE proposal would allow this retesting to be done at no cost to the student or the student’s family. The aptitude test proposal is still in the review and consideration phase at ISBE and has not yet been approved as state policy.

How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $8,475,434,483 in unpaid bills to state vendors. 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 estimated to be more than $100 billion.

Agriculture Advisory Board meets
An important part of representing a district as large as ours is hearing from local residents who play an important role in the many different aspects of our area. One of these is the agriculture industry and the local farmers who make it work. Last weekend I had the opportunity to meet with members of my agriculture advisory board to hear their first-hand experiences and opinions regarding the issues Illinois farmers are facing this year.

We were joined at the meeting by Laura Sinclair and Warren Goetsch from the Illinois Department of Agriculture and Doug Wilson who shared some insights from the federal side as well. A big thank you to everyone who participated and for all you do for our area and our state.

House back in session next week
The House was not in session this week, but will be back in the Capitol starting on Tuesday February 27. We are scheduled to be in session for three days next week and three days the following week. Most of the bills under consideration this spring are still at an early stage of the process. The majority of them still need to be heard in committee before coming to the House floor for consideration by the entire House.

Did You Know?
On February 24, 1837, the Illinois General Assembly voted to move the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield. The move was made in order to locate the capital in a more central location for the growing state. Springfield was chosen over several other cities in the area due in large part to the persistent efforts of a local state representative named Abraham Lincoln.