The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Foundation held a special town hall discussion at Malcolm X College after a ground-breaking vote to pass the School Education Funding bill in Springfield.

Members of the ILBC were on hand to participate on three major panel discussions to outline to the public different parts of the legislation including topics on Budget and Revenue, Healthcare and Education.

Moderated by Chicago Defender’s Senior Staff Writer Mary Datcher, the program opened up with remarks by ILBF Chairman Paul Williams and Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford.

The budget and revenue panelists included Assistant Majority Leader and Appropriations Chair Donne Trotter; State Senator and Senate Revenue Chair Toi Hutchinson; State Representative and House Revenue and Finance Chair Elgie Sims; and Executive Director for the Center on Tax and Budget Accountability Ralph Martire. Both Hutchinson and Trotter did a thorough job explaining where taxpayer’s dollars are allocated for regarding the Illinois State Lottery’s matched funds and gas tax going towards fixing roads and infrastructure.

On the school education funding bill, education advocates and legislators were pleased at the results of their hard work on fighting for more monies for school districts. Representative Lightford, State Rep. and House Elementary and Secondary Education Chair Will Davis; State Rep. Chris “Emanuel” Welch and House Higher Education Chair sat on the Education panel.

Community stakeholders and residents had an opportunity to ask legislators questions regarding the local college status along with MAP grants for students afraid of enrolling in state-operated institutions.

Literature was available for attendees to understand the summary of SB1947, the school funding formula. Although, Democratic legislators are not in favor of everything including in the bill—they all agree—it is a historic victory for school students throughout Illinois.

Discussions cleared up the school voucher backlash for student scholarships to attend private schools. According to the student eligibility, families must have a federal adjusted gross income less than 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) when applying for the scholarships. They must also live within the focus district. They are granted from February 1 through April 1 for priority groups on a “first-come, first-served” basis.

The healthcare panel discussion wrapped up the evening which included long-time legislator State Rep. and Assistant Majority Leader Mary Flowers; State Rep. and House Black Caucus Chair Camille Lilly; Executive Director of the Illinois Association of Medicaid Health Plans Samantha Olds Frey and State Rep. Sonya Harper.

Concerns of the Medicaid cuts to nearly 750,000 patients and 250,000 customers on Obamacare—threatened to be repealed by the GOP Senate is real. The legislators explained how they are working through educating their constituents to become vigilant in making their voices known. One of their biggest challenges is bringing attention to the fight in Springfield to maintain social services that are threatened by budget cuts.

The fight is not over and not one to mince his words, Ralph Martire thanked the ILBC for leading the initiative on all fronts from criminal justice, budget and revenue, education and healthcare for all Illinoisans.

For more information on the latest bills and laws passed, visit: www.ilbcf.org

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