For Immediate Release:
February 21, 2008
Contact: Laurie R. Glenn, Tel: (773) 252-8672, ext. 301 Mobile: (773) 704-7246, email@example.com
ARC GIVES ILLINOIS LAWMAKERS LOW GRADES ON RACIAL EQUITY
New Report Says State Legislators Show Poor Leadership On Racial-Equity Bills--
Racial Divide Deepening Even As Progress Is Seen In Some Areas
Chicago, IL—Today, the Applied Research Center (ARC) released the findings of its second annual report, Facing Race: Illinois Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity 2007-2008, at a daylong series of events in Chicago and Springfield. While the State Senate held steady with a grade of 'B', the House received a grade of 'C', a decline from last year's showing.
The House's particularly lackluster support for legislation that could help mend the state's longstanding racial divide is troubling. Between 1980 and 2005, the hourly wage gap in Illinois between white and Latino workers widened by 21 percent, and the gap between whites and Blacks widened by 143 percent.
"Illinois' racial divide is deepening and it is going to take above average leadership to work towards solutions," said Josina Morita, senior research associate for the Applied Research Center and author of the report. "While racial disparities are pervasive here, they need not be permanent. Overcoming institutional racism involves restructuring the distribution of rights and resources in this state."
Report Card Highlights
The Report Card assigned letter grades to Illinois lawmakers based upon their support in 2007 for legislation aimed at improving racial equity in health, education, income and other key areas. Highlights include:
- The House received a 'C' for supporting racial-equity bills only 78 percent of the time. Eight representatives received a top grade of 'A', while 29 representatives received an 'F'.
- The State Senate received a 'B', for supporting racial-equity bills 82 percent of the time. Eight senators received an 'A', while eight senators received an 'F'.
- Legislators of color averaged an 'A', for supporting 90 percent of racial-equity bills.
- White legislators averaged a 'C', for supporting only 76 percent of racial equity bills.
Six lawmakers made the Honor Roll, for supporting racial equity bills 100% of the time, all of them from the State Senate: Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16); Sen. John J. Cullerton (-6); Sen. William Delgado (D-2); Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-3); Sen. Terry Link (D-30); and Sen. Iris Y. Martinez (D-20).
At the other end of the spectrum, Rep. William B. Black (R-104) and Rep. Jim Sinclair (R-89) tied for last place. The House members received the two lowest 'F' grades in the entire General Assembly.
The Report Card also includes a county-by-county mapping of demographic shifts and an analysis of the healthcare, education, and economic issues confronting the state's growing communities of color.
Mixed Results, Missed Opportunities
The legislature made progress on some issues, including alternative sentencing for low-level drug and prostitution offenses (HB2734) and expanding language access programs (SB 1446 and SB 544). However, it failed to pass crucial policies to redesign the education funding system and to provide health coverage for uninsured adults.
Education Funding Equity:
Illinois' system of funding public schools is the most inequitable in the country. The average Black child in public school receives $1,153 less each year in school funding than the average white child. SB 750 (Meeks)--HB 750 (Miller) would have created the School District Property Tax Relief Fund to reduce reliance on property taxes, equalize and increase per pupil expenditures, and increase special programming budgets.
Universal Health Care:
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich failed to deliver on his promise to provide health care to all Illinoisans. SB 5 (Trotter), the Illinois Covered Act, which would have established new public and private health insurance options for Illinois' uninsured, more than half of whom are people of color, also failed to pass.
Daylong Racial-Equity Events
The report was released today at dual press conferences in Chicago and Springfield. Following the release in Springfield, more than 250 members of the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations, a new multiracial coalition of organizations from across Illinois, planned to deliver the Report Card grades to individual lawmakers.
"Some elected leaders are creating innovative solutions that take this responsibility seriously," said Patricia Watkins, co-founder of the United Congress. "Facing Race helps us hold our leaders accountable to ensure that these initiatives result in real change in every part of our state."
Also this evening, the United Congress and the national Equal Voice for America's Families Campaign will host a Town Hall meeting and recognition dinner in Springfield for the six legislators whose leadership records qualified them for the racial-equity honor roll.
Download the full report, Facing Race: Illinois Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity 2007-2008, in PDF format at www.arc.org/pdf/ILL_RC_final_3.pdf.
The Applied Research Center (ARC) is a public policy institute advancing racial justice through research, advocacy and journalism.
The United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) is a broad-based, multicultural and multi-religious movement for justice, equity, and human dignity.
The Equal Voice for America's Families Campaign is a year-long initiative sponsored by the Marguerite Casey Foundation to develop an advance a national agenda that puts families first.