Illinois House Passes Bill Calling For Chicago Elected School Board

March 3rd, 2016

The Illinois House passed legislation Thursday that would create an elected school board in Chicago. The bill, HB 557, which passed by a 110-4 vote, was introduced by state Rep. Rob Martwick (D-Chicago) "after seeing overwhelming resident support for the idea and in response to Chicago Public Schools' mounting financial problems."...

State Rep. Will Guzzardi, who is a longtime supporter of an elected school board, released a statement detailing his take on today's developments.

"I've been fighting for years for an elected school board, alongside community organizers and education leaders around Chicago. After my first unsuccessful election in 2012, our volunteer leaders worked tirelessly on this issue, placing a referendum on the ballot in hundreds of precincts that year," said Guzzardi. "Since then, we've been working in our communities and in Springfield to mobilize support for an elected school board, and I'm incredibly excited to see our efforts bear fruit today. I was proud to support Rep. Martwick's leadership in building broad bipartisan consensus on this issue, and we're eager to see HB557 pass the Senate and get signed into law."...

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DNAInfo: Elected School Board Approved By House — Is Rahm's CPS Control In Danger?

By: Heather Cherone

March 3rd, 2016

Chicagoans would be represented by an elected - not appointed - School Board, under a measure that won overwhelming approval Thursday in the Illinois House...

State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Logan Square) said he had been working with community groups since his failed 2012 bid for the Illinois House to get legislation requiring an elected School Board in Chicago.

"I’m incredibly excited to see our efforts bear fruit today," Guzzardi said.

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Illinois Radio Network: Home Care Agencies Feeling The Pinch

By John Gregory - Illinois Radio Network


Home care agencies may have to shut down or cut many of their services due to the budget impasse, with Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic lawmakers each trying to pin the blame on the other...

State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) then added “the only possible solution is bringing in more money. Republicans know that, Democrats know that, the governor knows that, the speaker knows that.”...

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Illinois Radio Network: Chicago Teachers Prepare to Strike

By John Gregory - Illinois Radio Network WGBZ


CTU’s “Big Bargaining Team” turned down the latest proposal from CPS Monday, saying in a statement the offer “"does not address the difficult conditions in the schools, the lack of services to our neediest students or address the longer-term fiscal crisis that threatens to gut public education in the city."...

Rauner’s preferred solution is legislation first proposed several weeks ago to allow CPS to be controlled by state-appointed oversight board, which would then be dealing with CTU in contract talks...
Democratic legislators from the city like State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) disagree, saying Rauner’s proposals, like allowing local units of government like CPS to declare bankruptcy, have hurt contract talks and worsened the financial condition of CPS.
“The rate at which CPS can borrow money has gone through the roof, and I think the governor’s statements about bankruptcy were directly responsible for that,” Guzzardi said. “The idea of taking over the district is not helping either.”

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Progress Illinois: With State Owing Agency $1 Million, Chicago Home Care Service Struggles To Keep Doors Open

By Ellyn Fortino

February 2nd, 2016

A Chicago-based home care service agency is on the verge of having to cut payroll costs in half for its 250-member workforce as a direct result of the ongoing state budget impasse.

Family Home Service, Inc. provides in-home services to more than 500 seniors and people with disabilities in Chicago...

"To the seniors, to the people with disabilities and to the employees of this agency, many of whom live in my community, I want apologize," Guzzardi said. "I'm here as a member of state government, and state government has failed you. It's an embarrassing situation."...

Guzzardi said it is "unacceptable" that Family Home Service and other agencies are struggling to pay their workers a "basic wage" as a result of the budget battle in Springfield. 

At the same time, Guzzardi said, "the state of Illinois is paying of millions of dollars in bank feesto the biggest banks in this state, despite having no legal obligation to do so."

"We're putting the banks in the front of the line," he said, "and we're putting the seniors and the folks who serve them at the back of the line."...

"The state does not have enough money ... to pay a wide variety of services. We are billions of dollars short. The only possible solution is bringing in more money. Republicans know that. Democrats know that. The governor knows that. The speaker knows that," Guzzardi said. "The only question, in my mind, is: who do we ask to pay?"

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North by Northwestern: Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin supports debt-free college

By Lauren Bally 

Jan. 31 2016

Senate Democrats revealed a new legislative package and campaign on Thursday encouraging Congress to focus on debt-free college and college affordability in 2016. The campaign is named #InTheRed after the name of the legislative package with the RED (Reducing Educational Debt) Act. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois stood alongside those in favor of making debt-free college a top priority this year.

“I hear all the time from young people in Illinois struggling to pay off their student loan debts – young people who aren’t able to find work that pays enough to cover their monthly student loan payments with anything left over for them to live on,” Durbin said in a press release. “They feel helpless and trapped. This campaign is about keeping more American students from winding up in the red, and we’re here to give those students a voice. We hope this Republican Congress will listen.”

The RED Act includes three parts of its legislation aiming to make two years of community college tuition-free, allow borrowers to refinance student loans at a lower rate and ensure Federal Pell Grants keep pace with rising costs.

Under the RED Act, 9 million community college students nationwide could save around $3,800 each year. These colleges would ensure that the skills taught would be compatible with today’s economy and the credits would be transferable to four-year universities in their state.

Eligible students borrowing loans could refinance their federal loans at the same rate as it was in the 2013-2014 year and refinance their private loans into the federal program. Those who participate voluntarily could access the benefits and protections of the federal student loan program.

By indexing Federal Pell Grants to inflation, 9.2 million students will be able to afford college with larger awards each year. This especially helps low-income families pursue higher education, as these are families that rely on Federal Pell Grants to attend school.

Communication sophomore Robert Cunningham, like many other students, has taken out loans to attend Northwestern and is set to graduate with debt. He finds the idea of an almost non-existent debt upon graduation to be very appealing.

“Sign me up,” Cunningham said. “Any way I can save myself and my family money in the long run would be much appreciated.”

The idea sprang from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), which launched acampaign in January 2015 to push for Democratic support. The unveiling of the legislative package came soon after Obama’s final State of the Union address. Over two dozen Senate Democrats brought a local student as their guest to the speech to promote the #InTheRed campaign in social media by posting photos, videos and graphics in their “students in the red” buttons.

“We're thrilled Senate Democrats have launched their national ‘In The Red’ campaign to build grassroots support for the big, inspiring, popular idea of debt-free college,” PCCC Co-Founder Adam Green said in a press release. “Requiring students to go into tens of thousands of dollars of debt to obtain a college degree puts education out of reach for millions – and it hurts people's ability to go into public service, start a small business or start a family after college.”

Senate Democrats also announced that they plan to visit college campuses this year to meet students with loan debt to further push Congress to pass the legislative package. Illinois State representative Will Guzzardi, a Democrat representing the Chicago area 39th District, praised the legislation and hopes to see it become a top priority this year.

“The cost of college is crushing too many families in Illinois and around the country," said Guzzardi said in a press release. "Debt-free college will be a priority for Democrats at the local, state and national levels in 2016. I'm so proud of Senator Durbin for taking the lead in Congress and I look forward to championing this issue in Springfield.”

Bureau County Republican: More power to the Illinois Future Caucus

By Bureau County Republican Editorial Board

Jan. 29, 2016

Illinois, saddled with massive debt and deficits, unfunded pension obligations, and a budget-less state government, needs all the help it can get.

That’s why we welcome last week’s news about the establishment of the Illinois Future Caucus.

State Rep. Tom Demmer, a Dixon Republican, and state Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat, are co-chairmen of the group, which is associated with the national Millennial Action Project.

They and their new caucus hope to bring to government new ways of thinking based on their experiences as millennials -- those in their 20s and 30s.

Increased political cooperation is one goal they hope to achieve.

Guzzardi said they hope “to transcend the partisanship that has caused such hardship in this state, and to build solutions for the problems that are coming down the road for Illinois.”

Demmer said today’s issues and decisions will impact millennials for the rest of their lives, so it’s important that their perspective helps to shape the future in which they’ll live.

The Illinois Future Caucus intends to focus on such issues as technology, education and criminal justice reforms and regulations.

Millennials are not the first generation of young people to feel frustrated by the world in which they find themselves.

Not so long ago, a generation of young people set out to change the world.

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” they said.

“Don’t trust anyone over 30,” they said.

They protested war, racial injustice, social injustice, poverty, pollution, environmental degradation and “the Establishment.”

They joined movements. They joined the Peace Corps.

And then, the years passed, they grew older, and they gradually became the new Establishment — some seduced by power, others by privilege, still more by money and creature comforts.

And the imperfect world they set out to change? It still needs help — a lot of it.

Transcending political partisanship is easier said than done, particularly in Illinois where partisanship is so ingrained. But that doesn’t mean the attempt should not be made.

And if the Illinois Future Caucus can encourage more like-minded young men and women to run for public office, their chances of success will improve.

Good luck to Reps. Demmer and Guzzardi in their quest to impart idealistic sanity to the crazy, frustrating problems all around us.

More power to them.


ABC 7: With No Budget, Rauner Delivers State Of The State

By Charles Thomas and Ben Bradley
January 27, 2016


Despite no budget deal, Gov. Bruce Rauner made his case Wednesday in his second State of the State address - changes he says will make the state more competitive.

Rauner is also promising to take a more bipartisan approach to solving issues in the coming months.

"To achieve a grand compromise, we must cast partisanship and ideology aside," he said.

But during most of his 35-minute speech, the governor warned that Illinois' economic problems would continue if the state does not adopt his anti-union, pro-business reforms.

"Pretty soon the unions won't have any more jobs to unionize and the trial lawyers won't have any more businesses to sue," he said.

While Rauner spoke, hundreds crowded the capitol rotunda, demanding the governor focus on a budget with enough money to support endangered social programs.

"People are losing their jobs, they're losing their educational opportunities. They're losing the services that they need. And it doesn't seem like this governor is putting together any kind of plan to fix any of that," said State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D).

"What I heard is peace in our time, an opportunity the governor gave to extend the olive branch and try to work in a bipartisan fashion," said State Rep. Ron Sandack (R).

The governor's political "arch-enemy", House Speaker Michael Madigan, said the speech did not address state government's most pressing problem.

"The governor's speech did not deal with the fact that there is no budget for the current fiscal year," Madigan said.

Madigan's Democratic supermajority in the House continues to be threatened by South Side State Rep. Ken Dunkin, who applauded parts of the governor's speech. Dunkin criticized Madigan for prolonging the budget stalemate.

"We should not hold citizens in this state hostage to Mike Madigan's political shenanigans," Dunkin said.

The governor noted efforts to compromise with Senate President John Cullerton on pension and education funding reform as signs of progress. He mentioned no such efforts with Madigan.

And on raising taxes, Rauner repeated it will not happen on his watch without pro-business reforms.

"Raising taxes without improving our ability to compete will not help the people of Illinois. In fact, it will make things worse," Rauner said.



In 26 days, Cedric Henderson expects to be homeless.

"We're all scrambling right now to find a place to go and a lot of places we want to go, they won't accept us or they're full," Henderson said.

Henderson blames Rauner and the Democratic legislative leaders. Their inability to agree means many aid agencies aren't being paid.

The residential care facility where Henderson has received drug and alcohol counseling is closing.

"They didn't make a budget and it's effecting all these people. It affected us, the staff, now they're out of jobs and we're out of a place to live. So it's their fault," Henderson said.

People with disabilities are also impacted. The state owes $4.8 million to organizations that help them move out of nursing facilities and into accessible homes. So some are essentially stuck.

"We know they can't because our quota of bringing people out of nursing homes back to the community is down," said Frances Madnick.

"Many of our sister agencies are going out of business. They have long lines of credit with the banks which can't last forever," said Tom Wilson, Access Living.

On the University of Illinois-Chicago campus, the state promised 8,000 students tuition assistance but hasn't paid a dime. The university is stepping in for now but there's not guarantee how long they can keep it up.

"Sometimes I feel like I should not be here anymore because I can't pay for it," said Christina Rezkalla, a UIC sophomore.

For Henderson, the state budget battle is about much more than money.

ABC7's Ben Bradley: "Do you worry you'll slip back into your old habits?"
Henderson: "Yeah, it's always a worry. It's always there."

Chicago Sun-Times: Doubek - Millennials to the rescue in Illinois?



While Illinois continues to unravel and the state of the state keeps sinking into the depths of a historic budget stalemate, there are a few signs of hope for the future.

After a flare-up last week between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic supermajority leaders, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton Monday sounded more conciliatory about the prospects of another attempt at cutting some pension debt. At the City Club of Chicago, Cullerton noted House Speaker Michael Madigan has supported pension changes previously, and said he and Rauner had agreed on the outlines of a legislative proposal that would offer state workers a contractual choice between compounding annual salary increases or a pension based on a full salary.

Rauner announced the formation of a state agency, the Department of Innovation and Technology, to bring state government out of the Stone Age and into the digital era. And, more quietly in recent days, came news that the “c” word still exists in state political and government vocabulary.

“C” as in compromise. Consensus. Collaboration. Cooperation.

Democratic state Rep. Will Guzzardi of Chicago and Republican state Rep. Tom Demmer of Dixon recently announced the formation of the Illinois Future Caucus, a group of bipartisan millennial lawmakers who intend to build trust with each other and find topics and areas of agreement so that they might work together.

“I think everybody in the Future Caucus understands that if we can build relationships and trust,” Demmer said in an interview, “we’re more likely to be able to get things done.”

A profound absence of trust is what led to dueling press statements and disagreement about possible pension legislation last week and what has underscored the many months of state budget impasse that continues to endanger Illinoisans.

The Illinois Future Caucus has 12 founding members, including three Republicans, and is the 12th such in the nation. All the future caucuses are supported by the Millennial Action Project, founded by Steve Olikara. He noted the cost of inaction falls most heavily on the younger generation, who will be weighed down by the debt their forebears loaded upon them.

Olikara noted at a press event that millennials make up more than 25 percent of Illinois’ population, are primarily independent and are “fair game for both parties as long as the two parties are becoming more entrenched in gridlock and conflict, and becoming more and more responsible for inaction and disservice to the younger generation.”

Guzzardi, who like Demmer became active in politics at a young age, told reporters, “There’s never been a better time for an idea like this. When I talk to my constituents, people are angry; people are frustrated. They’re just mad at state government’s inability to sit down like grownups and fix the problems were facing. To people who live in my community and Representative Demmer’s community, that doesn’t accomplish anything.”

That said, neither Guzzardi nor Demmer are offering to jump into the budget gulf and build a bridge. They’re young, but apparently not that idealistic. They do, however, believe they can collaborate on things like criminal justice reform, the sharing economy that has fueled start-ups like Lyft and Airbnb, higher education and STEM curricula, business regulation and innovation.

“What we’re looking for here is an opportunity to develop a relationship so we can begin to have conversations,” Demmer said.  Caucus members want to work to “find the issues where we have common ground that will help Illinoisans today, but also help Illinoisans as our generation becomes older and starts raising kids and has families and maybe lives in Illinois for years to come.”

Demmer’s is a rural district in Northwestern Illinois. He tells me he’s heard about the budget impasses from a variety of citizens who have interactions with the state and have been concerned about funding for programs, or being paid for work for the state. He said he encourages citizens to talk with all their elected officials about the impasse, tries to explain the reasons why this negotiation is so difficult and prepare them for the pain that lies ahead in that amorphous future when a budget deal finally brings spending cuts and revenue increases.

Meanwhile, he and Guzzardi and 10 others are hoping to lay the foundation for a more perfect political union in Illinois’ future.

“I think that’s one thing that probably we all have in common, “ Demmer said. “I think everybody in the Future Caucus understands that if we can build relationships and trust, we’re more likely to be able to get things done.”

Madeleine Doubek is chief operating officer of Reboot Illinois

Illinois Radio Network: Illinois Future Caucus

By John Gregory - Illinois Radio Network


The younger members of the General Assembly are forming a new group they hope will represent the viewpoint of millenials on the state's issues.  The new Illinois Future Caucus is co-chaired by two of the youngest state legislators, State Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) and State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago). The two readily admit they won't agree on some issues, but hope to offer a different perspective on issues like higher education, business regulations, and criminal justice. 

"When you look at the General Assembly, we have members in their 70s, in their 60s, in their 50s, in their 40s," Demmer said. "Why shouldn't we have members in their 20s and their 30s, who bring a different generational perspective to issues?" Guzzardi was asked if the older legislators take the concerns of millennials seriously, and he responded by saying his constituents want younger people involved in state government. "The first time I ran, I was 24 years old. The only people who ever asked me if I was too young to run for office were inside baseball people, politicos," Guzzardi said. 

"When I was going knocking on doors in my community, what people would always say is we need some young blood in there, we need some fresh ideas in there, we need new people in there."  Guzzardi said there's no set age limit for joining the caucus, though he considers 40 to be the "ballpark range" for how old a lawmaker could be and still be a member.  The caucus plans on working with similar groups in Congress and 11 other states. 

Along with Guzzardi and Demmer, the caucus includes Avery Bourne (R-Raymond), Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria), Sonya Harper (D-Chicago), Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago), Silvana Tabares (D-Chicago), Art Turner (D-Chicago), Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford), Sara Wojcicki Jimenez (R-Springfield), and Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside).

Sauk Valley: New kids on the block in sync - Bipartisan caucus addresses millennials’ concerns

By Angel Sierra

Jan. 15, 2016

CHICAGO – At about a third of the U.S. population, millennials are the largest generation in the country. How will the Uber-riding, smartphone-hugging group of 20- to 30-somethings fare governing the state?

“There’s never been a better time,” said state Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, who appeared Friday with state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, at a live-streaming news conference at the Thompson Building in Chicago.

Guzzardi and Demmer announced that they will be co-chairmen of the Illinois Future Caucus, in association with the nationalMillennial Action Project (MAP), to bring to government new ways of thinking based on millennial experiences, including increased political cooperation.

“We have a responsibility to transcend the partisanship that has caused such hardship in this state, and to build solutions for the problems that are coming down the road for Illinois,” Guzzardi said.

“We, the next generation of the state, are committed to working together,” he added.

Millennials hold a strong sense of community, are bulldogs when it comes to guarding civil liberties, and show enthusiasm for social contribution. They are technologically connected, value creativity in their work, and have close relationships with family.

But the new kids on the block also hold deep distrust and low confidence in government, according to Steven Olikara, MAP co-founder and president, who said that although they might be the youngest in the Legislature, creating this communications platform is about “being the adults in the room.”


The political logjam is unacceptable.

The Illinois Future Caucus will address some of the key issues for millennials relating to technology, education, and criminal justice reforms and regulations, Demmer said, but this is just the beginning.

“This isn’t about seeing the same way,” or political uniformity, he said.

Demmer recalled his first-term campaign to represent the 90th District in which some people asked questions about his age, skeptical about why “a young guy” would want to get involved in Springfield politics.

His response was always the same.

“The issues that we face today, the decisions that we make today, have a long and profound impact on the state of Illinois,’ Demmer said. “They’re going to be issues that our generation deals with for decades.

“When you look at the General Assembly, we have members in their 70s, 60s, 50s, 40s. Why shouldn’t we have members in their 20s and 30s, who bring a different generational perspective, who have a new way of thinking, who see the world a little differently?”

WREX NBC 13 Rockford: Lawmakers create bipartisan Illinois group to address state issues

By Joseph Edwards
Jan 15, 2016


State Representative Tom Demmer, a Republican from Dixon, joined with a Democratic colleague in order to build consensus on issues facing the state of Illinois.

Will Guzzardi, a Democratic Representative from Chicago, is teaming up with Demmer to form the bipartisan group, called the Illinois Future Caucus. Demmer says cooperation, not conflict, should be at the forefront in addressing the state's challenges.

"This isn't about saying we're all going to see the same way, see eye to eye or see the same perspective on every issue. Really what we're looking for here is to develop a relationship, so we can begin to have conversations," Demmer said.

Demmer and Guzzardi are co-chairs of the group. The Illinois Future Caucus will meet regularly in Springfield to discuss current issues in the state.