Maureen Foertsch McKinney

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is the NPR Illinois News Editor and a lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers,  and is curator of the Equity blog. Maureen joined the staff in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Illinois recipients of Temporary Aid for Needy Families - also known as TANF - will see an increase in the amount of their monthly grants in October. A $22 million boost was negotiated in the budget this year. Advocates for the poor say the difference may mean more families will be off the streets.

Some experts say black women may bear the brunt if union membership declines or financial support lessens as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which decreed that public sector unions can no longer force workers they represent to pay fees in lieu of union dues. But conservative groups say the cost is justified to protect workers' free speech rights. 

Poverty rates nationwide improved in 2017 but were stagnant in Illinois

Chicago-based Heartland Alliance says census numbers show the national poverty rate is 12.3 percent — a little better than Illinois' 12.6 percent. 

Katie Buitrago  directs Heartland’s research arm:

“I think there’s a number of reasons that Illinois is not faring as well as the rest of the nation in addressing poverty. The two-year budget crisis that Illinois experienced extended well into 2017 and these 2017 poverty numbers reflect the effects of that crisis and well as cuts before that.”

The Illinois State Board of Education reports that the number of homeless students has climbed over the last few years.

 

About half of Illinois’ counties are on poverty watch or warning lists released Monday by an anti-poverty organization, the Heartland Alliance.

The number of counties with those poor ratings increased from 30 last year to 52 this year. 

Black kids in Illinois are far more likely to die than their white and Hispanic counterparts, due to issues ranging from maternal stress to disease and homicide. 

The gap in death rates for black children as opposed to other races is the third-largest in the nation, while the gap in the teen death rate is the fourth-highest.

The gap still exists for infants, but is a little narrower than it had been in the past.

Experts blame the long-standing problem on discrimination, especially the "inadequate, inequitable'' education funding system.

A measure awaiting  Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature would expand protections in the Human Rights Act to cover workers at businesses with 15 or fewer employees. 

State Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat, says it’s impossible to know how many times employees of small businesses in Illinois tried to file complaints under the Human Rights Act because they’ve had no coverage under the 38-year-old act. He said he’s talked to many lawyers who’ve turned would-be clients from small business away because they had no protections under Illinois or federal law.

UPDATE: The House Tuesday voted down Senate Bill 2332, which would have raised the tobacco purchase age in Illinois to to 21.

A measure in play at the Statehouse would make it a crime to sell tobacco products,  including cigarettes and vaping devices, to those under age 21.

Laura Sido of East Alton worked in bars and restaurants all of her adult life.  She smoked on and off until earlier this month. Sido, a 49-year-old stay-at-home grandmother, now has a chronic lung disease, COPD. And she  says she is in favor of anything that could keep young people from smoking.

Will the pressure be too much for the long-standing speaker and state party chair?

In the midst of the national #metoo phenomenon, Illinois women wrestle with their own experiences.

The standard of living for African-American children in Illinois is worse than most other states. That’s according to a report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Illinois is 34th in the nation in the terms of the living conditions of African- American children, according to the report.

“You see that African-American children in particular are lagging far behind when you look at this composite score,” says Anna Rowan of Voices for Illinois Children.

The Trump administration earlier this month rolled back birth control provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  The new rules let almost any employer with religious or moral objections to skip rule that contraception coverage had to be provided without co-pays.  

The State of Illinois already passed a law to offer even greater protections than the ACA.  But with the new Trump guidelines not all women in the state can be sure they're covered.  

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Psychologists in Illinois talk of fears they have for young recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Luis Gomez says his anxiety has been exacerbated by the ongoing debate over whether to end DACA.

Last month, the Trump administration announced it was terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — also known as DACA. Created by President Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential order, DACA grants undocumented youth who entered the country as children temporary protection against deportation, as well as the right to work.

Illinois' child poverty rate is just as high as it was in 2010. Is the state doing enough to bring it down?

Kellia Phillips’ teen-aged daughters Jaleece and Janae run track. They have had to do so in ill-fitting shoes sometimes as old as three years.

Janae, 13, loves to knit and crochet. Her mother, says, “I could only get her yarn like every three months and she was so much into knitting and crocheting. I still can’t do that for her right now because I have no income.’’ 

The General Assembly passes legislation aimed at strengthening hate crime laws after a post-presidental-campaign spike in bias incidents.

Who has been hurt the most by shifts in the Illinois economy?

Recently, several social policy debates have moved  from the legislature to the judicial system.

Teen pregnancy rates are going down in Illinois and across the nation because teens are having less sex, and when they do, they’re using contraception more often. The reasons behind these changes in behavior are harder to pinpoint.  

The state has some of the most aggressive protections for transgender people in the country, but the issue still generates controversy here.

Illinois, with its expansive decade-old anti-discrimination law, is one of the most progressive states in the country when it comes to transgender rights, but even in this state there has been a noisy response to rapidly evolving national and local policies on the issue.

Historically, Illinois has been a leading state in refugee resettlement, but lately it seems less welcoming to some.

Chicago State University won’t have funds to operate by March 1 if  state money is not released, officials there have said.

Chicago writer Jamie Kalven focuses on patterns of police abuse and impunity in Chicago. He heard about an attempted cover up of the details in the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old wielding a  knife.

The first installment in a series on homelessness looks at a campaign to get the city and public schools to target the needs of homeless Chicago students.

In July, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill calling for language that would create respectful references to people with disabilities throughout state law.

The shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has brought to national attention the obstacles that many young black males face - including racial profiling and a world where media portrayals of their peers are often less-than-flattering. Maureen McKinney took a look at the topic in Illinois. She joined Rachel Otwell for this interview: