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.

A prison watchdog group in Illinois is calling on the state to take a bigger role in scrutinizing Illinois’ 16 pre-trial juvenile detention centers.  

A proposal advancing through the Illinois General Assembly would allow candidates for public office to use political committee funds to cover caregiving costs. 

Illinois could have a new state holiday commemorating the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people were freed. A state senate committee Wednesday approved making June 19 Juneteenth National Freedom Day.

State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood, sponsored the bill, which would create a paid holiday for state employees. She said the day is a milestone for Black Americans that should be celebrated and used to educate youth.

Incidents of white supremacist propaganda being distributed in Illinois doubled in the last year, and hit its highest level nationally since it has been tracked.

That’s according to a report by Anti-Defamation League report released last week.

In Illinois, incidents climbed from 76 in 2019 to 152 in 2020, said David Goldenberg, who is Midwest regional director of the ADL. 

Democrats want to repeal Ilinois' Parental Notification of Abortion Act, seven years after its enforcement began.  Abortion opponents are out in force, aiming to protect the law.

Arguments about keeping or repealing Illinois’ Parental Notification of Abortion law in some ways sound similar. Both sides say it protects rights. But whose?’ Those of teens or parents?

A man was arrested for domestic battery and had to appear in Cook County domestic violence court. He paid his bond and  was released. Then he was charged and arrested again while out on bond. Those cases were still pending when he was arrested for violating an order of protection and finally taken into custody.

“The guy just bonded out over and over and over again and kept violating,” said Melanie MacBride, who is a managing attorney at the Metropolitan Family Services’ Legal Aid Society. 

The  Illinois Legislative Black Caucus succeeded earlier this month in ushering in legislation that would, among other things, end cash bail. If signed by Governor Pritzker, Illinois would be the first state to completely end the use of money bonds. 

Measures of child well-being have declined during the last 10 months as the COVID-19 pandemic has raged. But those economic, health and educational effects have taken the greatest toll on children from Black and Brown families.

A new 50-state report published this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count program quantified the damage. Kids Count analyzes surveys of families compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.

A group of Illinois Republican lawmakers is demanding Gov. J.B. Pritzker call a special session of the General Assembly to deal with persistent state unemployment system issues.

Nearly 300,000 fraudulent unemployment claims have been made in Illinois this year.

Ending cash bail doesn't lead to an increase in crime, according to a new report from researchers at Loyola University Chicago. 

The kids called Grayson Alexander "dyke" and "faggot." The bullying got worse when he came out  as transgender the summer between eighth grade and high school. 

Now a senior at Loyola University in Chicago, the Springfield native says attending school was “not fun.”

State Sen. Ram Villivalam says he plans to offer a proposal to create paid family leave in Illinois.

Villivalam, a Chicago Democrat, says the idea would be to allow workers to take leave with pay for themselves or to care for a new baby or other family member.

“There are people that are working, living paycheck to paycheck, without access to pay leave, and they're faced with the impossible choice: Do I care for my child or loved one in need? Or do I try to put food on the table?" he said. "Paid family leave eliminates this dilemma."

COVID-19’s effects on learning for Illinois students emerged in a state Senate committee this week.

Robin Steans, president of the education advocacy nonprofit Advance Illinois, said COVID-19 has placed a reliance on remote learning that has put students at a disadvantage.

The COVID-19 crisis has placed many school districts and families on the wrong side of the digital divide. State Superintendent Carmen Ayala says creativity is  helping to bridge the gap.

Ayala says the state board has allocated $80 million toward purchase of computer devices and connectivity hotspots to help with remote learning. Forty two percent of schools have both remote and in-person learning and a third are remote only.

A researcher at the University of Illinois recently showed how child care providers have been hurt financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Elizabeth Powers is an economist at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs. She says measures put in place to slow COVID-19 reduced revenues for childcare centers and  restricted the number of slots that were available to families.

Illinois had about 4,000 unfilled school jobs open last fall, and that shortage is expected to be greater this year because of the pandemic. 

The information comes from a survey of school superintendents conducted in 2019. School staff in that count include teachers and paraprofessionals, such as aides,  and administrators. Data for a new survey will be collected in September said Mark Klaisner, the President of the Illinois Association of Regional School Superintendents.

A group of transgender women has asked for an independent monitor of the Illinois Department of Corrections because the agency has not improved those inmates’ care as ordered by a judge last year.

Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise in Illinois, leading Gov.  J.B. Pritzker to say some regions of the state could be facing new restrictions on bars and restaurants.  That could mean a rolling back of the state allowing indoor dining.  

Franny Cole’s now-estranged husband had been emotionally abusive and financially controlling. She thinks sometimes about what might have happened had she not gathered the strength to leave prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

This coming school year, districts will be expected to provide information on LGBTQ figures in history before students graduate eighth grade.

Last week, the Thomas More Society filed a lawsuit that says the year-old Reproductive Health Act requires employers to pay for coverage of abortion against their will.  The suit says unless the act is declared unlawful and enforcement of it is forbidden, plaintiffs will continue to “suffer irreparable injury."

The conservative Thomas More Society this week filed a lawsuit that in effect charges Illinois’ Reproductive Health Act violates the right to freedom of religion by forcing employers to pay for abortions.

At least three Illinois House members say they want a special legislative session to strike on issues of law enforcement reform and accountability while police brutality has the nation’s focus.

AP Photo/Amr Alfiky

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced new guidance for places of worship. It comes as he has faced multiple lawsuits over his ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. Pritzker now says faith leaders should try to limit attendance to a quarter of a building’s capacity or 100 attendees, whichever is lower, along with social distancing.

A Republican state representative who says he has taken steps to start the recall process against J.B. Pritzker was chastised by the governor Tuesday for consistently voting against spending on vital programs.

A group of Chicago-based evangelical leaders plans to seek a virtual meeting with Gov. J.B. Pritzker because of “growing angst” about the rules he has set for religious gatherings.

The Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois State Dental Society no longer recommend limiting dental procedures to emergencies.

The early May guidance is that dentists can again perform routine procedures – that is if they follow a series of checks with lawyers, insurers and occupational directives. 

White supremacist organizations have infiltrated stay-at-home  protests such as  those in Springfield and Chicago last week, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. 

David Goldenberg, the Midwest regional director of the ADL, says over the last two weeks the center has tracked dozens of rallies to protest stay-at-home orders across the country, including in Illinois. “They’ve attracted a good number of members who are members of extremist organizations,’’ he said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker decried as hate-filled some of the signs that demostraters in Springfield and Chicago carried Friday to protest his stay-at-home order.

He addressed the issue at his daily briefing Saturday. Of the hundreds gathered at state buildings in Chicago and Springfield, including the state Capitol. Some carried signs with swastikas that said, HEIL PRITZKER.

The spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois says courts have ruled that laws can be set in the name of public health, which makes Gov. J.B. Pritzker s order on face coverings enforceable. 

Ed Yohnka said precedent has been set with vaccination requirements at public schools being imposed because they are considered to be for the good of public health.

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