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Governor Quinn Signs Anti-Bullying Legislation PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Dave Blanchette   
Friday, 27 June 2014 13:32

New Law Cracks Down on Bullying, Helps Protect All Illinois Students

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to crack down on bullying in Illinois. The bill will help protect Illinois students from bullying both inside and outside the classroom. Today’s action is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to ensure the safety of students in every community across Illinois.

“Intimidation and fear have no place in Illinois’ schools,” Governor Quinn said. “Every student in Illinois deserves to go to a school where they feel comfortable and safe. This new law is for all students who have been bullied but didn’t know where to turn. Our schools will now set comprehensive anti-bullying standards for all districts so we can help students succeed inside and outside the classroom.”

House Bill 5707, sponsored by State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) and State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), requires all public schools to develop and implement an anti-bullying policy. The policy must include a definition of bullying, procedures for the reporting of bullying, parental notification, the investigation of reports of bullying and actions that may be taken to address bullying. The new law is effective immediately.

“I heard from parents all over the state whose kids had been bullied and they had gotten no support from schools,” Representative Cassidy said. “It’s clear we were not doing enough, and this new law is a major step in the right direction.”

“Schools must give more than lip service to protecting kids. Learning can’t take place in an environment where students are not taught and expected to treat one another with respect,” Senator Steans said. “Students need to know where to go for help when they are bullied, and they need assurance that adults at school will support them and work to resolve the issue.”

Governor Quinn has taken a strong stance against bullying. He has signed legislation that expands the definition of bullying, requires gang prevention training in Illinois schools and created the School Bullying Prevention Task Force to examine the causes of bullying. The Governor also signed a law that allows the Chicago Board of Education to develop a program that establishes common bonds between youth of different backgrounds and ethnicities. The program may be modeled after the Challenge Day organization which has a mission to address issues like bullying.

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AFGE Applauds Braley Legislation to Prevent Cuts to Social Security Services PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Brett Copeland   
Friday, 27 June 2014 11:21

AFGE President says cuts to critical services hurt expanding senior population

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox applauded a bill by Rep. Bruce Braley (IA) that would delay cuts to two vital services at field offices, Social Security Number Printouts and Benefit Verification Forms.

The Social Security Number Printouts and Benefit Verification Forms are used for a variety of purposes, including car loans, mortgage applications, housing assistance and when applying for other government assistance programs.

“The Social Security Administration has never justified cuts to these two critical field office services,” said Cox. “The 11 million Americans who visited field offices specifically for these forms deserve answers, since on August 1 and October 1 the services they rely on will simply disappear.”

Rather than providing same-day, in-person service, visitors who need copies of Benefit Verification Forms will be directed to the MySSA website, a poorly designed customer service platform which requires users to go through a complicated registration process. Ultimately, nearly 1 in 3 enrollees who attempt to register on the MySSA website are rejected.

Those who need Benefit Verification Forms will also be directed to the delay-plagued 800 number, but will have to wait 7 – 10 days to receive a copy by mail – far too long for those who urgently need a hard copy of the forms for other assistance programs.

Those who want a Social Security Number Printout, an expedited way to obtain proof of your Social Security Number, will instead have to file for a completely new card, which will also take 7 – 10 days to arrive by mail.

Cox said that the SSA’s plan to direct people to its website, part of its Vision 2025 strategy, places too big a burden on at-risk populations.

“It’s important to protect the services that seniors and disabled Americans depend on,” said Cox. “SSA’s vision for the future leaves out those who need field office assistance and as more baby boomers approach retirement age, we need more service staff, not less.”

Cox emphasized that seniors should be able to choose how they work with SSA, whether in-person, on the phone or via the website.

“A large number of seniors either don’t have access to the internet or are more comfortable discussing their benefits in person,” said Cox. “They deserve to get the expertise of field office staff and local access to the benefits and services they’ve earned.”

Read the Legislation by Rep. Braley.

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Governor Quinn Takes Bill Action **Wednesday, June 25, 2014** PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Katie Hickey   
Friday, 27 June 2014 10:09

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today took action on the following bills:

 

Bill No.: HB 4418

An Act Concerning: Local Government

Requires a referendum before a local fire department can be disbanded.

Action: Signed

Effective: Jan. 1, 2015

 

Bill No.: SB 504

An Act Concerning: Local Government

Makes changes to certain Tax Increment Financing districts in Chicago and Naperville.

Action: Signed

Effective: Immediately

 

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Loebsack Opening Statement for the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee Joint Hearing, “How Data Mining Threatens Student Privacy” PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Joe Hand   
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 13:18

Good morning, Chairman Rokita, Chairman Meehan, and Ranking Member Clarke. I’d like to thank you for holding today’s hearing and thank our witnesses for being here.

More than ever before, technology plays an essential role in educating our children. Technology-based educational tools and platforms offer important new capabilities for students and teachers at both the K-12 and university levels.

The increasing number of educational iPad and iPhone apps, online study tools, and engagement programs illustrate the growing abundance of tech resources that are being used to meet students’ individual learning needs.

These educational tools generate tremendous amounts of data that are instrumental in improving a student’s learning experience. Data allows teachers to quickly identify and address gaps in student understanding before they fall behind.  And by making data available to parents, they can track their child’s progress and participate more fully in their education.

Beyond addressing the needs of individual students, data aids schools in their institutional and administrative functions. School and district leaders rely on data to drive improvement and decision-making around curriculum, technology infrastructure, and staffing.

The availability of new types of data also improves researchers’ ability to learn about learning. Data from a student’s experience in technology-based learning platforms can be precisely tracked, opening the door to more accurately understanding how students move through a curriculum, and at greater scale, than traditional education research is able to achieve.

As data systems become more integrated into the learning and teaching process, we are seeing the impact that they can have on students, teachers, administrators, and policymakers. These systems enable teachers, schools, and districts to make more informed decisions to enhance student learning.

Meanwhile, a growing number of online educational services have the ability to enhance learning within the classroom and extend it beyond the school day. Edmodo, which is used by more than 20 million teachers and students worldwide, allows teachers to set up virtual classrooms and then post homework assignments and other content to extend lessons. Khan Academy has more than 5,000 instructional videos and assessments, which allow students of all ages to learn at their own pace in subject areas ranging from pre-algebra to differential equations, from art history to computer science.

With this explosion in online resources, there is a large amount of new data being generated by children using these services, which raises valid privacy concerns.

The privacy of student education records is protected under FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. When those student education records are hosted or analyzed by private companies that are helping districts build data systems to drive improvement, those same FERPA protections still apply.

However, when students use online services like Khan Academy—in school or at home—or when teachers use grade and behavior tracking software on their iPads, all of that data are not necessarily covered by FERPA. In those direct interactions between students and software companies, data are being collected to build user profiles, individualize the learning experience, and track progress, but in the cases where FERPA does not apply, it is not always clear what protections exist to guarantee the privacy of those data and ensure companies are not using them to target advertisements at children.

This committee will hear important testimony today about the value that these tailored technological resources provide to students themselves and the importance of ensuring access to data for teachers and researchers seeking to improve education. We’ll also hear about the need for consistent privacy policies and current efforts to guarantee the security and privacy of student data.

As we examine the privacy concerns prompted by the rapidly growing education technology sector and the information it collects, it’s clear that we must strive to find a balance between privacy and innovation. We must ensure that companies involved in collecting and analyzing student data are not exploiting students’ private information for marketing purposes or financial gain.

Data are an invaluable tool. Data empowers teachers, guides individualized learning, and informs policy. As we consider where improvements are needed in privacy regulations, we must be sure that we do not compromise the value of student data.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.

Thank you very much.

Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats

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Braley Introduces Legislation to Prevent Cuts to 19 Iowa Social Security Offices PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kirsten Hartman   
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 13:16

Congressman: Cutting the services that Iowa’s seniors rely on is the first step to closing these facilities entirely

Washington, D.C. – Days after joining over 100 lawmakers to express their opposition to cuts to vital services at Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices, Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today introduced legislation that would delay those cuts—arguing that SSA has done nothing to illustrate equivalent access to Iowa’s seniors or cost savings.

Beginning August 2014, SSA will no longer issue Social Security number printouts in its field offices.  In addition, beginning October 2014, SSA field offices will stop providing benefit verification letters, except in emergency situations.  Many seniors rely on these verification letters for a variety of services. Those requesting this information would be able to do so only online or over the phone. Last year alone, 11 million Americans used SSA offices to request this information.

Braley’s Seniors’ Access to Social Security Act would prevent those cuts for one year, during which time Braley will seek verification that the proposed service cuts will not adversely affect Iowa’s seniors and will save taxpayers money.

“They’re cutting services that tens of thousands of Iowa’s seniors access every year, and there’s no indication it will save a penny—that makes absolutely no sense to me,” Braley said. “Iowa has one of the highest ratios of seniors in the country, many of whom don’t have internet access. The Administration needs to explain how those seniors will still have access to the services they need and how it will save money—and until they do that I’ll remain strongly opposed to cutting services at these facilities.”

 

“Making unwarranted and extensive service cuts to these offices moves us closer to permanently shuttering them, and leaving Iowa’s seniors with nowhere to go,” Braley added.

Iowa’s 19 SSA field offices are located in Cedar Rapids, Decorah, Dubuque, Marshalltown, Waterloo, Burlington, Coralville, Davenport, Ottumwa, Council Bluffs, Creston, Des Moines, Ames, Carroll, Ft. Dodge, Mason City, Sioux City, Spencer, and Storm Lake.

Braley’s legislation has been endorsed by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, Social Security Works, and The Strengthen Social Security Coalition.

Over 450,000 Iowa seniors received Social Security benefits in 2013.

A link to Braley’s legislation is available online HERE.    

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