Receives "Champion" Award from College Changes Everything conference

CHICAGO - July 11, 2013. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, the state's point person on education reform, urged educators to continue working to remove academic and non-academic barriers for college completion as she accepted the 2013 College Changes Everything Champion Award today from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC).

The award, presented annually at the College Changes Everything conference, recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to help the state improve college access and completion efforts for Illinois students. Simon said undergraduates attending four-year schools, full-time and right out of high school make up less than 30 percent college students nationwide, and more students are attending for-profit schools than ever before. She said more transparency and low student loan rates will help older, part-time students succeed.

"I will continue to advocate for higher education that is affordable and accessible for all Illinois students, and to focus on reforms that help students from all backgrounds earn credentials that translate to good-paying jobs," said Simon, who visited the state's 12 public universities and 48 community colleges in her first two years in office. "I count higher education institutions and education advocates across the state as great partners as we focus on increasing the college completion rate in Illinois."

This month, Simon will convene education leaders to develop a statewide College Scorecard with data on completion rates and costs that will help students make the most of their tuition dollars. The effort follows a resolution drafted by Simon and approved by the General Assembly urging all Illinois colleges and universities to prominently display a link to a federal College Scorecard on their websites to help students assess college costs.

Simon has also worked with students and advocates to urge Congressional action on student loan rates. On July 1, interest rates on some federal student loans doubled. Simon has encouraged students to contact their federal representatives to explain what $2,600 annually - the average increase with doubled rates - means to them.

Simon and the state Board of Education are also rolling out the state's first middle school and high school math curriculum models this fall. Prompted by Simon's work on Senate Bill 3244, the units outline teach techniques aligned with Common Core standards and are designed to reduce remedial needs at college. Math is the biggest academic barrier to college completion, Simon said.

"Sheila Simon is one of the true champions of education in Illinois, and it's my honor to present her with this recognition," said Eric Zarnikow, executive director of ISAC.

The conference, coordinated by ISAC, brings together educators, students, legislators and other advocates to work towards the state's college completion goal. To keep pace with employer needs, the state wants 60 percent of working-age adults to hold a college degree or credential by 2025.


CHICAGO - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, the state's point person on education reform, will be honored at the 2013 College Changes Everything conference on Thursday in Tinley Park.

The conference, coordinated by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, brings together educators, students, legislators and other advocates to work towards the state's college completion goal. To keep pace with employer needs, the state wants 60 percent of working-age adults to hold a college degree or credential by 2025.

Following her keynote address, Simon will be presented with the College Changes Everything Champion Award. The award is presented annually to a recipient who has made significant contributions to help the state improve college access and completion efforts for Illinois students. Simon has led efforts to reform remediation, improve transparency and promote affordability as she conducted site visits to the state's 60 public community colleges and universities. Former State Sen. Ed Maloney was the inaugural recipient of the award last year.

TIME: 3:15 p.m.

DATE: Thursday, July 11

PLACE: Tinley Park Convention Center, 18451 Convention Center Drive, Tinley Park


First petition aimed at clearing Dr. Richard Eells

CARBONDALE - July 3, 2013. In celebration of the nation's anniversary, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon announced today that she is launching an effort to restore the reputations of those who fought for freedom and equality. Simon will file petitions seeking clemency for Illinois abolitionists convicted for their fight against slavery. The first petition filed today seeks to clear central Illinois abolitionist Dr. Richard Eells.

"The men and women who defied the law to help slaves through the Underground Railroad risked their safety and well-being because they believed that all individuals deserve freedom," said Simon. "It is time that we honor their memories and sacrifices with pardons for their selfless and courageous actions. Abolitionists were on the right side of history, and a pardon vindicates their foresight and heroism."

Despite Illinois residents voting to abolish slavery in 1824, both Illinois and federal law prohibited the harboring or assisting of runaway slaves in free states. As part of this effort to honor abolitionists who fought for equality, Simon's office is working with historians and experts around the state to identify men and women around Illinois who were convicted of violating slavery laws.

Simon filed a petition of clemency today for Dr. Richard Eells, who in 1843 was convicted of harboring a runaway slave. Eells, an abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor, did not hesitate to assist a man who is known in court records only as "Charley," a runaway slave from Missouri. While transporting Charley to safety, they were discovered by slave catchers. In April 1843, a jury found Dr. Eells guilty of harboring and secreting a slave, and unlawfully preventing the lawful owner from recovering the slave. His case was later heard by the United States Supreme Court, which upheld the original verdict.

"The Friends of the Dr. Richard Eells House organization is very pleased with the opportunity the Lt. Governor is giving us to provide a pardon to Quincy's Dr. Richard Eells for his efforts in 1842 to help Charley," said John Cornell, president of the Friends of the Dr. Richard Eells House. "This pardon will also provide vindication and honor to all the courageous participants in the Underground Railroad. We just wish Charley could have found his freedom at that fateful time."

Through his involvement in the Underground Railroad, Dr. Eells helped numerous slaves traveling through Quincy toward Chicago, and ultimately, to freedom in Canada. The National Parks Service has declared Dr. Eells home as one of the country's 42 most important Underground Railroad sites, and the home is currently operated by the Friends of Dr. Richard Eells House.

Simon is also asking the public to contact her office to recommend additional clemency requests for individuals convicted for their abolitionist activities. Please visit for updates.


CHICAGO - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will join Secretary of State Jesse White, officials from the Illinois Department of Transportation and the League of Illinois Bicyclists (LIB) to launch a new online bicycle safety quiz and promote bicycle safety in Illinois.

"Just as drivers must share the road with bikers, we as bicyclists need to do our part to keep roads safe," said Simon, a member of the LIB and Carbondale Bicycle Club. "Whether I am biking along the streets or paths of Chicago or on quiet roads in southern Illinois, I follow the rules of the road and do what I can to keep myself and fellow travelers safe." 

Simon will help unveil LIB's "Illinois bicycle safety quiz challenge," which is available for free to all bicyclists and motorists. Lt. Governor Simon earned gold level on the quiz, which can be found at

CHICAGO - June 26, 2013. Following the United States Supreme Court's historic decisions on civil liberties this morning, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon issued the following statement:

"I am thrilled by the Supreme Court's ruling in Windsor today to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. This decision supports one of the fundamental principles of our country?equality?and brings us one step closer to the nation we aspire to be.

"I appreciate the Court's decision in Perry, and am excited for all California couples whose marriages are once again recognized. The decision strengthens my resolve to work harder in Illinois and throughout the country to ensure full marriage equality.

"I look forward to renewing that commitment to equal rights with Illinois families and advocates this Sunday at the Pride Parade in Chicago as we continue working toward marriage equality in Illinois."


CHICAGO - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will visit two different projects on Chicago's south side on Saturday that are promoting sustainable practices and healthy lifestyles. Simon will visit the 61st Street Farmers Market and Blackstone Bicycle Works program at the Experimental Station and participate in Come Unity Day at the Bronzeville Community Garden by painting her handprint on the garden's wall. Simon chairs the Governor's Rural Affairs Council which has been working to expand access to fresh, locally-grown food to all Illinoisans.


Saturday, June 22


EVENT: Blackstone Bicycle Works and 61st Street Farmers Market visit

TIME: 11 a.m.

LOCATION: Experimental Station, 6100 S. Blackstone, Chicago


EVENT: Bronzeville Community Garden visit

TIME: 11:45 a.m.

LOCATION: Urban Juncture, 51st St. and Calumet Ave., Chicago



CHICAGO - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, the state's point person on education reform, will deliver keynote remarks at the Associated Colleges of Illinois' Summer Institute for K-12 teachers. Simon will urge teachers in high-need schools to use the Common Core learning standards and encourage them to pilot the state's new math curriculum models come fall. Simon supported the curricula developed by state education authorities to better prepare graduates for college and careers.


"We want to put all middle and high school students on track for success," said Simon. "Colleges and employers expect our students to have certain skills, but find too many students are unprepared. The statewide model math curriculum gives educators an additional resource to help prepare students to compete in the global marketplace."

Later Friday, Simon will deliver the graduation speech for the Phoenix Military Academy Class of 2013. Simon will highlight top students, including an Illinois Dream Act scholarship recipient who will testify on behalf of immigrant students in Washington D.C. next week.


Friday, June 21


EVENT: Associated Colleges of Illinois Summer Institute

TIME: Noon

LOCATION: Trinity Christian College Dining Hall, 6601 W. College Dr., Palos Heights

EVENT: Phoenix Military Academy graduation

TIME: 6 p.m.

LOCATION: Phoenix Military Academy, 145 S. Campbell Ave., Chicago


CHICAGO - June 9, 2013. A month before the court-ordered deadline for a concealed carry law, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon is encouraging communities to consider assault weapon bans. Simon said House Bill 183, which legalizes concealed carry in Illinois, grandfathers in existing assault weapons bans, while prohibiting new bans going forward. The bill is on the governor's desk.

"Last month the General Assembly for the first time voted to legalize the concealed carry of firearms in Illinois. As the governor prepares to act on the legislation sitting on his desk, it is important that our communities act now to retain the ability to regulate weapons that kill so many people so quickly.

"We have seen the tragic results assault weapons have had on our streets, in our schools, movie theaters and more. The clock is ticking, so I encourage mayors and local officials to act now to ban assault weapons and retain local control over this important issue."

Under HB 183, home rule communities that allow the possession of assault weapons have a limited amount of time to pass restrictions. If the bill is signed into law in its current form, communities will have just 10 days to ban assault weapons. After that grace period, the new law pre-empts home rule authority on assault weapon ordinances. 

Illinois' ban on concealed carry was declared unconstitutional in December by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has given the state until July 9 to pass a law that permits people to carry concealed guns in public spaces.


Program provides legal consultation to domestic violence survivors

CARBONDALE - May 24, 2013. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon announced the expansion of her virtual legal clinic program to The Cairo Women's Shelter today. The program connects survivors of domestic violence with lawyers for a free legal consultation using webcams and high-speed Internet technology.

Simon's virtual legal clinic program connects domestic violence survivors at local shelters in underserved areas with attorneys across Illinois that specialize in family law for a single, free consultation. Legal topics for consultation include child custody and visitation, marriage and divorce, elder abuse, immigration and property issues.

"The virtual legal clinics are a confidential, effective way to help domestic violence survivors ensure their safety and the safety of their families," said Simon, a former prosecutor and founder of the domestic violence clinic at Southern Illinois University School of Law. "The legal system can seem overwhelming, but this service helps survivors take the next step toward safety and stability."

The Cairo Women's Shelter serves Alexander, Massac, Pulaski and Union counties and sees approximately 400 survivors every year. This is the third center in Illinois to use the virtual legal clinic program, joining centers in Peoria and Jacksonville.

"We're thrilled to be part of the virtual legal clinic and to offer this free legal consultation to our clients," said Jeannine Woods, executive director of the Cairo Women's Shelter. "This will help survivors understand the important legal rights they have."

Nationally, one in four women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime, and in Illinois, nearly 40 percent of women will experience domestic violence by an intimate partner. However, there are 47 counties in Illinois with no attorneys practicing family law. An additional 33 counties have five or fewer attorneys practicing family law.

"The virtual legal clinics are a bridge between a survivor being in an immediate crisis and beginning to make a plan to move forward in a safe way," said Vickie Smith, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV). "Through the virtual legal clinic, we have found that just one hour of time with a licensed attorney can significantly increase a victim's understanding and clarity of their rights and responsibilities resolving legal issues."

The project was developed by Simon's staff, in consultation with the ICADV, with plans to continue expansion to northern Illinois this fall.

"At the time of the consultation, my first client was involved in a legal battle and was fearful because she didn't understand what was happening," said Sandra Quello Chiz, an attorney who consults with clients from her Manteno office. "Not only did I explain to my client what was happening legally, but I was able to point her in the direction of other resources, too. The virtual legal clinic is the best idea I've heard in a long time, and I wish we could expand it faster."


Urges districts to better prepare students for college math, careers

SPRINGFIELD - May 23, 2013. As the state's point person on education reform, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon and the Illinois State Board of Education today released the state's first 6th-12th grade math curriculum and urged middle and high schools statewide to implement the new courses beginning this fall.

The new curriculum package aims to reduce remedial math needs for college-bound students and improve career readiness for those going into the workforce. In 2012, 58 percent of Illinois high school graduates failed to meet the math college readiness benchmark, according to the ACT. Research shows when students enroll in remedial math courses at college, they are more likely to drop out or graduate late.

To make sure Illinois students are better prepared for college-level math and careers, Simon worked with ISBE last year to pass Senate Bill 3244 and launch the Math Curriculum Task Force to design the first-ever statewide math curriculum units. The units outline teaching techniques aligned with Common Core standards, providing educators a better road map for math instruction than ever before.

"We want to put all middle and high school students on a track for success," Simon said. "Colleges and employers expect our students to have certain skills, but find too many students unprepared. The tools we released should help educators better prepare students to compete in the global marketplace."

Illinois adopted the Common Core standards in 2010. But how to implement or teach to those standards has been up to districts. Many rely on textbook companies to dictate curriculum not necessarily aligned to standards, while others can invest in curriculum directors to assist teachers.

The state-designed curriculum units, and soon-to-come lesson plans, provide new, high-quality tools that are aligned with the Common Core and can be adapted as needed to meet each classroom's needs. Simon said this should help level the playing field for districts with fewer resources.

"This is not an unfunded mandate," Simon said. "We are giving teachers, schools and districts an extra resource to incorporate within their classrooms in a way that is most beneficial to the students."

In all, 24 middle and 28 high school unit outlines were developed, with major changes in high school curriculum. Currently, high school math progresses annually from one content area to the next - Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II. The new model introduces integrated high school math courses - Math I, II and III - which each teach elements of algebra, geometry and statistics at each grade level.

Although four years of math are not required to graduate from high school in Illinois, the new model also includes content recommendations for senior year courses. The fourth-year options include career and technical education courses and dual credit coursework offered in conjunction with a local community college or university. These can help better prepare students for college-level math or the workforce.

Schools can opt to follow the state-recommended scope and sequence of math study in part or whole, or continue to follow local curricula. Analysis of the models' effect will be completed within four years.

"These math curriculum models can help districts continue to implement the more rigorous Illinois Learning Standards in the coming year," said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. "Our new learning standards emphasize a holistic approach and ensure that students truly master math concepts and can apply them in their jobs and everyday life."

ISBE has decided to go beyond its statutory charge and develop lesson plans to correspond with the proposed math curricula, as well as develop math curriculum units for elementary schools. The additional materials will be available in the fall.

"The units structure the way a topic should be approached and allow a common ground for all teachers to teach their grade level," said Tai Williford, an 8th grade math teacher from Neal Math and Science Academy in North Chicago. "You can see the progression from one topic to the next and one grade level to the next. Using these units has been great for me and my colleagues because we know what we need the end result to be and we can discuss how to get our students there based on their current standings."

For more information about the model curricula, click here.