Maureen Foertsch McKinney

News Editor

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.

Mae Benjamins daughter Melody works as Maes personal health care assistant.
COURTESY OF MELODY BENJAMIN

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. 

Heartland Alliance Social Impact Research Center

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.”

Flickr/Creative Commons

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

 

There were  53,733 homeless students counted throughout the state in fiscal year 2016. That number grew by 56,881 by the end of this fiscal year.

 

Julie Dworkin, director of policy for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, says it’s hard to tell why the increase occurred .

Isaiah Milton, 10, holds a candle at a memorial for his 19-year-old cousin Jeremiah Shaw, who was shot to death   in Chicago.
ALEX WROBLEWSKI

The gap, caused mainly by homicides, is one of the biggest in the nation.

Illinois poverty ratings
Social IMPACT Research Center / Heartland Alliance

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. 

Voices for Illinois Children

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.

In Illinois, somebody being paid minimum wage would have to work 99 hours a week to afford the average two-bedroom apartment. That means an individual would have to earn more than $20 an hour to be able to pay for that two-bedroom apartment.

Those statistics come from a June report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Illinois’ average cost for a two-bedroom apartment is just above $1,058 a month. Illinois’ minimum wage is $8.25 an hour

Dese’Rae L. Stage for Live Through This

Amid the news of high profile celebrity taking their own lives, the Centers for Disease Control reports suicide rates have gone up across the United States.  Since 1999, Illinois has seen a 23-percent increase. 

Chicago author Kelley Clink tried to kill herself when she was 16, and several years later her younger brother, Matt, died by his own hand.

Reporter Maureen McKinney talked with Clink about the ways suicide has touched her life. Clink’s memoir, published in 2015, is called A Different Kind of Same.

Marcus Butler of  Springfield has been unemployed since October of 2016.
Katie Buck / NPR IllINOIS

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

Illinois House Democrats

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.

Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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.

Molly Marshall / flickr cc nc2.0

Keeping cases unsealed leaves guiltless tenants at risk for rejection, but that could make it difficult for landlords to be diligent in screening, Realtors say.

Katie Buck / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The Rev. Martin Woulfe of Springfield has spoken from the pulpit about the need for what he calls saner gun control measures.

His sermons at the Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation preaching gun safety have gone back more than a decade. And he’s talked about gun violence as a social justice issue.

Speaker Michael Madigan and attorney Heather Wier Vaught respond to questions following campaign woker Alaina Hamilton filling a sexual harassment charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

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

Kelsey Greene Photography

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

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Editor's Note: A version of this story appeared in the February, 2015 edition of Illinois Issues. 

Three different men sexually assaulted me when I was a sophomore in college. That was 30 years ago or so. In that time, I've come to re-evaluate what it means to be to be raped. And I've kept in mind what I can do to help protect my daughter, who, at 22, is a little older than I was in the early 1980s when I was assaulted while a student at Eastern Illinois University.

Annie E. Casey Foundation

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.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

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

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.

Keith Freeman / Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

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.’’ 

Chicago Police Department

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

Tom Lisi / NPR Illinois

The spring legislative session has been overshadowed by a 22-month stretch without a budget. Nevertheless, meaty legislation is being weighed. Those issues include abortion, wage theft, animal research and criminal justice.

Equality Illinois

As rapid-fire change comes at the federal level, advocates want  to keep Illinois' status as one of the leading states in offering protections.

Alex McCray didn’t want to believe Donald Trump had won the election. In the words of the transgender nursing student from downstate Sherman: “I was hoping it was all just one terrible nightmare. It felt like my rights were being ripped out right from underneath me.”

KENT KRIEGSHAUSER / GALESBURG REGISTER-MAIL

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

Chart of children in poverty by race.
2015 American Community Survey / U.S. Census Bureau

Poverty rates in Illinois are starting to go down. But economic inequality  is growing between white Illinoisans and their black and Latino counterparts.   That's according a recently issued report by group of anti-poverty organizations. That report also showed that being poor in Illinois is a costly proposition. Food, housing, credit and other things often cost for impoverished people than the general population

Daniel Biss speaking to group
Office of state Sen. Daniel Biss

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

Jordan Boner

After hundreds of layoffs at Eastern Illinois University earlier this year, faculty members with annually renewed contracts got word they might be let go this fall semester. One of those 17 faculty members let go, EIU  journalism instructor Dan Hagen, says he was dismissed just two weeks before classes started.  We talked with Hagen about his experience and what he thinks it means for the state of higher education in Illinois.

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.  

Office of State Sen. Karen McConnaughay

More than ninety cases of human trafficking in Illinois have been reported so far this year. Gov. Bruce Rauner recently signed legislation about efforts to combat it and to assist its victims. One bill created a statewide task force on the issue. 

The task force will work with others in the state, including one in Cook County, says Sen. Sponsor Karen McConnaughay, a Republican from St. Charles. The task force is expected to give its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by June 30, 2017.

Illinois Center for Renewable Energy / Illinois State University

  Gov. Bruce Rauner recently signed legislation extending how wind farms are assessed from this year’s original sunset date out five years. The wind farms generate tens of millions of dollars each year.

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