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.

Office of State Sen. Heather Steans

Illinois could become the first state in the Midwest to require public schools to teach LGBTQ history.

The plan calls for the contributions of LGBTQ people to be acknowledged in history courses and in textbooks purchased by public schools. The State House of Representatives approved the bill in March. The state Senate could consider it as early as this week.

Howard Brown Health Center

Milo Vieland is a caseworker for transgender and gender nonconforming people at the Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago. Through a program that started last year, he helps transgender folks navigate through medical aspects of the transition process such as dealing with insurance. The transgender man says many of his clients will benefit from a new policy the state recently announced to start paying for gender reasignment surgeries through Medicaid. Maureen McKinney spoke with Vieland this week.

People read to children.
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids

An anti-crime group released a report today tying involvement in crime to a lack of preschool programs. 

Children who don’t participate in preschool are 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by the time they turn 18, according to a study cited in the report by the Illinois branch of the group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.

ACLU of Illinois

A suburban parents’ group dropped its lawsuit that attempted to ban transgender students from using school restrooms and locker rooms associated with their gender identity, a move that supporters of transgender students say helps affirm the rights of  students across the state.  

Heartland Alliance

Gov. J.B. Pritzker says Illinois will begin covering gender reassignment surgeries under Medicaid.

Most states  provide health care related to gender-transition.  Illinois was one of last 10 holdouts. 

Liz Morris
Ounce for Prevention and Illinois Action for Children

About 200 advocates for early childhood education programs filled the Illinois statehouse recently.

The advocates want  $250 million dollars from an infrastructure spending plan for child care facilities around the state. That’s a big boost from the  $45 million  they got in the last plan a decade ago. 

Liz Morris / Ounce of Prevention and Illinois Action for Children

Advocates for children are pushing for expansion of a child care program for lower income families that was cut by former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration. 

The Child Care Assistance Program was cut severely in 2015 so that 90 percent of the participants lost services. The eligibility limits have increased since then.

Legislation under consideration would further increase the number eligible families by making the income limit higher.

 Should minors have to tell their parents or a judge when they want to terminate a pregnancy?

Heartland Alliance Social Impact Research Center

A recent report finds mainly women are in poverty in Illinois and improving their financial status would boost the overall economy in the state.

The report from the research arm of the Heartland Alliance concluded that improving wages and other conditions for women would be particularly helpful to women of color.

Katie Buitrago of the Heartland Alliance said women are over half the population in Illinois and that the poverty rate for families headed by women is double that for families headed by single men.

Maureen McKinney / NPR Illinois

Cardinal Blase Cupich and Illinois’ bishops gathered in Springfield today to oppose changes to the state’s abortion laws.

Jaclyn Driscoll / NPR Illinois

Hundreds of anti-abortion protestors filled the Capitol rotunda today following the passage of a measure that would repeal parental notification of abortion.

Meanwhile, a group of Republican lawmakers are speaking out against legislation intended to expand abortion rights throughout Illinois.

State Representative Terri Bryant, a Republican from Murphysboro, also spoke out against another proposal being considered that would completely overhaul abortion throughout the state. 

Democratic House Caucus

Illinois lawmakers  forwarded a proposal that would allow minors to get an abortion, without telling their parents.

The measure would repeal the Parental Notification of Abortion Act – a law passed in 1995, but not enforced until 5 years ago.  The law allows for minors to go before a judge instead of notifying a parent.

Democratic Senator Elgie Sims of Chicago is sponsoring the proposal that would get rid of any notification requirement.

Molly Marshall / Flickr (CC-NC 2.0)

A measure to expand cases when eviction records can be sealed has advanced out of a House committee.

Proponents say unsealed eviction notices can taint a renter’s record even if an eviction is never carried out. That makes it difficult for renters to find a new home.

Bob Palmer of Housing Action Illinois says,“We understand that landlords have a compelling interest in wanting to screen tenants so they can get good tenants, but we don't think that just having an eviction filing is a good reflection  on someone's ability to be a good tenant.”

Equality Illinois

LGBTQ activists are speaking out about  proposed legislation that would punish medical  professionals who treat transgender youth.  

Under Republican sponsor Tom Morrison’s (R-Palatine) plan, medical professionals performing sex-change surgeries or prescribing certain hormones could have their licenses suspended or revoked.

Advocates pointed to Morrison’s history of proposing legislation hurtful to transgender youth, including an unsuccessful measure that would have required transgender students use the bathroom or locker room corresponding to their gender at birth.

Illinois House Democratic Caucus

Illinois could become the most progressive state in the nation on abortion rights if a proposed bill is approved this year.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

The Illinois House Wednesday approved a plan that would require k-12 history textbooks to include LGBTQ  figures.

Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, a Glenview Democrat and supporter of the bill, says if it had been law 15 years ago, her brother would not have been denied tenure in a suburban Chicago public school for his decision to talk about sexuality with his students.

State senators Melinda Bush,  at left, a Democrat from Graylake and Jil Tracy, a Republican from Quincy, co-chaired the Senate committee on sexual discrimination and sexual harassment.
Maureen McKinney / NPR Illinois

The state Senate task force on sexual discrimination and  sexual harassment released its report this week, and leaders announced related bills, including several aimed at the business community.

One measure would require private employers to provide sexual harassment training, limit businesses’ use of non-disclosure agreements, mandate that large employers disclose sexual harassment settlements, and allow victims of sexual harassment or sexual violence to take unpaid leave.

Mark Baylor / Flickr (CC 2.0)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he wants to invest in programs for children, and the budget he proposed this week called for increases in early childhood services and the Child Care Assistance Program.

Child advocacy groups applauded the proposals, including a $30 million boost to the CCAP program to help lower-income families pay for child care, and a $100 million increase for the Early Childhood Block Grant. The block grant for helps at-risk families with supports like home visits, parent education and preschool.

shape of Illinois in coins
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivered his first budget address at a time of acute fiscal distress for the state of Illinois. It also comes after Democrats have taken total control of the executive and legislative branches of state government, including supermajorities in the Illinois House and Senate.

For this week's Illinois Issues report, NPR Illinois reporters analyzed the governor's speech:

Daniel X. O'Neil / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Saying the state is the midst of an affordable housing crisis, one lawmaker has introduced legislation that aims to boost low-cost rental units by offering a tax credit.

Courtesy of Petina Dixon-Jenkins

In Illinois, losing a baby before its first birthday happens far more often to black mothers than those of other races. The difference between whites and blacks is nearly three-fold.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

A proposal calling for public schools to adopt curricula that would include information about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is advancing to the Illinois legislature. 

State Rep. Deborah Conroy taught religious education to Catholic public school students for 15 years. But the Villa Park Democrat is co-sponsoring this bill.

Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus

The  Chicago-based child advocacy group Voices for Illinois Children wants Illinois lawmakers to consider how their policies might worsen racial and ethnic disparities.

According to a spokeswoman,  state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat, is expected to introduce a measure that would create a “racial impact note” – where a lawmaker could ask for additional information tacked onto a bill that would estimate the impact on minorities.

They would be similar to fiscal notes that detail how a policy would affect the state’s finances.

SIUMedicine

SIUMedicine in Springfield has opened what may be the first primary care clinic in Illinois to serve foster children on an ongoing basis.

VCU CNS / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

As suicide and opioid death numbers climb, researchers investigate how strong a connection exists.

Woman at a microphone
Anne Ryan / anneryanphoto.com

An Illinois group says it has found a way to improve the handling of mental health issues in children.

 

The Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation aimed to increase ties among schools, mental health and primary care providers and sometimes early childhood and juvenile justice programs.To that end, it issued $12 million in grants to four communities in 2010.

 

Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago

One of the most pressing issues plaguing children’s health in Illinois is the higher-than-average infant mortality rate, especially among black children. A group of 85 Illinoisans are looking at that issue and others that affect child health quality in the state.

That group, which includes health care providers, business people, educators, lawmakers, parents and others, met in Chicago today (Tuesday).

J.B. Pritzker for Governor

Former and outgoing Illinois leaders offer suggestions for the man going to the mansion. 

Charles Edward Miller / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Jane Galliher says she was raped by her boss 16 years ago. At the time, she feared she wouldn’t be believed. But with the encouragement of a friend, she told her story of the sexual assault to Springfield police. 

In her case, the police report didn’t culminate in a charge being filed by the Sangamon County state’s attorney. Still, she believes she made the right decision about reporting.

Maxica Williams, seen with three of her children, appeared before a state legislative committee to speak to the need for an increase financial help for needy families.
Courtesy of Maxica Williams

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.

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