Elected officials discuss capital funding, mental health at Legislative Breakfast

District 58 warmly welcomed Sen. John Curran, Rep. Terra Costa Howard, Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, Rep. Anne Stava-Murray and Ms. Hilary Denk, District Director to Congressman Bill Foster, to the District 58 Legislative Breakfast on Friday, Feb. 7 at O’Neill Middle School.

During a one-hour panel discussion, the legislators answered questions regarding school capital investment funding needs and school mental health service needs.

Citing the lack of a dedicated state revenue fund for school capital projects, the legislators urged community members to work together and with their elected officials regarding local needs. They also shared information about last year’s capital bill — a portion of which will benefit schools — as well as a new federal bill, HR 865: Rebuild America’s Schools, which should provide additional funding to schools on a needs-basis. Also on the federal level, Ms. Denk said that Congressman Foster is accepting appropriation requests from community members now through March 15 on his website. Citizens may submit their federal funding priorities through this system.

The legislative guests acknowledged the importance of school mental health services, especially for low-income students who may not be able to otherwise access such services. When asked if there was any current legislation in the works to increase school mental health resources, Rep. Stava-Murray shared that the State is facing a $2 billion deficit, and until cuts are made, the State likely will not be able to consider new funding for this upcoming fiscal year. Rep. Mazzochi suggested school districts consider creative partnerships (i.e. schools and the county) to enhance mental health services. Several legislators said that while there absolutely is a high need for increased mental health services in our schools, DuPage County is fortunate to have more school mental health resources than many other Illinois counties, particularly downstate. Advocating for increased mental health services, in addition to improved school security, must continue.

During the legislation panel, the elected officials also addressed unfunded mandates, school lunch funding, the Illinois teacher shortage, and the importance of participating in the Census. Rep. Stava-Murray discussed proposed legislation regarding Illinois school seclusion practices, and complimented District 58 on its existing practices, noting that she toured every District 58 school, including school sensory rooms, and asked staff how they address students with severe behavioral issues. District 58 does not practice isolated timeouts and seclusion for students.

The Legislative Breakfast opened with a casual meet-and-greet and light breakfast from 7:30-8 a.m., with entertainment provided by the O’Neill Jazz Band and Chamber Strings. Afterward, School Board Member Kirat Doshi shared opening remarks and the Herrick and O’Neill Student Council officers introduced the legislators. The District 58 Legislative Committee asked the legislators two prepared questions and then opened it up to community-submitted questions. The event closed with remarks by Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell. Approximately 90 community members, including community and school district leaders, were in attendance.

District 58 sincerely thanks Sen. John Curran, Rep. Terra Costa Howard, Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, Rep. Anne Stava-Murray and Ms. Hilary Denk for participating in today’s Legislative Breakfast, and we hope to continue partnering with you in the years to come!