Illinois Insights: An Update from Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies (3/6)

March 6, 2023


Chicago’s COVID-19 Risk is Low, from the Chicago Department of Public Health.


Gov. Pritzker announces grant initiative to address teacher shortages

In response to the ongoing teacher shortage crisis in Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker announced an initiative on Friday that will allocate funding to the state’s most understaffed districts.

The proposed Teacher Pipeline Grant Program would provide $70 million annually over the next three years to 170 school districts with the highest teacher vacancies and the greatest need to recruit and retain teachers.

Data from the Illinois State Board of Education showed the state had upwards of 3,500 teacher vacancies as of October 2022, 80 percent of which were in the 170 districts outlined in the proposal, affecting roughly 870,000 students.

The grant program would allow school districts flexibility in how they use the funds, including by offering signing bonuses and/or providing housing stipends; covering the cost of tuition for individuals looking to further their teaching education or assisting with loan repayments; and supporting current teachers with the costs of classroom materials and supplies.

The proposal comes a day after the Illinois Education Association released a survey that found that schools now have 62 percent more teacher vacancies than in 2017 and that parents are becoming more aware of the problem.


Walgreens’ abortion pill decision sparks Pritzker meeting with CEO, protesters’ demands ‘they follow the law:’ “Deerfield-based Walgreens says it will not sell abortion pills in states in which Republican attorneys general have threatened legal action — despite the drug being legal in some of those states. The decision will not affect Illinois, where the abortion drugs are legal. According to a source with direct knowledge of the matter, Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid are among the three pharmacies in Illinois that have requested certification to be able to sell the pill. That status is pending,” by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Downstate judge strikes down Illinois ban on high-powered guns: “A downstate judge on Friday struck down the ban on high-power firearms and high-capacity ammunition magazines that Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law earlier this year, a ruling the Illinois attorney general’s office immediately appealed to the state Supreme Court,” by the Chicago Tribune.

Bill seeks to enforce federal anti-discrimination standards in state law: “In response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision restricting the ability of people to recover damages in federal court for certain discrimination claims, Democrats in the Illinois House are pushing a bill to allow the recovery of those damages in state court,” by Capitol News Illinois.


Committee approves automated bike, bus lane enforcement

On Friday, members of the Chicago City Council’s Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Committee unanimously approved two ordinances relating to bike and pedestrian safety on city streets.

The Smart Streets Pilot Ordinance (02023-874), proposed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, would create new automatic enforcement for vehicles parked in designated bike lanes, bus lanes, or crosswalks. Under the proposal, cameras would be added to city poles or the fronts of city vehicles to record and report violations of city parking laws, similar to camera-recorded speed violations.

Ald. Matt Martin’s (47) ordinance (02022-1980) would require the Chicago Department of Transportation to incorporate improvements for pedestrians, bikers, and transit riders into major street and infrastructure projects as well as impose standards for ensuring safety and update the City Council annually on the safety improvements.

Both ordinances now await full approval and will be voted on during the City Council meeting March 15.


Catanzara wins second term as FOP president: John Catanzara Jr. captured nearly 57% of the 7,192 votes for president of Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7. His opponent, Robert Bartlett, had argued that Catanzara’s confrontational approach alienated potential union allies,” by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Next mayor must have a plan to tackle the city’s $34 billion in pension debt: “The third-largest US city escaped from junk-rating territory late last year after paying more into its long-strained pensions that are still short nearly $34 billion. The mayoral runoff contenders — Cook County Board Commissioner Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas, the former Chicago schools chief, have starkly different approaches for how to address that shortfall and the rest of the challenges facing its 2.7 million residents,” by Crain’s Chicago Business.

City of Chicago Announces New Initiatives to Combat the Opioid Epidemic Using Funds from Settlements with Pharmaceutical Companies: “Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced Friday that the City of Chicago will implement new initiatives to address the ongoing opioid epidemic using funding from settlements with the three largest pharmaceutical distributors. These settlements provide substantial funds to states and municipalities to address the ongoing opioid epidemic and resulting public health crisis across the country,” from the Office of Mayor Lightfoot.

Lightfoot appoints new Board of Education member before next mayor takes over Chicago Public Schools in May: “A few days after failing to advance to the April 4 runoff, Lightfoot said she was ‘thrilled’ to appoint Miquel Lewis, former chair of the Noble Network of Charter Schools and acting director of Cook County’s juvenile probation services, to the board overseeing Chicago Public Schools,” by the Chicago Tribune.


Beltway Briefing Special Edition: Chicago Mayoral Election

Last Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot lost her re-election bid by failing to garner enough votes to make a runoff race. It was a stunning fall for a candidate who in 2019 had won all 50 of Chicago wards, becoming the city’s first Black woman mayor as well as its first openly gay mayor. It was also the first time in 40 years that the city didn’t elect a sitting mayor who sought re-election. Paul Vallas, a more moderate Democrat who had won the support of the city’s police union, and Brandon Johnson, a liberal county commissioner and teachers union organizer, secured the two spots to advance to April’s runoff election.

Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies’ Chicago team members Pat Carey, John Dunn, and Sydney Holman breakdown the results of the mayoral election and the city’s shifting political dynamics, and discuss what we can expect in the runoff that will elect the 57th mayor of Chicago.

Listen to the full Beltway Briefing here.


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