Latino Caucus to Rauner ‘Invest in Latino Communities’

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By: Ashmar Mandou

Members of the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus expressed upset after Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposed FY17 budget hearing on Wednesday highlighting the impact of additional spending reductions on the Latino community. “Latino families have the largest unmet need when it comes to early childhood education and child care,” said State Representative Cynthia Soto, 4th District. “We want to work with the Governor to ensure that investment actually makes its way into our communities. We cannot continue to be left out when one out of every three children under 5 is Latino.” With Latinos projected to be at least 25 percent of the population in the State by 2030, Soto underscored the jeopardy of disinvestment in education, not-for-profit organizations servicing Latino families, and health services.

The FY17 budget proposal increases funding for early education and maintains funding for elementary and secondary education, a proposal strongly supported by the Latino Caucus. However, there are concerns that increased funding for early childhood does not make its way into the Latino community. “So many public school districts have a majority of Latino students, such as CPS with 44 percent and upwards of 40 percent to 50 percent in some suburban districts,” State Representative Cynthia Soto said. Adding, “We need a school funding formula that gives all children an equal start and an equal chance no matter what their ethnic background or neighborhood. This is one of our priorities for this legislative session.”

State Representative Jaime Andrade, 40th District, echoed Soto’s concern in regards to higher education. “The good news is that before the budget impasse, Latinos were starting to go to college at unprecedented rates,” stated State Representative Jaime Andrade, 40th District. “The bad news is that only 17 percent holds a bachelor’s degree, an essential credential for entering the workforce. And so far this year, we have not even paid MAP grants, which are so crucial to our community. At the current MAP grant level, only 50 percent of eligible students actually get it, this leaves too many young Latinos out. This is also why we have worked very hard to sustain programs like Grow Your Own and Diversifying Faculty in Illinois (DFI).”

In addition, the proposal called for more cuts in health and human services, and Latino Caucus members voiced concern about the negative effect on Latino working families. In addition to dramatic reductions in Medicaid, child care, disability services, and behavioral health, several critical programs for youth, families, and immigrants are eliminated. “The Illinois Welcoming Center and immigrant integration services are fundamental to the State,” said State Representative and Caucus Co-Chair Hernandez, 24th District. “This is the only safety net for immigrant families, who make great contributions to the state’s economy and cultural life, and goes against Illinois’ position as a leader in immigrant integration.” Another key legislative Caucus initiative, the Latino Family Commission was not funded in the FY17 budget.

“We need to take a balanced approach that looks at cuts and new revenue, but that also takes a long range approach and shares in the responsibility and accountability for state spending. Latinos are too important for the future of Illinois to be left behind,” said State Senator and Caucus Co-Chair Iris Y. Martinez. “We need to be front and center, and state investments must be focused on this young and vibrant community. Ensuring an equitable investment in the Latino community is the main goal of the Legislative Latino Caucus.”

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