Illinois’ lack of family values

Editorial - August 2005


The Illinois Legislature passed a bill this session that gives workers at companies with more than 15 employees up to 24 hours off each year—with pay—to donate blood. Yet, it failed to pass a bill that would give parents who work at companies with more than 50 employees up to 24 hours off each year—without pay—to attend conferences or activities at their children’s schools.

The sponsor of the bill, State Rep. William Delgado (D-Chicago), says the bill fell through the cracks. He promises to pass it in the fall veto session, which begins Oct. 25.

Does this make any sense? Do we even have to think about whether we should give parents 24 hours a year to invest in our children’s education? Unpaid?! This tells us all we need to know about how families are valued in Illinois.

Yes, we know state government passed a few child-friendly initiatives this session, such as adding $30 million for early childhood education. (See legislative roundup, page 16).

But we parents need all the help we can get to meet our work and family obligations. And there simply isn’t much help out there.

The study “Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Parental Leave Programs,” issued recently by the National Partnership for Women & Families, shows that although we Americans talk a good game about valuing families, we don’t put any muscle behind family policies.

The group rates Illinois a dismal C- for its work and family programs. The only reason the grade is so high (relatively speaking) is because state employees have access to paid parental leave (15 days for women, 10 days for men) and are entitled to up to one year off without pay to care for a newborn.

Still, we’re doing better than most of our neighbors. Wisconsin rated a C and Ohio tied us with a C-. But the rest of our neighbors—Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Missouri—scored even lower. If it weren’t for two federal laws—the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, passed back in 1978, and the Family and Medical Leave Act, passed in 1993—most states wouldn’t be doing anything at all to support working families.

To be fair, Illinois does a little. Although it wasn’t included in the national study, the state has a law giving workers at companies with 50 or more employees up to eight hours off—without pay—each school year to meet with teachers, attend school functions and otherwise support their young scholars. The law has been on the books since 1993. Surprised? You’re not alone. We had never heard of it, either. The law clearly needs a little marketing muscle behind it.

When the eight-hour bill passed, supporters pointed out the value of parental involvement in quality education. If eight hours of parental involvement is good, 24 hours should be three times better. Too bad that bill (SB 006) ended the 2005 legislative session stuck in the House Rules Committee.

Twenty-four hours off to attend school functions certainly doesn’t solve the problem of the lack of paid time off for working parents. But the fact that legislators were not even willing to give that much to working parents sends a really sad message about how little families are valued.


We’re so proud We’re crazy about our talented columnists and we don’t need anyone else to tell us how terrific they are. But it’s always nice to know that others agree with us.

First, Susan Beacham. Illinois State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka has discovered something we at Chicago Parent have known for a long time: Susan is a woman who makes a difference. Our “Healthy Finances” columnist was one of 15 honorees at Topinka’s annual Woman to Woman: Making a Difference awards.

The awards go to women who have empowered others. We know that Beacham’s advice to parents on raising financially savvy kids fits that definition. She founded her company, Money Savvy Generation, after she volunteered to teach financial literacy in her daughters’ school and found that the educational materials were inadequate and uninspired.

Then, Fred Koch. Our favorite children’s music critic, who also happens to be a talented children’s entertainer, has been tapped to sing the National Anthem for the Carson & Barnes Circus in Skokie. He’ll be joined by a very special guest star, his son, Matthew, 9.

Congratulations, Susan and Fred. We’re glad you’re part of our Chicago Parent family.

Kids Eat Chicago

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