Sad child 350SPRINGFIELD – Illinois’ primary child welfare agency is failing families in rural and downstate Illinois, State Senator Andy Manar said Tuesday.

“There is a void in services in parts of the state where child abuse is through the roof,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who chairs one of the Senate’s two budget committees. “I believe DCFS is completely ill-equipped to handle what’s happening in the rural parts of Illinois.”

Manar’s district includes rural communities where residents sometimes step in to help children in crisis because DCFS is unresponsive or services are unavailable, and large communities like Decatur, where in February 2-year-old Ta’Naja Barnes died from starvation, freezing and neglect by her mother and mother's boyfriend.

During a budget hearing Tuesday, Manar decried the absence of children’s advocacy centers and other resources in every county of Illinois, even as there has been an increase in hotline calls and abuse investigations by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

According to DCFS data, 39 accredited children’s advocacy centers serve 95 of Illinois’ 102 counties. For example, one center in Macoupin County serves families in Macoupin, Montgomery, Greene, Jersey and Calhoun counties.

Manar asked DCFS officials for more detailed information about the number and location of calls to the DCFS child abuse hotline, locations where abuse investigators work and more. He criticized DCFS for failing to make a sufficient budget request for the upcoming fiscal year that would allow it to properly serve the children and families of Illinois.

“I think we can all agree there’s a crisis on our hands when it comes to many aspects of what DCFS is charged with doing. We recite the names of dead children in this hearing once a year,” Manar said. “I want to know how much it’s going to take the department to do the job that it’s tasked with doing. If it’s a big number, it’s a big number.”

03122019 Manar 350SPRINGFIELD – Aspiring educators no longer would be required to pass a basic skills test and student teachers could receive a paycheck under State Senator Andy Manar’s latest plan to address Illinois’ teacher shortage crisis.

In addition, the proposal would reinstate the 6 percent cap for teacher salary increases to be covered by the state. Last year, lawmakers lowered the cap to 3 percent.

Manar’s measure (Senate Bill 1952) was approved by the members of Senate Education Committee Tuesday. It received bipartisan support and has bipartisan sponsorship in the Senate.

“These are three things I hear in almost complete unison from teachers across the state – in both rural and large school districts – that in various ways impact the profession and the ability to recruit and retain qualified teachers,” Manar (D-Bunker Hill) said.

Three solutions are outlined the proposal:

  • Passing a basic skills test would no longer be a requirement to be a teacher. Research shows the test is a barrier to many qualified would-be teachers receiving their Professional Educator License in Illinois.
  • Removes the prohibition on student teachers being paid for their work. The plan would allow school districts, higher education, foundations and others to work together to solve local teacher shortages.
  • Reinstates the 6 percent cap for salary increases for teachers to be covered by the Teachers Retirement System. Last year lawmakers lowered the cap to 3 percent.

“The salary cap is something I hear about regularly from constituents who work in education. It poses a challenge for recruiting and retaining qualified teachers, and it creates unnecessary competition among school districts that are vying for the same teaching candidates,” Manar said. “We have to tear down barriers to putting teachers in classrooms, not create new ones.”

Last year, Manar passed a different set of measures to address the teacher shortage crisis, including slashing red tape to encourage educators outside of Illinois to apply for hard-to-fill jobs here, creating a short-term substitute teaching license and allowing downstate retired teachers to substitute in classrooms without jeopardizing their retirement benefits. The packaged was signed into law in June.

03192019 Tville FFA 1 650

SPRINGFIELD – The Taylorville FFA students who are Scotland-bound after acing a national competition this winter are a shining example of what comes from investing in agriculture education in Illinois schools, State Senator Andy Manar said today.

The five students who comprise the Taylorville FFA Livestock Judging Team won the National Western Roundup in Denver in January. Their victory earned them a trip to Scotland for the international livestock tour this summer, during which they will have a chance to compete again and judge breeds that are less familiar to them.

The students joined Manar and Illinois Department of Agriculture Director John Sullivan in Springfield today, which is Agricultural Legislative Day at the Capitol. The team includes Layne Lebshier, Tanner Mickey, Eric Schafer and Jett Vickery, all of whom are juniors, and alternate Lizzie Schafer, who is a freshman.

For the competition in Denver, students had to evaluate 12 classes of livestock – such as cattle, sheep, swine and goats – by ranking the animals, making cuts and offering successive reasons to an official for why they ranked them the way they did. The competition is intense and requires a depth of knowledge about livestock, as well as skills in reasoning, problem solving, preparation, public speaking and thinking on their feet.

“Agriculture opens all kinds of doors. It opens doors to leadership, to new career paths and to the world. These students are evidence of that. This is why it’s vital that we continue to invest in ag education in Illinois schools,” Manar said. “Because of their efforts and the support of Taylorville High School, these students will enjoy an international perspective on agriculture that few high school students get to experience.”



Sullivan said he is proud of the students and their achievements.

“The accomplishments of these students are amazing. Each has demonstrated an extraordinary understanding of agriculture and the livestock industry and highlights the importance of ag education,” he said. “The skills learned – hard work, communicating as a team and understanding the ever-changing consumer demands – will provide each of them a career path to success in the ag industry.”



The students offered their insight into the experience and what it took to get there.

“After many months of practice we were able to achieve great things in Denver,” Tanner Mickey said. “I feel like what allowed us such great success was the many months of preparation we had in the classroom with the help from our advisers Sue Schafer and Katie King.”

Lizzie Schafer said she is looking forward to the trip to Scotland.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” she said. “We will be able to see agriculture in a different country and have the chance to learn about different farming practices that effect global markets.”



Jett Vickery said the agriculture program at his school was instrumental in the team’s success.

“Coming from a non-livestock background, it means a lot that I was able to make it this far,” he said. “I believe that it was all possible from the agriculture program at Taylorville High School.”

03132019 Manar Dutuit 650

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) welcomed Pana High School senior Lucas Duduit to the Capitol this week as part of his Future Leaders program.

Duduit, 18, is active in the school’s solar car program and is on the cross country team. He also plays piano at his church. He plans to study electrical engineering at college after he graduates in May. His parents are Stacy and Amanda Duduit of Pana.

During Lucas Duduit’s visit Wednesday, he toured the Capitol, attended a Senate budget hearing and other meetings with Manar, attended a rally featuring hundreds of independent pharmacists from central Illinois and elsewhere in the state, and accompanied Manar onto the Senate floor where he watched lawmakers debate and vote on legislation.


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