consortiumSPRINGFIELD - Students in Macoupin County will have access to new tech education equipment and training facilities with the help of a recently delivered $2 million state grant advocated by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) intended to support capital improvements and much-needed equipment upgrades for the Southern Macoupin Consortium for Innovation and Career Pathways.

Formed in 2019 to serve students without access to vocational education training, the consortium allows six Macoupin County school districts to share facilities and resources for their respective career and technical education programs to offer students new opportunities.

“Tech education is vital to the economic future of our community,” said Manar, who secured the grant as a lead negotiator of the state’s bipartisan budget. “I’m pleased that the state is doing its part to ensure Macoupin County students have access to the high-quality vocational training and equipment that is relevant to today’s industries.”

The grant money was delivered in December and divided among the six schools based on enrollment: Bunker Hill, Carlinville, Gillespie, Mt. Olive, Staunton and Southwestern.



Grant dollars

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Over the next few months, districts will purchase equipment and make significant facility upgrades in order to expand and improve career and tech education programs. Examples include virtual welders, vinyl printers, z-space equipment for auto mechanics and industrial arts, electrical upgrades to the facility, metals machines, equipment to offer digital communication classes, additions to vocational buildings for more classroom space, ventilation to expand welding and food science courses, glow forge and drafting computers.

In addition, the schools are looking at purchasing distance learning equipment to be able to broadcast courses to other classrooms.

“Many of our CTE spaces are outdated and original to the buildings. Ventilation, electrical upgrades, and expansion are essential,” Carlinville School District Superintendent Becky Schuchman said. “We believe the grant will allow not only the schools to work toward more workforce development but also allow our rural communities to grow and attract industry.”

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SPRINGFIELD - State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) today welcomed 37 young women from Sherrod’s Independent Mentoring Program, Inc., or SIMP, which provides mentorship, academic advising, and empowerment seminars to public school students in Decatur.

“Today was about history, progression, and women’s empowerment,” said Dr. Jarmese Sherrod, a media and journalism professor at Richland Community College, who started the program in 2002. “We want these young women to know they have the power and strength to achieve whatever it is they want for their future as long as they put their minds to it.”

The group from Decatur included students from Alternative Education Programs at Harris School, Futures Unlimited School and Baby TALK Foundation.

“Dr. Sherrod does a tremendous job of helping them develop the skills and confidence they need to succeed. When they visit Springfield, it should be more than a tour of the Capitol and a lesson on the legislative process,” Manar said. “The most important message I can convey to these students is that despite whatever obstacles they face, the halls of power are not inaccessible to them or their future.”

The visit was part of SIMP’s Empowerment Day and included a tour of the Old State Capitol and the current Capitol complex, and a group discussion on the Senate floor in which Manar encouraged the girls to view themselves as future decision-makers.

“Dr. Sherrod has impacted my life a lot. She changed my perspective on how I should treat myself and others,” said Shatavia Jenkins, a recent SIMP Scholar of the Month. “I see myself as a leader now. A lot of people look up to me and I enjoy helping keep girls on track.”

childcare announcement

CHICAGO – Child-care providers in certain downstate Illinois counties will see their reimbursement rates increase by 20% under the Child Care Assistance Program, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced this week.

In order to address Illinois’ early childhood workforce crisis, child care reimbursement base rates for all child-care centers and home-based providers are increasing by 5% statewide, with an additional 15% increase for providers in counties that are categorized as predominately rural, including Macon County.

State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) said the move will improve access to child-care in Central and Southern Illinois communities and boost wages of child-care workers.

“I commend Governor Pritzker for working with downstate legislators on a bipartisan budget that prioritized Illinois’ child-care woes. These rate increases are much-needed, especially in underserved communities,” said Manar, a lead budget negotiator in the Illinois Senate.

Counties in Manar’s district that will see a 20% increase include Montgomery, Macoupin, Macon, Christian.

Madison and Sangamon Counties are among those that will see a 5% increase.

The state will invest another $3 million to expand access to training and education opportunities for child-care workers.

“These investments will provide relief to child-care centers that are struggling to keep their doors open and is a step toward ensuring every working family, no matter your ZIP code or economic status, has access to high-quality child care,” Manar said.

It was also announced this week that Manar will serve as co-chair of the Illinois Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding, which will make recommendations on how to fund equitable access to high-quality early childhood education and care services for all children birth to age 5.

pana lakeSPRINGFIELD – Legislation sponsored by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) to allow the city of Pana to move forward with a plan to develop 140 acres of dormant land around Pana Lake was signed into law this week by Governor JB Pritzker. The legislation was brought to Senator Manar by Pana Mayor Don Kroski.

“This is very exciting for everyone involved in the planning of the Pana Lake development. This allows us to develop hiking trails, camp sites and other recreational amenities. We’re grateful to Senator Manar for his effort in removing this barrier,” said Pana City Engineer Greg Holthaus on behalf of Mayor Don Kroski.

Senate Bill 1597 authorizes the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to relinquish the state’s contractual right to manage and develop the Pana Lake dam and the land surrounding it.

“It’s important that local leaders be in the driver’s seat and have a say regarding land that lies within their boundaries,” said Manar. “Transferring this land from state ownership will provide Pana with the authority to most effectively use the land to benefit its residents and the region. I appreciate Mayor Kroski reaching out to me about this important issue and I am pleased that we were finally able to get it resolved.”

The contract was originally created as an agreement between the city and the now-defunct Department of Conservation in 1949. The state intended to develop the land for recreational use, but never did so.

SB 1597 will go into effect immediately.


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