Representative Dan Swanson’s February 2 Capitol News Update


  • ISBE adopts literacy plan
  • Grants to colleges and universities
  • Unemployment up slightly
  • Legislature back in Springfield next week

State Board of Education adopts literacy plan

Last spring I joined members of the Literacy Improves Future Endeavors (LIFE) task force in promoting a number of recommendations for policies to help our schools teach young kids how to read. Reading opens countless doors to students and brightens lives. Readers make Leaders!

But many Illinois students continue to face challenges when learning to read. Reading proficiency scores from standardized tests taken by nearly all Illinois students continue to lag and the state needs to do more to help. I supported Senate Bill 2243, which directed the State Board of Education (ISBE) to adopt guidelines for local school districts to evaluate and adopt concerning evidence-based core reading instruction programs. The legislation, signed into law last summer, includes a focus on at-risk children who sometimes get left behind. We want to see comprehensive Illinois literacy.

Last week ISBE announced its literacy plan, a 190-page program to move toward evidence-based reading instruction. It focuses on seven different aspects of literacy instruction, including phonics, comprehension and writing. The plan follows the legislature’s guidelines, but does not impose a mandate on local school districts, who will have choice when it comes to curricular modules. Find out more about the new plan here.

Board of Higher Education distributes grants to Illinois colleges and universities

There was also good news for higher education this week as the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) distributed $400 million in capital grants to independent colleges and universities throughout the state, including some in our area. In all, 45 Illinois colleges and universities were awarded grants for construction, repair and renovation of campus infrastructure. Funding for the grants comes from a variety of sources, including taxes on casinos, video gaming and sports betting.

Funds were distributed according to a two-part formula based on student enrollment numbers reported to IBHE. The largest grants went to Northwestern University and DePaul University. In our area, Bradley University in Peoria topped the list of downstate recipients, while other area schools receiving grants included Augustana College, Knox College and Monmouth College.

Unemployment up slightly in Illinois

The unemployment rate in Illinois ticked up slightly at the end of 2023, going from 4.7% in November to 4.8% in December. Illinois unemployment remains higher than the national average, which was 3.7% in December. Our state also remained behind our neighbors who posted lower unemployment rates. During December unemployment in Iowa was 3.2%, Wisconsin 3.3%, Indiana 3.6% and Missouri 3.3%.

The Illinois numbers were released by the Department of Employment Security.

The “Trade, Transportation and Utilities” sector of the economy was hardest hit, losing 4900 jobs in December. In all, 310,200 Illinoisans were considered unemployed in December, meaning they were without a job but were actively looking for work. The highest regional unemployment numbers were found in Rockford and Kankakee (5.9% each).

Legislature back in Springfield next week

The House and Senate will return to Springfield on Tuesday for three scheduled session days. It is expected to be a light session week as bills are still being introduced ahead of next Friday’s deadline. Most of February and March will be taken up by committee action before bills start emerging onto the House floor for votes on final passage.

You can monitor the action live on the Illinois General Assembly website at

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