TeacherAidSPRINGFIELD – Paraprofessionals in schools help provide students with one-on-one or small group assistance and support teachers in the classroom. Thanks to a new law sponsored by State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago), more paraprofessionals will be able to get into classrooms earlier.

“With more than 2,000 unfilled teacher aid and paraprofessional positions, it’s critical we open the door to this profession to as many qualified candidates as possible,” Pacione-Zayas said. “By lowering the required age for this profession in some classrooms, we can help students get the individualized assistance they may need.”

The new law, formerly known as Senate Bill 3988, lowers the age for paraprofessionals in Pre-K through eighth grade classrooms to 18 years old. People applying for these positions must still meet all other qualifications, including education requirements and passing a paraprofessional competency test. 

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, the number of unfilled paraprofessional positions in school districts across the state nearly doubled from 2021 to 2022. There were 1,237 unfilled positions last year compared to 2,397 this year, making this legislation more important than ever.

“The majority of schools are reporting a lack of qualified applicants as the primary cause for these vacancies,” Pacione-Zayas said. “Allowing more people to apply for these positions will inevitably lead to more qualified candidates, which is vital to getting paraprofessionals into classrooms.”

The new law was signed Wednesday, and it goes into effect immediately.

Category: Press Releases

EOS Quote CPZ 002

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2023 budget and a new tax benefit plan which will help families and their children as well as communities as the state continues to gain more stable financial footing. State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago) supported the budget and plan during Saturday’s vote. 

“These past few months as budget discussions were underway, I heard from constituents looking to stabilize their households,” Pacione-Zayas said. “After a year of our state getting on a path of stronger fiscal footing, I am pleased to see the important investments under this budget.”

The tax relief plan responds to the call to permanently expand the Earned Income Tax Credit from 18% to 20% and expands accessibility to taxpayers 18-24 years of age, 65 and older, and taxpayers who use an individual taxpayer identification number. It also includes a property tax refund up to $300, funding for a one-time direct tax refund check to more than 95% of Illinois taxpayers, pauses the 1% sales tax on groceries and includes a sales tax pause on back-to-school supplies from Aug. 5 to Aug. 14 to provide some relief across Illinois households.

Pacione-Zayas, a strong advocate for early childhood education, is also pleased to see that the budget includes more than $592 million going toward that sector. It restores funding for Early Intervention for children with developmental delays and disabilities and increases funding for home visiting. Additionally, it includes an additional $350 million to fund K-12 student success through the evidence based funding model.

“Ongoing stresses of the pandemic have highlighted the need for strong community investment,” Pacione-Zayas said. “Violence prevention starts at the hyperlocal level, and investing money into early childhood education, after school programs and higher education assistance will help address root causes of violence while improving health and educational outcomes for our children.”

Pacione-Zayas is also proud to see millions of dollars for seed deposits for Child Savings Account to help families establish college savings for their children.

The budget also includes funding for programs like Teen REACH After School program, the Child Care Assistance Program, Redeploy Illinois, Monetary Award Program grants and more. 

The budget passed the Senate Saturday, and if signed by the governor, will go into effect on July 1.

Category: Press Releases

031022CM0382SPRINGFIELD – People reentering society after being released from the Illinois Department of Corrections facilities should have access to documents regarding their time committed. State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago) championed legislation to allow incarcerated individuals to request a summary of their master record.

“People should have the right to double-check their file for false or misleading information, especially if an individual is applying for clemency or other legal remedies,” said Pacione-Zayas. “As Illinois continues to commit itself to a focus on restorative justice, making sure people have the resources they need to reflect and rehabilitate is vital.”

House Bill 4559 would allow people committed to IDOC facilities to request one summary of their master record file a year. It would also allow a committed person’s attorney an additional request of the summary of the master file annually.

The summary must be made available within 15 days of the request and must include the person’s name and identifying information, all digitally available information from the committing court, information on the person’s criminal history and more. Additionally, the committed person can request available records on specific disciplinary incidents and grievances filed by them throughout their time committed.

"Incarcerated people deserve basic access to the records of their stay in prison," said State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), House sponsor of the legislation. "This bill will help people prepare legal arguments, write resumes, and return home ready to contribute to their communities."

HB 4559 passed the Senate Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk. 

Category: Press Releases

polish2SPRINGFIELD – A measure spearheaded by State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago) to designate Milwaukee Avenue from Sangamon Street in Chicago to Greenwood Road in Niles as the Milwaukee Avenue Polish Heritage Corridor passed the Senate Thursday.

“The impact of Polish culture on Chicago is undeniable, from their influence on the arts and food to the economic strength of neighborhoods throughout the city,” Pacione-Zayas said. “Recognizing and empowering their unique cultural identity through this designation is paramount to strengthening the Polish community connection in Illinois.”

Under House Bill 5581, a section of Milwaukee Avenue will be recognized under the Illinois Department of Transportation as the Milwaukee Avenue Polish Heritage Corridor.

Last year, Sen. Pacione-Zayas, along with House Assistant Majority Leader Delia Ramirez (D-Chicago) passed a law that allows the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to designate cultural districts to help affirm the identity of communities in Illinois. HB 5581 provides a stepping stone for this community to be designated in this way.

"We commend Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas and Leader Delia Ramirez for their efforts as sponsors of HB 5581 to designate and establish the Milwaukee Ave Polish Heritage Corridor,” said Bogdan Pukszta, Executive Director of the Polish American Chamber of Commerce, which resides in the district Pacione-Zayas represents. “From our Chamber's perspective the designation will help promote existing businesses along the corridor, attract new businesses to fill empty storefronts, and position Milwaukee Avenue on the map of Chicago's tourist attractions."

HB 5581 passed the Senate Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk.

Category: Press Releases

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