|11 11||I Promised and I Delivered for 100,000 Kids |
Date: November 11, 2015
State Representative Ken Dunkin says:
“I promised and I Delivered for 100,000 kids.”
Everybody got what they wanted. I served as a negotiator. Sometimes you have to show independence to get things done in Springfield. I should not be punished for doing my job.
Several weeks ago, I made a promise to my constituents to do everything within my power to reverse Governor Bruce Rauner’s devastating cuts to child care. I promised – and I delivered. And now, 100,000 more kids will have access to child care by the end of the year.
The Child Care Assistance Program was established to help lower-income moms and dads get jobs or stay in school while also trying to care for young children. Working a minimum wage job in Chicago is tough enough without the added burden of child care. Now imagine a single-mom working a minimum wage job and trying to go back to school to unlock the American dream – access to child care becomes the difference between success and failure.
More than five months ago, Gov. Rauner slashed income-eligibility for state-funded child care, claiming the state could no longer afford it without a budget. But that decision denied access to child care for tens of thousands of families in need and stretched day care providers to the verge of collapse.
Coming into November, the child care crisis was approaching a tipping point. If this crisis continued through the end of the year, providers would close their doors. Working moms and dads would be forced to quit their jobs or drop out of school.
For those who don’t know much about me, I grew up in Cabrini-Green surrounded by the cycle of poverty and violence created by Chicago’s de facto segregation. My life is a testament to what it takes to break out of that cycle and succeed – and I dedicate my public service to helping others do the same.
That’s why I made a promise to fight Gov. Rauner’s child care cuts. That’s why I spent countless hours on calls and meetings with the Governor and his administration to demand these cuts be rolled back. And that’s why I delivered for my constituents and reversed these cuts.
At my request, the Rauner administration entered into negotiations with legislators from the Illinois House and Senate to find a way to restore child care income-eligibility for 100,000 kids. And at my continued insistence, the Governor agreed to reverse course. All he asked was that the General Assembly not take away the administrative flexibility needed to respond to emergencies in the child care program – the same authority given to Governors Edgar, Ryan, Blagojevich and Quinn since 1997.
You read that right. The Governor agreed to let tens of thousands of families back into child care so long as the legislature didn’t pass a bill that took away executive authority to deal with emergencies. Talk about a no-brainer. Several legislators, including the House and Senate bill sponsors, made that deal, assuring the Governor that SB 570, legislation to take away those authorities, would not pass the House or Senate. If it did, the deal was off – and child care income eligibility would crater once again.
Let me be very clear about what would have happened without a deal in place – what would have happened had the House or Senate passed SB 570. Child care income-eligibility would have stayed at 50% of the federal poverty level for at least another 60 days as we waited for the governor to veto the bill. Countless working moms and dads would have quit their jobs and dropped out of school. Countless child care providers would have gone out of business – leaving parents without child care options even if the legislature eventually overrode the
governor’s veto in January. Letting that happen would mean breaking my promise to my constituents.
To be clear: a vote for SB 570, after the deal was struck, was a vote to slash child care and deny access to tens of thousands of families.
Unfortunately, some people in Springfield didn’t want the child care cuts to be reversed so quickly. Those people have a political agenda. And there’s nothing that gets in the way of a political agenda like actually solving problems and helping low-income families. I wasn’t elected to support a political agenda that keeps thousands of kids off the child care rolls – a political agenda that creates pain and suffering for the sake of pain and suffering. I won’t be a part of that.
While some legislators, under intense political pressure, were willing to walk away from our agreement and put child care at risk, I chose to make an immediate difference for my constituents. I chose to stand up for 100,000 kids. I put families first and political agendas last.
The folks who wanted prolonged suffering to help their political agenda won’t be very happy with me. But I don’t work for them. I work for you.
Ken Dunkin is a State Representative representing Illinois’ 5th District in the General Assembly.
# # #