Girls going back to Chicago schools this fall are not receiving the opportunities they need to succeed. Given Chicago Public Schools budget cuts, girls will see less extracurricular activities that get them active, build leadership skills and grow their self-esteem.

At a time when 81 percent of voters believe preparing girls for leadership roles should be a national priority, we should be encouraging them to get involved, not slashing their programs.

Doing so not only removes the opportunity to participate, but sends an implicit message to girls that their sports, their opportunities to play, to be healthy and grow into leaders are valuable to us as a greater community.

Here are three ways you can encourage girls to be leaders this fall:

  1. Find girl-only spaces where she isn’t afraid to use her voice and explore her strengths. It is proven that girl-only learning experiences can broaden career choices down the road.
  2. Encourage her to be active, by joining a sports team or going to classes at a local YMCA. Being active helps adolescent girls’ mental health and increases their life satisfaction.
  3. Listen to what she has to say. Teaching girls their voices are valuable is the first step to them having the self-esteem to speak in front of a group. When we listen to girls and prioritize their programs, we demonstrate that we believe in the power of girls.

Don’t let more girls fall behind this year due to budget cuts. Encourage a girl in your life to be strong, to use her voice and to join a team that values her contributions.

SommerAnn McCullough
Marketing & Communications Coordinator
Girls in the Game
Chicago

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A cheer for making the vote accessible

I am very pleased that Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) has finally come to Illinois, making us the 10th state in the nation with AVR. For years I have called for a voter registration renaissance in Illinois, and AVR is the natural conclusion to that renaissance. AVR makes voter registration and voting easier, and Illinois is now one of a small group of states leading the way in voter rights and voter registration accessibility.

This bill passed with unanimous bipartisan support because it is a good government bill that makes our voter rolls cleaner and more inclusive, streamlines the process of voter registration, cuts costs associated with paper-based voter registration, and is a natural registration fraud fighter.

Illinois is overdue for a cleaning of its voter rolls. Hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans remain registered at addresses where they don’t live, and we can do that cleaning quite simply and quite easily with AVR. Implementation of the registration component of AVR will have to wait until 2018, however — an unnecessary delay, but better than Gov. Bruce Rauner’s earlier demand that AVR wait until after the gubernatorial election.

This could have happened sooner. The state legislature sent Gov. Rauner a bipartisan AVR bill last year, which the governor vetoed, citing, among other things, an unfounded concern it would open the door to voter registration fraud. The bill’s sponsors and supporters went back to work, addressed the governor’s concerns, got input from lawmakers who had opposed the bill, and made significant changes to it. Their efforts earned SB 1933 its unanimous support this spring and the governor’s signature today.

Perhaps the true unsung heroes of this AVR push are our citizen action groups led by the Just Democracy coalition. Without them, this may not have been possible.

David Orr, Cook County Clerk

Billionaires earned their bucks

So a reader thinks that billionaire politicians should donate a dollar for every dollar spent on their campaigns toward the deficit. I’m curious how much that reader would like being told by somebody else how to spend  his money. Some advice to all Americans: Being envious of rich people doesn’t mean that you get to tell them what to do with the money they’ve earned. That money is theirs. Spending your own money is different than spending the taxpayers money. Wake up, people, this is one example of why people around the world think Americans have no common sense.

Mike Viola, Bartlett

Blame parents, not sugar

While the premise of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ad regarding the adverse affects of sugar on children is spot on, the fact that Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle uses it as an excuse to increase taxes instead of getting rid of excessive expenditures is ludicrous. I noticed in the ad that the children all seem to be of an age when their parents should be overseeing their intake of sugary foods (not just drinks) and taking responsibility for their children’s health and attitudes toward eating healthy.  Instead of taxing the public, Preckwinkle  should be pushing parental responsibility.

Janet Lumm, Schaumburg

Some parents are paying twice

As far as I am concerned, private school vouchers are just payback to all those parents, such as myself, who put their children through private schools while also paying for public education through property taxes. Quit whining out there.

Mike Rice  Jefferson Park

Ameren deal good for regular folks

Regarding your editorial: “Don’t let Energy Company short-circuit Illinois law,” let me suggest a more appropriate headline – “Don’t let special interest groups short-circuit customers of limited means.”

For far too long we in minority and economically disadvantaged communities have been told by special interest groups, “sorry, not now” or “maybe next time,” leading to underinvestment in high-potential but struggling areas of our state. We have heard this while these dollars have been redirected to what some see as more worthy causes.

For even a moment, did the Sun-Times editors allow themselves to consider that the utility might actually be the good guy in this fight? Did they consider the challenges faced everyday by working families and what the provisions in the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) allow Ameren Illinois to provide? Did they even read the Ameren Illinois proposal?

We have read it, and here’s what we know: If you’re an elderly woman, disabled man, or member of a hardworking family of four in central and southern Illinois, you need the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to approve the Ameren Illinois energy efficiency plan. You have been paying to fund energy efficiency programs month after month, year after year for nearly a decade, and you deserve the benefits. The Ameren Illinois plan will open the door for you to receive affordable insulation, home weatherization or heating and cooling assistance. And if you’re a small, local, woman or minority business owner, the Ameren Illinois plan will provide you with an expanded opportunity to compete for utility contracts to deliver energy efficiency services to the people who need them in your communities.

Indeed, in the fight over which approach to energy efficiency is best for consumers, Ameren Illinois is the good guy. Ameren Illinois is asking the ICC to allow it to spend $15 million per year on home weatherization, more than the minimum, to benefit moderate and low income customers. Ameren Illinois is the only party urging the ICC to allow it to spend $2.9 million per year to develop new businesses and create new jobs.

Ameren Illinois is not “selling out” its customers. To the contrary, they are standing up for their customers. They are standing strong against an attack from the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) and the Citizen’s Utility Board (CUB), the supposed consumer advocates who would have the Commission eliminate support for programs that would bring jobs and investment to our communities and lift up moderate-to-low income customers. In proposing to block Ameren Illinois from helping its customers replace failing air conditioners, fix faulty HVAC wiring or add much needed insulation to the home, it’s only fair to ask: Who is really selling out these customers?

As an organization historically committed to advancing opportunity, the Illinois NAACP thinks that the NRDC/CUB agenda is just plain wrong and would have a disturbing impact on the ability of communities of color to participate in energy efficiency programs in a meaningful way.

Anyone who cares about working families should join the NAACP to denounce the NRDC and CUB proposal and support the Ameren Illinois energy efficiency plan. Please contact the Illinois Commerce Commission today and make sure your voice is heard.

Teresa Haley

State President
NAACP State Conference