In March, the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill providing enough funding for the current fiscal year shortfall in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and other vital programs in Illinois.

While this signed measure will certainly stave off some tough decisions to child-care providers for a few more months, proposed cuts in the CCAP for the FY16 budget may still jeopardize services for families next year. And the consequences are more severe and far-reaching than perhaps most realize.

CCAP provides low-income, working families with child-care subsidies so they have access to quality, affordable child care while they work. Parents can go to work, and children can prepare for a life of learning.

It is easy to see the penalties these parents and their children incur: parents have nowhere to send their children, parents risk their jobs, and children risk their educational future. But this crisis is not just theirs. It is all of ours. The consequences spread to employers, landlords, local businesses and the nonprofit organizations that serve the most vulnerable in our communities.

James Heckman, Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at The University of Chicago, writes that “investing in early childhood education is a cost effective-strategy — even during a budget crisis.”

An investment in the overall development of at-risk children reduces the need for social services, lowers juvenile criminal costs and increases the self-sufficiency and productivity among families.

There is a point at which continuing to cut funds and be asked to do more with less is no longer feasible. That day is fast approaching and we will all bear the repercussions.

Brenda Swartz, President and CEO
Concordia Place, Chicago

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Shortfalls plagued many during Great Recession

There has been an inordinate amount of criticism leveled against mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for a revenue shortfall in 2008 at Enlace Chicago, the valuable community economic development organization he founded. For the many commentators who seem to have developed collective amnesia, the year 2008 was a dire one. Non-profits around the country suffered from the economic problems generated by the great recession — the worst since the Great Depression. Funders of these programs, public and private alike, cut back on their giving to charitable organizations such as Enlace.

Instead of vilifying Garcia, we should commend him for his integrity and commitment to Chicago neighborhoods and for building an organization that could reorder its priorities and weather an economic storm that some of our most venerable local institutions could not survive intact.

Wendy Siegel, Roscoe Village

Honor religious freedom, boycott places that discriminate

Our forefathers fought for our freedoms, but they must be turning over in their graves now. While protecting the rights of the gay and lesbian community, we are ignoring the religious rights of others. If a business owner, because of religious beliefs, refuses to accommodate a gay or lesbian couple, then boycott that business since favoring one person’s rights over another is never the answer.

In our rush to be politically correct, we are abusing the rights of others. Those of us who are heterosexual but support the gay and lesbian community can best support them by not frequenting those businesses that refuse to serve their needs.

We need to start rethinking the values on which our country was founded and quit trying to make everyone fit one mold, before it’s too late and we are no longer the wonderful democracy our forefathers fought so hard to establish.

Janet Lumm, Schaumburg

10th Ward needs big ideas

On April 2, Mitch Dudek briefly profiled the two candidates for alderman in the 10th Ward. I read the piece from the perspective of someone who, until recently, lived in the ward for 56 years.

I don’t know what was more pathetic, Ald. John Pope’s statement about bringing a bicycle park to the ward as a form of economic development, or Susan Sadlowski Garza’s lament that there was no mom-and-pop coffee shop for the residents. Given that she is the political newcomer, one would think that she would have new ideas to present to the public.

I guess if she’s elected, she’ll work tirelessly to bring that coffee shop to the ward, then she and her staff of “locals with marketing degrees,” can sit down and look at each other over their steaming cups and ask: “What next?”

John Vukmirovich, Hyde Park

Police got it right on Common

I disagree with Mary Mitchell 1000 percent over her column on Common (Rapper Common gets snared in Cuba fugitive fight — April 2).  She trivializes bullying and freedom of speech. Those law enforcement officers successfully exercised their own free-speech rights.

Too many people try to speak for the totality of the black community as though we are some unique monolith. The issue does not underscore the problems between police and the black community. This article and her comments do not speak for me as a black person. Those officers who protested his speaking at that college spoke for me.

Clarence Irby, Ashburn

McDonald’s needs McVeggie meals

McDonald’s needs more customers if they want to provide pay increases for their employees. Millions of vegetarians who abstain from meat for spiritual, animal welfare and environmental reasons would eat at McDonald’s if they served cruelty-free protein entrees. McDonald’s could allure vegetarian consumers if they included savory black bean burgers, soy breakfast patties and veggie chicken nuggets on all their menus nationwide.

Brien Comerford, Glenview