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Letters: Threatening harm to middle-class families is bizarre

Members of the Illinois assembly meet in the House chambers, at the state Capitol Tuesday in Springfield. (AP Photo/Sara Burnett)

Gov. Bruce Rauner is correct when he says he was elected to help fix the state’s financial mess. So, it is somewhat bizarre that, rather than address the state’s financial problems, he spends his time threatening to inflict harm on middle-class families, people who have done nothing to cause the state’s fiscal situation.

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The governor refuses to discuss the state’s multibillion-dollar budget crisis until legislators adopt his unfair and unpopular “agenda,” a major component of which calls for silencing the voice of teachers and other public education employees who advocate for high-quality teaching and learning conditions in our schools. It is a proven bad plan; local governments statewide have debated and rejected it while, in the General Assembly, his agenda failed to receive a single “Yes” vote.

Rauner promised to lead like a pragmatic CEO, but he acts like a dogmatic politician in denial about his agenda. In an effort to bend legislators to his will, he threatens to cut vital programs for our students, slash funding for higher education and gut critical services for working families and the elderly.

Using threats to force a radical agenda on middle-class families, with no regard for the consequences, is the opposite of leadership and totally unacceptable. We urge all legislators to stand with the working families of Illinois and reject the governor’s out-of-touch bullying campaign.

Cinda Klickna, president, Illinois Education Association

Mandate civics education

Months before the last round of presidential primaries, the Chicago Election Board organized the biggest focus group of its kind. At the “Voter Engagement 2012 Community Forum,” more than 120 representatives of civic, neighborhood and business groups and future voters told us how we might change and simplify election administration. Many ideas emerged, like online voter registration and same-day registration. These ideas have gone on to become the law in Illinois.

Forum participants also pointed to one more need — to mandate civics education in our high schools. In civics, students go beyond simply learning the structure of their government. They learn how to get involved.

To be certain, civics education starts at home. The child of a regular voter is most likely to become a regular voter. Yet we have also seen where young adults from non-voting households become motivated and also encourage their their elders to re-engage in our democracy. We’re talking about more than casting ballots on Election Day. Civic engagement means taking a meaningful interest in your local schools, community development, public safety and whatever issues affect our communities.

That is why we commend the lawmakers and many organizations (Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust and Mikva Challenge, to name a few) who are promoting legislation that would require schools to require that civics education be part of the Social Studies courses that are needed to graduate from high school. With more civics instruction, we hope educators have one more chance to encourage more young adults to be “upstanders,” not bystanders, in our society.

Langdon D. Neal, chairman, Marisel A. Hernandez, secretary-commissioner, Chicago Board of Election Commissioners

Verdicts, not justice

“Achieving justice for Freddie Gray” [May 25] continues to use the all too familiar, understandable, but naive rhetoric.

Seeking “justice” is an exercise in futility, for justice is never the result of a trial. The result or outcome of a trial can only be a verdict.

Justice, like beauty, is perceptual and is in the eye of the beholder. What satisfies and relieves one, frustrates and angers another. Regardless, all reasonable thinkers will do well to remember the profound, age-old legal wisdom that “there is no justice, there is just the practice of the law.”

Leon J. Hoffman, Lake View

Object to the waste

Vice President Joe Biden doesn’t need to take Defense Secretary Ash Carter to the warmongers woodshed for his comment that Iraq showed “no will to fight” over their loss of Ramadi to ISIS. What Biden should be complaining about is America’s will go on squandering trillions adding to the hundreds of thousands dead, including 7,000 GIs, in failed Middle East policies while the homeland continues to languish under war-imposed austerity.

America created ISIS, first by our criminal war that smashed Iraq worse than Humpty Dumpty, and then by funneling arms to ragtag terrorist groups we hoped would use them to overthrow hated President Assad of Syrian. They simply said “Thanks, very much Uncle Do-Do Bird. We’ll use them to crate a Caliphate instead.” And in the U.S., everybody loses . . . except the guys making the WMD and the sociopaths who relish endless war.

Walt Zlotow, Glen Ellyn

Give kids some space

I had to stifle a laugh when I read about the Maryland couple who are fighting neglect charges against Child Protective Services because they let their kids walk to and play in a park by themselves. Starting in kindergarten, I used to walk eight blocks to and from school alone, sometimes stopping along the way home to play in a park or a ravine.

“But it’s a different world today,” people will scream. Different in that we feel the need to constantly bubble-wrap our precious young-uns to insulate then from the evils of the world. I never wore a helmet on a bike, I never used hand sanitizer, I played in the dirt, and yes, I walked and played unsupervised. It’s a miracle I am alive today to tell this remarkable story.

Scot Sinclair, Gurnee

Bring back CTA conductors

The rapes and horrible assaults continue on our Red, Blue and Green Line trains. Millions of dollars installing cameras haven’t worked.

We need to have a return of conductors on our trains. It worked for decades, so let’s bring ’em back.

James Russell, Lake View

Housing stability is needed

We would like to thank Gov. Bruce Rauner for his committed support to early childhood. High-quality early childhood programs are proven to produce major gains in school readiness and academic success, and the governor’s FY 16 budget includes a $25 million increase to the state’s Early Childhood Block Grant.

As the operator of an early childhood center for homeless families, the Primo Center sees positive impacts in action, every day. We see how the improved social and educational achievements by their children empower parents on their own paths toward self-sufficiency and strength.

But early childhood services are only part of the picture. Housing stability is key to these families’ long-term future. The Primo Center places 95 percent of our families into housing and ends their homelessness FOR GOOD. Often this is in permanent supportive housing, another evidence-based practice that truly ends homelessness plus achieves a cost savings of up to 73 percent versus keeping a family on the streets. Here the governor’s budget falls short, zeroing out the entire line item for supportive housing.

A lack of housing sentences these families to a life of transience, with education and economic achievement — and even cherished stuffed animals — getting left behind with each move. With over 10,000 units of supportive housing in 28 counties in the state, this is an asset for all of our communities that the governor’s budget devastates. We are proud that Danville will soon be opening the doors on a project for homeless veterans, and supportive services to residents like these could be lost.

We urge the governor to preserve the supportive service line items because they save state resources, including health care costs, save families from the streets, and leverage our precious early childhood investments.

DeeAnn Ryan, child and family advocate, Danville

Nancy Radner, COO, Primo Center for Women and Children, Chicago