Rauner forms ‘Children’s Cabinet’ to streamline youth, education services

SHARE Rauner forms ‘Children’s Cabinet’ to streamline youth, education services
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Beth Purvis, Illinois State Secretary of Education, smiles as Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner visits with students at Riverton Middle School before signing an executive order creating the governor’s Cabinet on Children and Youth on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in downstate Riverton. | Seth Perlman/AP

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday announced a newly created “Children’s Cabinet” designed to improve the welfare of Illinois children.

During a stop at a school just outside Springfield on Thursday, Rauner signed an executive order creating the “Governor’s Cabinet on Youth and Children,” tasked with streamlining education and other state services for young people, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

The roster of 19 cabinet members includes the directors of the governor’s Office of Management and Budget, Secretary of Education Beth Purvis, and the heads of state boards and agencies ranging from the Department of Employment Security to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

“The Governor’s Cabinet on Children and Youth is systematically addressing the fragmented system that currently exists in Illinois,” Purvis said in a press release. “Governor Rauner’s new structure will support and integrate the state’s priorities and initiatives more effectively to identify and address any agency collaboration barriers so we can more thoughtfully and aggressively improve the future for our children.”

Rauner’s office did not respond to questions from the Chicago Sun-Times asking what the cabinet’s priorities would be or how often it would meet. The press release listed goals including “creating a strategic vision” and “reducing bureaucracy.”

Illinois is the 18th state to assemble a similar panel since the mid-1990s, said Elizabeth Gaines, a policy expert for the Forum for Youth Investment, a Washington D.C. not-for-profit that maintains a nationwide network of children’s cabinets and has had “a couple of conversations” with Rauner’s office.

Typically, youth services are provided by multiple state agencies whose spending and administration are “siloed,” Gaines said, and they seldom communicate about areas where their duties or programs overlap — or about gaps in services, Gaines said.

“When you’re looking across 16 departments and 240 budget lines, it can be difficult to make sense of programs that are out there,” Gaines said Thursday.

Cabinets require additional staff to facilitate continuing collaboration among state agencies, but the number of dedicated staff varies by state as well, Gaines said, noting that Maryland’s cabinet has around 20 staffers, while other states might employ one person.

State Rep. Laura Fine, D-Glenview, formed a legislative committee on Youth & Young Adults, and said she has not been contacted by the Republican governor. But she supports having a unified agenda for youth services across state agencies.

“It would be great if all agencies would be on the same page when it comes to particular issues,” Fine said.

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