School time is getting here quick and summer is getting close to being over. Last Friday the Vermilion County Regional Office of Education held its annual breakfast. It was a great opportunity to meet with and network among all the school administrators in the County. One of my top priorities as a legislator has been and will continue to be education. The breakfast was a great chance to visit with the people who run our education system in Vermilion County and to gain a better understanding of the immense challenges they face as they head into the new school year.
The message was clear. Everyone was grateful for the prioritization on education funding. However, the greatest challenge for all these districts is the teacher shortage. It wasn’t lost on me that this subject is something the General Assembly will continuously need to address. This past session, I supported legislation to help alleviate the teacher shortage.
Tuesday evening, I attended the annual dinner at the Edgar Fellows Program. The Edgar Fellows is a week long program, created by former Governor Jim Edgar, for elected, business, and non-profit leaders in the State. It is an intense program filled with top-notch speakers in government and the private sector focusing on working with others from different backgrounds or political affiliations to solve problems.
I was fortunate to have the honor of being an Edgar Fellow in 2013. The dinner is an annual event that occurs during the program where former fellows can come and meet the new class and visit with other former fellows. I was happy to see several good friends and former fellows at the dinner, my predecessor Rep. Chad Hays, the Vermilion County State’s Attorney Jacqueline Lacy, Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen, and Champaign County Circuit Clerk Katie Blakeman, among many others. Many colleagues were picked as fellows this year. On the Republican side it was great to see Rep. Jeff Keicher, Rep. Patrick Windhorst, and Rep. Tony McCombie. Being an Edgar Fellow was an honor and I enjoyed being a part of a wonderful event on Tuesday evening.
Wednesday was a busy day. I visited Fair Hope Children’s Ministries in Danville. Fair Hope is a wonderful organization, funded almost completely with private donations from the community. They provide clothing for low income kids in the community. They are currently located in a house on May Street but have outgrown the location. They have acquired a new location that people from Danville would recognize, the old George’s Buffett out on East Voorhees St. The new facility needs a great deal of work and they are currently looking to raise funds to fix the place up. They are doing great work. Look them up on Facebook and take a look.
After Fair Hope, I was honored to be included in a panel on Affordable Housing, hosted by the Housing Authority of Champaign County. My presentation focused on the success stories of the tax credit program that has been used affectively to provide affordable housing options, clean up blight and improve public safety, and spur economic development. It was also a great opportunity to hear other perspectives from several other panelist, like Congressman Rodney Davis and my colleague Rep. Carol Ammons. This is an important issue and I greatly appreciate HACC Director David Northern bringing this diverse group of people to the table to start the conversation about finding solutions and I thank him for including me in it.
It has been another good week. One great thing about my job is the range of topics I get involved in. It is an excellent learning experience for me. I think that is the key to being a good legislator, staying humble, knowing what you don’t know, and being willing to do the research or ask for help to get the facts so you can make a good decision. Learning new things is one of the truly rewarding aspects of my job. I’ll keep working at it and doing my best to learn everything I can so I can make good decisions for you.