WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Derek Cantù

Derek Cantù is NPR Illinois' graduate student Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2021 legislative session. 

 

Derek earned a B.S. in History and Secondary Education from Bradley University and an M.S. in Curriculum & Instruction from Kansas State University.

 

Derek has previous experience working as a James H. Dunn fellow (education policy analyst), a high school social studies teacher, and a Fulbright fellow in the Slovak Republic. 

Gov. JB Pritzker on Thursday signed Illinois’ new budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 after Democrats in the General Assembly this week approved fixes to huge errors in the law that would have prevented the state from spending billions of dollars until June of next year.

Illinois is launching a $1.5 billion federally funded housing assistance program for Illinoisians hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Illinoisans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear face masks in most circumstances, Gov. JB Pritzker said Monday.

Pritzker’s announcement follows updated guidelines released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

Illinois has reduced its bill backlog to just under $4 billion — a far cry from the nearly $17 billion high seen just after the state’s two-year budget impasse presided over by former Gov. Bruce Rauner.

But the state’s top financial officer, Comptroller Susana Mendoza, said now is not the time to become complacent.

More than half of Illinois’ largest cities have severely underfunded pension funds, according to a new report from libertarian-leaning group Wirepoints.

Black and Brown Illinoisans in long-term care facilities died of COVID-19 at comparatively higher rates compared to white Illinoisans in the first few months of the pandemic.

Americans have responded to drug addiction in a number of different ways in recent decades. The War on Drugs of the 1980s and 90s spawned mass incarceration of Black and Brown populations. Some addicts, many of whom have some measure of wealth and privilege, are sent to rehab.

WOSU Public Media / flickr

A number of universities in Illinois didn't require standardized test scores when students applied for the upcoming fall semester, given the disruption COVID-19 had on high schools. One state lawmaker is looking to extend this policy indefinitely for all public universities throughout the state.

Elmhurst resident Nicole Virgil got into home gardening after researching the industrial food process and watching documentaries like “Food Inc.”

But after she and her husband set up a homemade hoop house in her backyard to protect her vegetable garden during the winter, she received multiple citations from the city for violating local building codes.

Some Democratic Illinois lawmakers want to adopt more comprehensive sex education standards for K-12 schools to ensure students have a firm understanding of the importance of consent, the consequences of sharing underage sexually explicit material, and knowing when an action is considered sexual abuse.

Illinois has long held the record for the most units of local government in any state — 8,923 local taxing bodies to be exact, according to a recent report by the Chicago-based Civic Federation.

For the second year in a row, the Illinois State Board of Education is seeking a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education for standardized tests normally given during schools’ spring semester.

Hannah Meisel

Democratic lawmakers in Illinois are again re-introducing the so-called Clean Energy Jobs Act, renewing the effort for comprehensive legislation to address both climate change and expanding the state's renewable energy industry.

Republican state lawmakers — who are in the super-minority in the state legislature —introduced a package of election-focused bills aimed at making it easier for citizens to be involved in revising the state’s constitution, repealing legislation, and removing public officials from office.

The Illinois General Assembly passed an expansive criminal justice bill on the last day of the lame-duck session, which, among other changes, would end the use of cash bail and impose new certification requirements for police officers. The measure was a part of a slate of bills spearheaded by the Legislative Black Caucus.

Illinois lawmakers spent much of their weekend session debating criminal justice reform bills.

The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus is using the lame-duck session to address a range of social equity issues, from healthcare to education to criminal justice.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is teaming up with the FBI to investigate a spate of fraudulent unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  

GOP lawmakers are again demanding answers from Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Employment Securities over the state’s processing of unemployment benefits. 

  Illinois House Republicans say they’re still waiting on Gov. JB Pritzker to propose specific spending cuts to the state’s current year state budget, which is $4 billion out of balance.