Note: Registration is not required to submit a witness slip. However, to keep an online log of the witness slips you've submitted, you must register from the home page by clicking on "My Legislation." The "My Legislation" tab is along the top or on the left side under Reports and Inquiry -- just above GA Dashboard. Registration will also automatically populate many of the fields on each witness slip you submit.
Based on the recommendations of the Illinois Task Force on Civic Education, Representative Deb Conroy introduced two new bills in the Illinois House to strengthen civic education in Illinois on Friday February 27, 2015. When introducing the legislation, Rep. Conroy said: "Many students graduate without even basic knowledge of current events and how to become active members of their communities."
About the Illinois Task Force on Civic Education
View this in an email newsletter format here
Last week, Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) released his draft of a Re-Authorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
Sadly, there is nothing in the Bill for Civics, History, or Social Studies. Your immediate action can help remedy this.
We are proposing that Chairman Alexander and his Committee adopt a provision establishing a competitive grant program for civics that was offered by Sen. Mike Enzi and adopted and passed by the HELP Committee in 2011.
Our U.S. Senators have an opportunity to weigh-in now by contacting Sen. Alexander and ranking Member Patty Murray of the HELP Committee. Let's let them know what we want!
What you can do NOW -- before Feb 2nd
Contact Senator Durbin and Senator Kirk using the sample email text below as a guide. Below are some tips:
Sample email text below -- personalize, cut, and paste
Subject: URGENT ESEA Request
Dear Senator (insert Senator's last name):
As a (choose one: teacher, parent, student, concerned citizen), I am writing to urge you to include competitive grants to support innovative, engaging teaching of Civics and American History in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
As the Senate considers reauthorization of ESEA, please contact Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray to urge that they include the following language, which was originally drafted by Senator Enzi and included in the 2011 Committee-passed bill (with an amendment to add American History, indicated by [...]):
"Insert, in the section on Programs of National significance:
Grants shall be made to support developing, implementing, evaluating, and disseminating for voluntary school use innovative, research-based approaches to civic learning [and American History], which may include hands-on civic engagement activities, for low-income elementary school and secondary school students, that demonstrate innovation, scalability, accountability, and a focus on underserved populations."
Civic learning is vital to our nation's future. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has rightly described a "crisis" in civic learning. Please help fix this crisis by providing a small amount of Federal funding to help each state prepare the next generation to assume their rights and responsibilities as engaged and informed citizens of our Republic.
(Insert your name)
The addendum includes public comments made to the task force at the four meetings held throughout the state as well as written comments. The addendum as well as the final report can be read here: http://www.isbe.net/career/html/CETF.htm
The Illinois Task Force on Civic Education will hold four public hearings throughout the state this fall. They will begin in Chicago on October 13th and conclude in Carbondale a few weeks later on November 6th. The specific dates and venues are identified below. Each hearing is scheduled from 4-6pm.
· Monday, October 13: University of Illinois-Chicago, Student Center East
· Wednesday, October 15: Willowbrook High School, Villa Park
· Tuesday, October 21: Lanphier High School, Springfield
· Thursday, November 6: Carbondale Community High School
See complete addresses for above locations here.
Each public hearing will begin with an overview of the Public Act creating the Task Force and the charges of its membership. A brief presentation of task force findings and recommendations will follow, and the balance of the hearing will be devoted to public comment.
Comments may be submitted via email at CETFR@isbe.net until November 7th. Please provide concise comments and include your first and last name and city as well as your title and affiliation (if applicable). Comments will be published.
Please help spread the word to your contacts in the education world (students teachers, school leaders, and parents), and plan to participate in as many of the hearings as possible.
Guidelines for preparing, writing and giving testimony are available here.
COMMEMORATE CONSTITUTION DAY, CELEBRATE FIRST AMENDMENT FREEDOMS,
AND INSPIRE CIVIC PARTICIPATION
WHAT: CAC Constitution Week Forum, FREE & OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
WHEN: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 7:00 P.M.
WHERE: Elmhurst Public Library* 125 S. Prospect Avenue, Elmhurst, Illinois 60126
Constitution Week commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787. Celebrating this momentous event in our country’s history gives us pause to remember the importance of a document held in esteem worldwide for empowering “We the People” with the rights and responsibilities to engage in the democratic process. The First Amendment Freedoms, (freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to petition our government, freedom to assemble, and freedom of religion) are essential components that ensure a healthy democracy and the capacity to hold government accountable.
“Constitution Week recognizes the importance of our founding document by introducing students and adults to constitutional issues through dynamic speakers with first-hand knowledge of what it means to fight for freedom. Mr. Rashid’s experience demonstrates the importance of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise of Religion Clause to American democracy, while sharing a remarkable personal story,” said Andrea Alvarez, community lawyer at the Citizen Advocacy Center.
In collaboration with area high schools and with support from the McCormick Foundation, Mr. Qasim Rashid will be speaking at high schools in DuPage and Kane County and at a public forum to discuss the Free Exercise of Religion Clause of the First Amendment as an important thread in the fabric of our democracy.
Mr. Qasim Rashid is a vocal human rights activist. Mr. Rashid is the author of The Wrong Kind of Muslim, an autobiographical personal journey into his heritage and religion as a vehicle into the history and ongoing phenomenon of faith-based persecution and target-killings in Pakistan – starting with a childhood bullying incident in Chicago. He blogs for The Huffington Post, Washington Post, and CNN. His work has appeared in USA Today, National Public Radio, Richmond Times-ispatch, Virginia Pilot, San Francisco Chronicle, among various other national and international outlets. Mr. Rashid regularly interviews in a variety of media including the New York Times, Pittsburg Post-Gazette, Muslim Television Ahmadiyya International, Huff Post Live, NBC, CBS, the Christopher Gabriel Program, Voice of America, among several other national and international outlets. He also regularly lectures on Islam and human rights at various universities and places of worship worldwide.
Mr. Rashid has won numerous awards for his community service, activism, and writing. He serves as the current Chairman of the Muslim Writers Guild of America, serves as a Volunteer Chaplain for the Virginia State Prison system, and also offers pro bono legal assistance to victims of domestic and sexual violence through the Virginia Poverty Law Center. Mr. Rashid is a practicing attorney in Richmond, Virginia.
Born in Pakistan in 1982, Mr. Rashid migrated to the United States in 1987 and to the western suburbs in 1988. He is a graduate of Glenbard South High School. In 2007, he received his Bachelor of Science in Marketing from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Mr. Rashid received his juris doctorate from the University of Richmond School of Law in 2012.
In previous years, Citizen Advocacy Center hosted dynamic speakers showcasing other precious First Amendment freedoms. These include: Mary Beth Tinker, free speech advocate and plaintiff in a landmark Supreme Court free speech case; Toni Locy, free press advocate and award-winning reporter and professor at Washington and Lee University; Jessica Ahlquist, freedom of religion advocate and plaintiff in a successful lawsuit challenging her high school’s endorsement of religion; and Kelly Hayes, advocate for our freedom to peaceably assemble and community organizer for large scale protests in the City of Chicago.
The Citizen Advocacy Center is a non-profit, non-partisan community based legal organization dedicated to building democracy for the 21st Century by increasing the citizenry’s capacities, resources, and institutions for self-governance.
* This meeting/program is not an Elmhurst Public Library activity
Do Corporations Own US, or Do We Have a Dog in the Fight?
by Mike Chada
On June 3rd, CAC had the pleasure of kicking off its 2014 Summer Speakers Series with CAC founder and first executive director, Theresa Amato. Ms. Amato currently serves as executive director of Citizen Works, an organization devoted to rebalancing the power between corporations and citizens. She is also the Director of its Fair Contracts Project. Ms. Amato brought a very important message concerning consumer law, specifically, adhesion contracts. Here’s a brief recap with some history on the subject:
“The meat would be shoveled into carts, and the man who did the shoveling would not trouble to lift out a rat even when he saw one—there were things that went into the sausage in comparison with which a poisoned rat was a tidbit.” This excerpt from Upton Sinclair’s 1906 book, The Jungle, graphically describes the meatpacking industry’s practices at the turn of the 20th century, which led to a wave of consumer protection laws being passed. At this time, the United States was experiencing unprecedented growth in the manufacturing industry, which spread to all facets of life. Consumer protection was not a widespread issue until after the release of the book.
This newfound consumer awareness led to the first wave of major consumer reforms through the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which created the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the interest of providing more information on the products to consumers. As the economy kept growing, the market for new goods and services grew with it. In 1938, after about 100 people died due to poisoning from elixir sulfanilamide, a popular strep throat medicine turned into liquid form, the government recognized and responded to the need for increased safety regulations by passing the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. This was the second wave of consumer laws focused not just on awareness, but more importantly on safety, by including the testing and approval of new products. In 1958, in his book The Affluent Society, John Kenneth Galbraith critiqued the economy for its championing the supremacy of commercial values without attention to public values, thus shedding light on corporate marketing tactics on unsuspecting consumers.
In the 1960s and 1970s, consumer legislation saw its heyday. By the 1960s, with the rise of affluence in the middle class, the automobile became an extremely hot commodity. According to the US Census Bureau, the number of registered vehicles doubled from 1950-1970 to a total of 110 million. Ralph Nader, a young lawyer seven years out of Harvard Law School, noticed an increase in fatal car accidents and those ending in serious injury, especially in the Chevrolet Corvair. After some investigation, Nader wrote Unsafe at Any Speed, a book that criticized the poor safety standards of many American cars with a focus on General Motors (GM). His work quickly became recognized around the country, and he was summoned to testify before Congress. The country was riveted to the televised hearing held against the industry giant GM. The prevailing attitude was, “What is good for GM is good for America.” In an effort to discredit Nader and alter his testimony in front of Congress, GM hired a private investigator to tail him. The Washington Post, among other media outlets, exposed GM’s plot, and Nader won a lawsuit against GM for $6 million for harassment. The head of GM had to apologize to Nader in front of Congress for intimidating a witness testifying before it. This began the third wave of new consumer activism, and Nader used the money to set up various consumer-friendly organizations. Meanwhile, Congress passed bills to protect our water, our air, our safety rights in the workplace, and our rights to access government records.
After this event, there was a lull in the fight for consumer rights. For 30 years there were virtually no laws until the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection was passed in 2010, in which the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created.
Although there was much improvement in consumer advocacy during the first half of the 20th century, there is still much work that has to be done. It is estimated that 70% of the United State’s gross domestic product (GDP), or the sum of all spending in the economy, consists of consumer spending. According to Trading Economics, the United States has a GDP of roughly $15.6 trillion, which comes close to $11 trillion in consumer spending. It is the duty of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to monitor this spending; yet, the FTC has fewer than 1,200 employees and an annual budget of $300 million--not quite $1 per U.S. resident per year. In addition, the Internet age has created a whole virtual world that must also be regulated by the FTC with no additional funding or employees. Overall, there are simply not enough people on the side of the consumer to make it a fair fight.
This brings us to the current issue of adhesion contracts. Have you ever clicked “agree” to terms and conditions to use services or software such as iTunes? If so, did you ever take the time to actually read these contracts? Most likely you did not. These contracts are typically very long and complex, causing many people to simply agree without truly understanding the agreement., which is not surprising since they can number 75,000 words and written at a post-graduate reading level. These are known as adhesion contracts, meaning that they are an agreement by two parties to do a certain thing that are drafted up and heavily favor one party over the other. Particularly troublesome is that most adhesion contracts are standard across entire industries, which leaves consumers with no other choice but to agree.
Even more troubling are the arbitration clauses that are included in many of the contracts, which require that consumers resolve their disputes outside of the courts. The Supreme Court of the United States favors the power of corporations to pre-dispute mandatory arbitration clauses. This is a major disadvantage for the common consumer who does not understand the implications of waiving their right to sue in court. Arbitration is private and expensive; there is no rule of law or precedent; and the arbiter need not be a lawyer.
While, it seems like this issue is an uphill battle for the common consumer; however, it is not a hopeless fight. One simple tactic to try to battle these contracts is to ask for an explanation of what the contract actually says. This will typically cause frustration for many companies that use these contracts with the intent of increased efficiency. Recently, General Mills decided to change its Legal Terms to include arbitration clauses on its coupons and claimed application to all General Mills products. This revision of the Legal Terms was met with widespread opposition from consumers, causing General Mills to quickly rescind their modifications and return to the original Legal Terms that the consumers supported. This is a perfect example of educated consumers successfully challenging a major corporation without lengthy court trials or large financial loss.
This program was made possible in part by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council, which is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly.
Projects include but are not limited to:
Some current places CAC is working:
Please join us in welcoming our impressive group of high school, college and legal interns.
Thanks to you we have plenty of work to keep them busy!
The intern program runs from Tuesday May 27th - Friday August 1, 2014