Minimum Wage – Chicago, IL

Chicago raised its minimum wage two years ago, but some still earn less. Here’s why., By Nereida Moreno and Greg Trotter, December 1, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Maria Leon, a single mother of three and longtime Gage Park resident, says she worked for years in two Chicago restaurants for less than the city’s minimum wage. Last year, she sued the restaurants, which have the same owner, alleging they were violating city, state and federal wage laws. The two sides reached a settlement, but Leon believes it’s important to speak up on the matter…”

Racial Wealth Gap – Chicago

Chicago’s racial wealth gap far worse than U.S. average, report finds, By Gail MarksJarvis, January 31, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “About 65 percent of African-American, Latino and Asian households in Chicago have so little savings and other assets that a sudden job loss, medical emergency or other income disruption would throw them into poverty within three months, according to a report on wealth inequities in the city.  The report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development identified the divide between the incomes of white households and minority households as wider in Chicago than the nation as a whole. And the national divide is large. Not only do Chicago’s white households on average far exceed African-Americans, Latinos and Asians in income, but there is a sharp difference in the city between the wealth held by whites and that held by minority communities…”

Neighborhood Economics and Health

How economics, demographics affect a community’s health concerns, By Donna Vickroy, November 11, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “One county; very different health concerns across it.  The myriad communities that make up Cook County tell a story of affluence and poverty and points in between. And, depending on a community’s economic standing, its biggest health concerns can be very different.  For example, Cook County Public Health officials are concerned about the high rate of sexually transmitted diseases in Chicago’s economically struggling North Lawndale community. But in economically affluent south suburban Orland Park, where incidents of STDs are vastly lower, there is uneasiness over mental health issues and suicide rates.  A new study put together by county public health officials and local university professors examines quality of life issues across specific Cook County communities and asks a number of questions, including why do some communities thrive while others are in decline…”

Youth Unemployment – Chicago, IL

Chicago tackles youth unemployment as it wrestles with its consequences, By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, September 1, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “Margo Strotter, who runs a busy sandwich shop in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, makes it a point to hire people with ‘blemishes.’  But young people? She sighs and shakes her head.  They often lack ‘the fundamental stuff’ — arriving on time, ironing their shirts, communicating well, taking direction — she said. She doesn’t have time to train workers in the basics, and worries she’s not alone.  ‘We are going to wind up with a whole group of people in their 40s and 50s who can’t function,’ said Strotter, owner of Ain’t She Sweet Cafe.  As Chicago tackles what some have termed a crisis of youth joblessness, it must reckon with the consequences of a failure to invest in its low-income neighborhoods and the people who live there. There aren’t enough jobs, and the young people vying for them are frequently woefully unprepared because of gaps in their schooling and upbringing. The system has pushed them to the back of the hiring line…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Food stamp use on the rise in Nebraska, unlike in Iowa and rest of U.S., By Barbara Soderlin, August 23, 2016, Omaha World-Herald: “The recession is in the rearview mirror, and the state’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the nation, but the number of Nebraskans who rely on government assistance for groceries has been on the rise — heading in the opposite direction of Iowa and the rest of the country. People who work with poor families say they don’t expect the number of Nebraskans on food stamps to fall anytime soon: Low wages are driving the need for benefits, those people say. And better outreach is helping more people access benefits than in the past…”
  • Why food stamp fraud is ‘fairly rampant’ at corner stores in some Chicago neighborhoods, By Greg Trotter, August 19, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “Food stamp trafficking often begins with an innocuous question.  ‘Can I talk to you?’  Sami Deffala, who’s managed a corner store in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood for 13 years, said he hears that every day from customers vying for a private moment in hopes of using their Link cards to exchange SNAP benefits, the modern-day version of food stamps, for cash — an illegal practice called trafficking by federal regulators. And every day, Deffala said, he hears them out but refuses to take part in the scheme…”

Young Black Men and Unemployment – Chicago, IL

Nearly half of young black men in Chicago out of work, out of school: report, By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, January 25, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “Nearly half of young black men in Chicago are neither in school nor working, a staggering statistic in a bleak new youth unemployment report that shows Chicago to be far worse off than its big-city peers. To 24-year-old Johnathan Allen, that’s no surprise. ‘It’s right there in your face, you don’t need statistics,’ Allen said as he testified before a room full of lawmakers and public officials Monday at an annual hearing about youth unemployment, where the report was presented. He encouraged everyone to walk down the street and witness how joblessness devastates communities…”

Staffing at High-Poverty Schools

Study: Low-scoring teachers tend to work in schools with high poverty rates, By Juan Perez Jr., January 12, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “Elementary schoolteachers who scored lowest on Chicago Public Schools’ job performance evaluations were more likely to work at schools serving the city’s most disadvantaged students, an educational think tank concludes in a report released Tuesday.  In observational evaluations and ‘value-added’ evaluations that adjust for the socioeconomic status of the student body, more teachers who received the lowest scores worked in schools with the ‘highest levels of poverty,’ according to the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research…”

Lead Poisoning in Children

  • Lead paint is poisoning poor Chicago kids as city cuts millions for cleanup, By Michael Hawthorne, May 1, 2015, Chicago Tribune: “Alarming levels of brain-damaging lead are poisoning more than a fifth of the children tested from some of the poorest parts of Chicago, even as the hazard has been largely eliminated in more prosperous neighborhoods, a Tribune investigation has found.  The toxic legacy of lead — added to paint and gasoline for nearly a century — once threatened kids throughout the nation’s third largest city. As Chicago’s overall rate of lead poisoning steadily dropped during the past two decades, the disparities between rich and poor grew wider…”
  • Freddie Gray’s life a study on the effects of lead paint on poor blacks, By Terrence McCoy, April 29, 2015, Washington Post: “The house where Freddie Gray’s life changed forever sits at the end of a long line of abandoned rowhouses in one of this city’s poorest neighborhoods. The interior of that North Carey Street house, cluttered with couches and potted plants, is lacquered in a fresh coat of paint that makes the living room glow.  But it wasn’t always this way. When Gray lived here between 1992 and 1996, paint chips flaked off the walls and littered the hardwood floor, according to a 2008 lawsuit filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court. The front window­sills shed white strips of paint.  It was worst in the front room, where Gray bedded down most nights with his mother, he recalled years later in a deposition…”

Minimum Wage – Chicago

Emanuel task force: Raise Chicago minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2018, By Hal Dardick and Alejandra Cancino, July 7, 2014, Chicago Tribune: “Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s task force recommended Monday that Chicago’s minimum wage be ramped up to $13 an hour by 2018, an idea that comes as City Hall faces pressure to act on the issue while Democrats nationally try to make income disparity a campaign theme this fall. But the panel also suggested that the Chicago City Council should put off a vote to raise the current $8.25 an hour minimum wage until after state lawmakers tackle the matter in the two months following the Nov. 4 election. The task force members don’t want to deter the General Assembly from approving a statewide wage hike because Chicago already has increased its minimum wage, said 4th Ward Ald. Will Burns. . .”

NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment

  • Big city schools making progress but still have far to go, report says, By Stacy Teicher Khadaroo and Amanda Paulson, December 18, 2013, Christian Science Monitor: “Public school students in some of America’s biggest cities have made significant long-term gains, according to the latest data released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often known as the Nation’s Report Card. Despite that progress, some subsets of students are still languishing at very low achievement levels. Wednesday’s report on the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) gives snapshots of reading and math achievement for fourth- and eighth-graders in 21 districts and comes 10 years after the first TUDA…”
  • Detroit Public Schools’ scores improve, but still at bottom on Nation’s Report Card; poverty a factor, By Chastity Pratt Dawsey, December 18, 2013, Detroit Free Press: “For the third time in a row, Detroit Public Schools scored the worst among urban school districts that participated in the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), which released fourth- and eighth-graders’ reading and math scores today from the rigorous test known as the Nation’s Report Card. DPS posted the lowest scores among the 21 cities that voluntarily took part in the TUDA. DPS has participated since 2009, allowing its scores to be publicized. Other district scores are not made public…”
  • MPS shows slight gain in reading, math scores on national exam, By Erin Richards, December 18, 2013, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Milwaukee Public Schools students’ average reading and math scores on a national exam ticked up slightly in fourth and eighth grade between 2009 and 2013, according to a new report released Wednesday. But — and there always seems to be a ‘but’ — only the score change in eighth-grade math was statistically significant over those years. And compared with the performance of 20 other urban districts in 2013, MPS ranked in the bottom four for math and the bottom six for reading…”
  • Test-score gap widens between white, black students in Chicago, By Becky Schlikerman, December 18, 2013, Chicago Sun-Times: “The performance gap between Chicago’s black and white students — and between its poorest students and their wealthier classmates — continues to widen, newly released data show. Black Chicago Public Schools students fell further behind whites in three of four key measures, according to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the Nation’s Report Card…”

A Plan for Urban Poverty?

What Does Obama Really Believe In?, By Paul Tough, August 15, 2012, New York Times Magazine: “From the back seat of Steve Gates’s white Pontiac, Monique Robbins spotted Jasmine Coleman walking home from school alone. It was an icy December afternoon on Chicago’s South Side, and Jasmine’s only protection against the wind was a thin purple jacket. She looked cold. Gates pulled the car over to the curb, and Robbins hollered at Jasmine to get in. Jasmine was 16, and Robbins and Gates, who were both in their 30s, were her neighbors. All three of them lived in or around Roseland, a patch of distinctly subprime Chicago real estate that stretches from 89th Street to 115th Street, way down past the last stop on the El. Fifty years ago, Roseland was a prosperous part of Chicago, home to thousands of blue-collar workers, most of them white, employed by the South Side’s many steel and manufacturing plants. But the plants closed long ago. . .”

Medical Home Network – Chicago, IL

Coordinated care program aims to save Medicaid millions, By By Peter Frost, April 20, 2012, Chicago Tribune: “On Easter, Keontae Barnes doubled over in pain, her back and stomach tightening so much she thought she was in labor. Nearly eight months pregnant with her second child, a girl, Barnes headed straight to the emergency department at Holy Cross Hospital in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood, just a few blocks from her home. After a quick – and costly – examination, doctors determined it was a false alarm; her pains were normal for women in the later stages of pregnancy. The next day, her primary care doctor at Chicago Family Health Center called, asking Barnes what happened and making sure she was OK. ‘I was shocked. I said, ‘How did you know?” Barnes said. ‘She told me to come in the next day, and she gave me her emergency pager and her email. She said if I ever have any questions or concerns, I can always get in touch, any time of day.’  About a week later, Barnes did just that. Instead of rushing to the ER with intense chest pains, she called her doctor. Acid reflux. A trip to Walgreens solved the problem in short order and saved the state’s Medicaid program and Holy Cross thousands of dollars…”

Free and Reduced-Price Lunch Program

School free-lunch program dogged by abuses at CPS, By Monica Eng and Joel Hood, January 13, 2012, Chicago Tribune: “When a teachers assistant at Chicago’s North-Grand High School handed in her child’s lunch form last school year, it showed that her household made too much money for the child to receive free lunches. So the school’s assistant clerk told the woman to fill out a new one, explaining, ‘She shouldn’t have to pay for lunch,’ and besides, ‘Nobody checks the applications anyway,’ according to an inspector general’s report released last week. Apparently, word had gotten around. At the West Side school, more than a dozen CPS and city employees had submitted false applications for free or reduced-price lunches, according to James Sullivan, Chicago Public Schools’ inspector general. The alleged offenders included teachers, teachers assistants, district employees, a security officer and two people in law enforcement, some of them earning six-figure salaries. The findings led Sullivan to conclude in his report that the National School Lunch Program, meant to provide basic nutrition to needy students, was ‘ripe for fraud and abuse’ because of layers of bureaucracy, incentives for high enrollment, and minimal checks and balances…”

Homeless Children and Families – Chicago, IL

New attention paid to homeless youth and families, By Meribah Knight, November 3, 2011, New York Times: “More than 10,000 homeless students are enrolled in Chicago’s classrooms this fall, a 16 percent increase over last year and a record high, according to Chicago Public Schools data for September. The school district’s numbers reflect a trend seen by service providers around the city: Chicago’s homeless population is becoming younger. More families are living on the street, and the number of homeless youths on their own has grown exponentially. With a lack of affordable housing, a rising number of foreclosures and a state unemployment rate higher than the national average, the increase in homeless youths and families is putting stress on a social support system that is facing sharp cuts in budgets and programs…”

Benefits of Preschool Education

  • Study: Preschool boosts low-income students, By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, June 9, 2011, Chicago Tribune: “A new study revealing the lasting impact of a solid preschool education – especially in disadvantaged communities – was released Thursday, just as Illinois’ governor considers a state budget plan that slashes funding to early childhood programs. While many findings over the years have touted the benefits of starting kids early on the path to education, a study conducted inside Chicago Public Schools and published online by the journal Science shows attending preschool can yield payoffs into adulthood. The report shows that children who attended an established preschool program in Chicago completed high school at higher rates, stayed out of jail, were less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, and improved their living standards as adults. For 25 years, researchers from the University of Minnesota tracked 1,400 Chicago Public Schools students who attended early childhood programs. They compared those who started preschool at age 3 in Child-Parent Centers, located in or near elementary schools serving low-income students, with those who didn’t attend preschool at all or went to the typical Head Start program…”
  • Preschool’s many benefits last into adulthood, according to study of low-income children, By Lindsey Tanner (AP), June 9, 2011, Washington Post: “Preschool has surprisingly enduring benefits lasting well into adulthood, according to one of the biggest, longest follow-up studies of its kind. Better jobs, less drug abuse and fewer arrests are among advantages found in the study that tracked more than 1,000 low-income, mostly black Chicago kids for up to 25 years. Michael Washington was one of them. Now a 31-year-old heating and air conditioning contractor, Washington attended a year of preschool at Chicago’s intensive Child-Parent Center Education Program when he was 4. The ongoing publicly funded program focuses on language development, scholastic skills and building self-confidence. It involves one or two years of half-day preschool, and up to four additional years of educational and family services in grade school. Preschool teachers have college degrees and are certified in early childhood education, and parents are encouraged to be involved in the classes…”

Township General Assistance Funds – Chicago, IL

  • Townships stockpiling reserves intended for needy, By Joe Biesk and Elisabeth Martin, April 25, 2010, Southtown Star: “At a time when America is grappling with its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, township governments across the Southland have stockpiled hefty cash reserves in accounts intended to help the poor pay for basic necessities, a SouthtownStar analysis shows. Many Southland townships are paying more to administer their poor relief programs – funded almost exclusively from the local property tax – than they are to give the needy a hand. Others are sitting on large sums of money, in some cases topping more than $1 million, that they invest or save for future use instead of increasing benefits or returning it to taxpayers, the analysis found…”
  • Townships use different methods to address needs of poor, By Elisabeth Martin and Joe Biesk, April 26, 2010, Southtown Star: “When homeowners in Frankfort Township open their property tax bills each year, there’s a big fat zero where their taxes for the township’s general assistance program normally would be. The township hasn’t collected taxes for the program in 20 years, and officials say they plan to keep it that way. Instead, needy residents who come to Frankfort Township for help get referrals to other programs that offer assistance and visits to the township’s food pantry. As a result, the township hasn’t had a client on its general assistance rolls for years…”

Promise Neighborhoods Program

Program based on Harlem initiative shows promise, By Cassandra West, November 4, 2009, Chicago Tribune: “Former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton famously drew on an African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ to explain her vision for American children more than decade ago. Now the Obama administration is looking to another village — local urban communities — to serve the educational and social needs of children in poverty with its Promise Neighborhoods, an initiative modeled on the transformative and widely touted Harlem Children’s Zone. For two days next week representatives from the Chicago communities of Chicago Lawn, Logan Square and Woodlawn will be in New York attending the conference, ‘Changing the Odds: Learning from the Harlem Children’s Zone Model.’ The forum is a first step for advocates and community groups interested in replicating the New York City-based endeavor, which President Barack Obama has called ‘an all-encompassing, all-hands-on-deck anti-poverty effort…'”