Governor Pritzker signs SB1970, praises TF North students and teachers

Senator Elgie Sims adds: “I am so proud of these students”

by Melanie Jongsma

CALUMET CITY, Ill. (January 22, 2020) – “Thank you for hosting us here,” said Governor JB Pritzker as he took the podium following an introduction by TF North Principal Brian Rucinski. “And for whatever magic you’ve got in the classrooms at Thornton Fractional that inspired these students to take their ideas to Springfield—I just wanna say, ‘Wow’ and ‘You won!’ You got it done. Well done.”

Governor Pritzker chose TF North (755 Pulaski Road) as the location for the signing of Senate Bill 1970 at the urging of Illinois Senator Elgie Sims. Sims participated in a Parade to the Polls at TF North and TF South High Schools in November of 2018 and helped students overcome obstacles typical for first-time voters. He connected with students during that experience, and was inspired to sponsor legislation that would authorize student absences during the school day for voting. Sims invited several students to testify in Springfield in support of the bill, which passed in the Senate and the House in nine months. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything move quite as fast as the legislation that you all put together!” commented Pritzker to the gathering of students.

Illinois Senator Elgie Sims (center) relied on testimony from TF South students Hailey Stepp (left) and Kyla Johnson to get SB 1970 through the Senate. He touched base with them again as the bill was signed into law. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

A press release from Senator Sims explains, “Senate Bill 1970 amends the Election Code to allow students who are 18 or older to leave school for up to two hours to vote in a primary, general, or any other election in the state that requires a popular vote. The school can decide which hours students can be absent to vote. The plan is modeled after current rules for employers and employees.”

Before signing the legislation, Pritzker had this encouragement for the young people in the room:

Though students from both TF South and TF North were the inspiration for the bill and were involved in its passage, TF North actively campaigned to host Governor Pritzker’s signing of the bill. So Sims told the crowd, “There was no place else we were going to sign this bill than at TF North.”

Short speeches from other people involved in the process highlighted the importance of engagement and involvement.

“I am here to make sure that this is not the end of the road,” said TF North teacher Emily Biegel (at podium). “We will continue to be engaged. We will continue to use social media in a positive way, write postcards, learn about candidates, perhaps have another Parade to the Polls, and make sure that we are using our voice at every possible chance—because look at the difference it makes.” (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
District 215 School Board Vice President LeeAnn Revis (at podium) is passionate about encouraging first-time voters. Having students involved in the passage of SB1970, and having Governor Pritzker come to TF North to sign the bill was “a dream come true,” she said. “I think this is a first step toward creating a culture in schools that says, ‘We celebrate voting. Let’s get this 18–24-year-old voting block active.’ Because we need your voices.” (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Crews from ABC7, WGN, and WTTW covered the event along with student journalists and local media. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Markeis Horace (at podium) was one of the students who testified in Springfield. “This [signing of the bill] proves that the democratic process actually works,” he said. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Governor JB Pritzker (seated) signs SB1970 while (from left) Senator Elgie Sims, LeeAnn Revis, Markeis Horace, State Representative Thaddeus Jones, and Emily Biegel look on. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Tiara Bullock, a Features and Human Interest writer for TF North’s student newspaper, the Thorntonian, interviews Governor Pritzker after the signing. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Victor Herrera, World News Reporter for the Thorntonian, gets some face time with the Governor. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

In a Facebook post about the bill, Revis wrote, “It is my hope that schools will, like TF North, organize voting field trips where they can support their students as they navigate the process. At the end of the day, our students participated in the legislative process, they tweeted, retweeted and hashtagged. They traveled and they testified. And on Wednesday, they [saw] that Civic engagement matters!”

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