This past week, members of the Xavierite interviewed Illinois State Senator Daniel Biss on his run in the Illinois 2018 gubernatorial election.
As Senator, Biss served the 9th District, which includes areas of Chicago, Morton Grove, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Mount Prospect, Lincolnwood, Niles, Park Ridge, Prospect Heights, Skokie, Wilmette, Winnetka and Arlington Heights. Now, Biss is planning on expanding his place in Illinois government as governor of the State.
If elected, Biss is looking forward to what changes he can enact, starting with addressing the aftermath of the financial crises that plagued Illinois for two years.
“We have a tax system built for an economy that doesn’t exist anymore,” Biss explained, “it’s a tax system that asks the middle class and the working force to pay too much, a tax system that lets the rich off the hook, and it’s time for us to build a tax system for a modern economy that asks for the wealthiest to pay their share so we can have a budget that works for the rest of us.”
Biss added that to deal with the after effects of the budget crisis, we must recognize what the after effects are.
“The after effects include a social service network that has framed universities and community colleges that have been harmed egregiously with faculty leaving [and] enrollment dropping,” Biss said.
To address these issues, Biss says, “It’s time for us to have a long-term sustainable budget plan that invests in the institutions that need to be rebuilt.”
“We need to recruit people to go into those fields to make sure that we have a workforce for the social service sector that we ought to have, not the social service sector that we, unfortunately, have been reduced to.”
In rebuilding these educational institutions, Biss has spent time focusing on how to help students. In 2017, Biss voted to pass the Student Loan Bill of Rights.
“It is the strongest Student Loan Bill of Rights in the country,” Biss said in his explanation of what the Bill is.
“We passed it by overriding Governor Rauner’s veto, which was just incredible. The Student Loan Bill of Rights regulates the for-profit student loan services that have, unfortunately, been acting in predatorial ways by putting student loan borrowers into the most expensive repayment plans, not giving full information about all the options, and acting in ways that are frankly, in my opinion, consumer fraud.”
“I think tuition is too high,” Biss added, “I think student loan debt is too great. I think we’ve got to do a lot about that problem. But as long as we have the high tuitions that we have and the student loan burden that we are living with, we cannot have these servicers pray upon borrowers just to make things worse.”
Biss is a proponent of completely free tuition, an idea that he says is definitely feasible with time and the right system.
“I believe [free tuition] has to happen. I believe that we chose to make high school free more than a century ago because we understood that it was necessary to have a high school education to be an equal participant in the economy. Here we are in 2017, and to be an equal participant in the economy you need some form of post-secondary certification. So we have that same moral obligation to create free access to universities and community colleges.”
“Now, it’s expensive, we can’t do it tomorrow. We’ve got to get there by having the right kind of tax system for a modern economy that actually funds the services that our communities need. I don’t want to pretend that we’re going to do that in a year or even two, but it has to be the goal.
“It is an achievable goal; the state has the affluence to make it possible, we just don’t It is an achievable goal; the state.”
With the focus on post-secondary education also comes an emphasis on secondary education.
With the four year graduation rate of 2017 standing at a total of 87%, white students graduated at 91%; Hispanic student graduation rate was at 84%; and Black student graduation was at 79%, which was the same rate as those from low Income families.
Biss says there are things that can be done to close the gap between the graduation inequity in the different ethnicities and the different income levels.
“We have the most regressive school funding system of any state in the union. It doesn’t have to be this way!” Biss says. “If we have a modern school funding system like many other states, including midwestern states similar to our own, we could fund schools in all communities properly, and that would help address the gap.”
“There are other things to be done, too,” Biss continued, “Universal access to preschool and early childhood education and childcare so that more children arrive at Kindergarten ready to learn, that makes a huge difference. Adequate wrap around services, trauma informed care, counselling. There are communities that are unfortunately ravaged by violence, and students arrive at school with unbelievable trauma. This is why we need to create schools that are safe havens and networks of support.”
“Fundamentally, if we actually believe that there is potential in every child, we have to create educational opportunities that are available to every child, and that’s just not what we do in Illinois right now.”
Creating educational opportunities would also include advocating for the promotion of trade schools as a sustainable means of employment for future workers.
Biss says that currently there is a “cultural bias” in society, one that results in parents pushing students away from trade schools. As a result, Biss says middle class job opportunities are unfilled.
“We need to build an education system and a job training system that is designed for the economy that we have, not the economy that exists in someone’s imagination. Vocational education, tactical education, and trade schools must be part of that,” Biss explained.
March 20, 2018 is Illinois primary. Running against Biss on the Democratic ballot will be Bob Daiber, Tio Hardiman, Chris Kennedy, Robert Marshall, and J.B. Pritzker.
For more information on Biss’s platform, head to his website: https://www.danielbiss.com/. You can also listen to the full interview with Biss below: