Crusader Staff Report
State Senator Kimberly Lightford is running for Senate president in the Illinois Assembly.
Since the beginning of her political career, Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford has been a vocal champion promoting quality education, advocating for quality healthcare and providing support for working families.
This January she made history when she became the first Black woman to serve as Illinois’ Senate Majority Leader.
Lightford became assistant majority leader in 2009 and enhanced her role as an advocate for education reform. She has served on the Senate Education Committee for 20 years as either a sitting member, Vice Chair or Chair. Her expertise positioned her as the top negotiator on the legislation developed as a part of President Obama’s Race to the Top program, leading to the establishment of stronger methods of evaluating teachers and tracking student progress.
In 2000, Lightford ensured that students could have access to breakfast at school by requiring the State Board of Education to establish the school breakfast incentive program. The next year, Lightford increased the MAP grant for full-time undergraduate students from $4,740 to $4,968 and from $2,370 to $2,484 for part-time undergraduate students, providing aid for underprivileged students.
Lightford also helped to re-enroll high school dropouts by establishing the Illinois Hope and Opportunity Pathways Through Education Program in 2009.
Senator Lightford also sponsored SB 100, which mandates that out-of-school suspensions longer than three days, expulsions and disciplinary removals to alternative schools are reserved for situations where a student’s presence is a safety threat or a substantial disruption to the learning environment. It took effect in 2016.
In 2017, a measure aimed at reducing teen suicide and the stigma of mental health issues was signed into law. Lightford led the effort that requires social and emotional screenings for children as a part of their school entry examinations to promote life-altering early detection.
In 2019, she raised the minimum wage for a third time when Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a law that gradually increases it to $15 per hour, helping more than one million low-income citizens throughout Illinois provide for their families.
Prioritizing workers, Lightford passed her first piece of legislation in 1999 that provides worker protection and transitional assistance for persons targeted for layoff.
In 2005 and again in 2010, Lightford passed laws to protect working families from predatory lending practices with sweeping reforms to Illinois’ payday loan industry.
She has also sponsored a measure to establish a Council on Responsible Fatherhood and laws allowing for expungement of criminal records, making it easier for men and women who have paid their debts to society to turn their lives around.
Her 2003 law required the State Appellate Defender to establish an expungement program to assist and educate people on obtaining expungements.
In 2008, she led a measure that shortened the length of time the State’s Attorney and law enforcement agencies can object to the expungement of Juvenile Court records.
Lightford has also been a leading voice on women’s issues since her 1998 election made her the youngest African-American woman ever elected to the Illinois Senate.
One of her earliest measures helped protect women by expanding the Illinois stalking law to include threatening family members. Her Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act, signed in 2001, requires employers to provide unpaid break time for employees to express breast milk for nursing infants. Then, in 2003, she was the lead sponsor of the Equal Pay Act, which bans employers from discriminating between employees on the basis of gender when it comes to salaries. She strengthened the act in 2010 by allowing women who have been discriminated against more time to file an action against an employer.
In 2018, Lightford passed the African-American Equal Pay Act to help combat the wage gap for African Americans.
Lightford in 2000 passed a measure allowing generic drugs rated as equal to name brand drugs by the federal Food and Drug Administration, to be made available for substitution in Illinois, allowing for more affordable options for medication.
In addition to promoting a progressive legislative agenda, Lightford has fought for 15 years to rebuild an inner city not-for-profit hospital in one of the lowest income communities in Chicago. She understands the importance the facility plays in providing quality health care and more than 500 jobs to the residents of Austin. Lightford’s dedication helped bring more than $26 million in grants to the facility to replace outdated boilers, build a state-of-the-art emergency department, add a pharmacy and remodel all bed space. Loretto hospital named its emergency department The Kimberly A. Lightford Emergency Department.
Lightford fought for nearly two decades to shepherd funding to a community center operated by the Maywood Park District, understanding the important role recreation centers play in communities. She helped the center secure nearly $3 million for the project, which was named the Light- ford Recreation Center on Dec. 1, 2018 by the Maywood Park District upon its completion.
Lightford holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Communications from Western Illinois University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Illinois at Springfield. She gained extensive management experience working at the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.