The Rundown Podcast - Show Tile
Stay in the loop with the Windy City’s biggest news. Angela Cheng / WBEZ Chicago
The Rundown Podcast - Show Tile
Stay in the loop with the Windy City’s biggest news. Angela Cheng / WBEZ Chicago

An Illinois law protecting natural hairstyles from workplace discrimination is now in effect. Some prison education experts worry the return of Pell grants won’t be a catch-all solution for students behind bars. A survey finds more Chicago public schools are being asked by families to help meet their children’s basic needs.

The Rundown Podcast - Show Tile
Stay in the loop with the Windy City’s biggest news. Angela Cheng / WBEZ Chicago
The Rundown Podcast - Show Tile
Stay in the loop with the Windy City’s biggest news. Angela Cheng / WBEZ Chicago

An Illinois law protecting natural hairstyles from workplace discrimination is now in effect. Some prison education experts worry the return of Pell grants won’t be a catch-all solution for students behind bars. A survey finds more Chicago public schools are being asked by families to help meet their children’s basic needs.

Erin Allen: Good morning Y'all, Happy New Year. I'm Erin Allen and this is The Rundown. 

Do you have your hair in locks? Braids? Afro? Cornrows? If so, you like many curly haired or nonwhite folks in the Western world have likely been faced with the concept of a quote, unquote, unprofessional hairstyle for too long. Anything that deviates from straight pulled back or cut short hair has been a problem in many workplaces. That is until now, my colleague Mawa Iqbal is reporting that Illinois has joined 17 other states and making it illegal for employers to discriminate against a person because of their hair. Illinois' new CROWN Act protects folks against workplace discrimination based on traits associated with a particular race, which includes hair texture and hairstyles like locks, braids and twists the bill was introduced by state Senator Mattie Hunter. She says it will better equip employees to take legal action when necessary.

Mattie Hunter: So many people say, oh we don't need that law, we don't need that, but they don't understand why we pass laws, You passed laws to protect people.

Erin Allen: Hunter is a part of the national Black Women's Creative Cooperative and she says they've been pushing Congress to pass a similar law on the federal level.

If you went to college in the U.S. you may have received a Pell Grant. It's free money that helps cover college tuition and it has been off limits to some of the poorest folks in our society, people in prison. My colleague Anna Savchenko is reporting that that is also supposed to change in some places this year. 

Augustana College in western Illinois runs an educational program at the East million correctional center and that program was selected to test out Pell Grants for people in prison, but the program ended up having a hard time law this past fall. Program director Sharon Varallo said the money wasn't even enough to cover student tuition, let alone other program expenses.

Sharon Varallo:  There are pockets of incredibly dedicated people, but you need the funds to make it happen and money doesn't grow on trees. 

Erin Allen: Varallo also said they have to rely heavily on a extra funding beyond the Pell Grants to educate their students behind bars. Yeah, that's not sounding too far off from what it takes to pay for college here on the outside too.

And some other education news families with Children in Chicago public schools are asking for help meeting students. Basic needs, usually the top needs are for social emotional programs. But my colleague Sarah Karp is reporting that this school year, some of the most requested items are shampoo soap, female hygiene products, winter coats and food. That's according to an organization that works closely with about 200 schools. Robin Kelsh works for Communities in Schools of Chicago and they connect schools with programs and resources. 

Robin Kelsh: Many people are raising their hands for the first time saying that they have this kind of need in that requires a level of bravery on their end to say yes I need this. 

Erin Allen: Parents in Highland Park are among the groups working to meet these needs. After the July 4th shooting in the area they wanted to pitch in and help. 

Last week I mentioned that most Illinois minimum wage workers will be getting a raise on January 1st. Well it all went into effect on Sunday and my colleague Alex Degman has a breakdown of the details.

Alex Degman: The statewide minimum wages now $13 an hour for tipped employees. If you receive tips you should not be at $7.80 and if tips don't get you to $13, your employer has to make up the difference the wage will continue to go up by a dollar in our each January one until it hits $15 and 2025. Those younger than 18 working fewer than 650 hours a year now get $10.50 an hour. The rates don't apply in the city of Chicago or suburban Cook County which have their own higher rates. The city raised its minimum wage from employers with more than 21 worker's to $15.40 in our in July the tip wage is $9.24. Cook County raised its hourly rate to $13.35 in July. tipped employees there get $7.80 in line with the rest of the state

Erin Allen: that was my colleague Alex Degman.

And before we get to weather a few quick hits. Workers from Howard Brown Health will be on the picket lines starting today. Howard Brown Health has 11 clinics throughout Chicago that serve the LGBTQ community. The workers are saying that management isn't doing enough to prevent the proposed layoffs of about 15% of the staff.

And in case you haven't heard the Illinois state Supreme Court decided to halt the SAFE-T Act which would have ended cash bail in the state effective January 1st Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is appealing a decision by a Kankakee County judge from last week that partially derailed the new law. Meanwhile to suburban states attorneys requested that the Supreme Court maintained consistent pre trial procedures and suspend the law entirely. To quote, ensure that those accused of a crime in Illinois will receive equal and fair treatment throughout the state. As I have been, I will keep you posted on how this cookie crumbles.

As for weather, well those 60 degree temperatures ain't happening after all this week. The high we'll stay in the mid forties today with a mix of clouds, rain and thunderstorms - tonight, cloudy, low in the mid thirties. 

And that's it for The Rundown today. If you've got some New year's resolutions, best of luck. If one of them is observing Dry January, check out our conversation with Christina Torres, founder of Bendición Dry Bar and Bottle Shop. We talked to her on Friday about some of the drinks, culture and feels that she's bringing to the sober scene in Chicago. You can find that episode in the same place you found this one, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Otherwise, I'm Erin Allen and I'll talk to you bright and early tomorrow morning.


WBEZ transcripts are generated by an automatic speech recognition service. We do our best to edit for misspellings and typos, but mistakes do come through.