Representative Winger visited "Build Day" at Oak Brook Elementary School, Wood Dale. Wood Dale School District 7 received a grant from Discover Financial Services to build a new playground for the students at Oak Brook Elementary. The program is in partnership with KaBoom!, a nonprofit dedicated to giving kids great, safe places to play.

Illinois K-12 High-Speed Internet Connectivity Rises to 96%
It was announced this week that 96 percent of K-12 school districts in Illinois can access the internet at speeds of 100 kbps per student, a substantial improvement from 71 percent just three years ago. Median bandwidths also have markedly improved, increasing 2.5 times since 2015.

High-speed connectivity ensures that students have access to more digital resources, which in turn expands learning opportunities. By making high-speed internet accessible, educators and students gain the benefits of greater interactivity, collaboration, engagement and personal instruction.

Illinois’ digital advances were reported by the EducationSuperHighway which tracks progress toward K-12 connectivity across the United States. The national nonprofit advocates for upgrading internet access in every public school classroom in America.

While Illinois has advanced its school digital resources, work remains. EducationSuperHighway says that 407,093 students in 32 school districts across the state still need adequate bandwidth for digital learning. There also are 136 school campuses that lack scalable fiber-optic broadband connections.

The Illinois Classroom Connectivity Initiative, launched by the Rauner administration in 2016, is an effort to ensure that all districts receive the support and funding to close this school broadband gap. The FY19 education budget includes a $17 million Broadband Expansion fund to help cover costs of fiber upgrades for school districts. There is also provision for free technical assistance.

Illinois State Fire Marshal Wants You to Have a Fire Free Fall
Fall is officially here and so are cooler temperatures. The Office of the State Fire Marshal is offering a few tips that will help Illinoisans stay safe as temperatures continue to drop.

This Fall, be sure to remove leaves and debris such as sticks, branches and shrubs from the roofs and gutters of homes as they act as fuel to a fire. These items should also be cleared before lighting a bonfire. It is recommended that all recreational fires, such as bonfires, be contained in a pit, with sidewalls, and do not exceed 3 feet wide and 2 feet tall.

Avoid burning leaves and debris on windy days, as wind can cause a fire to get out of control quickly. Always follow your local ordinances when burning and disposing of yard waste and remember, embers from burning leaves can spread and start a larger fire. All fires are recommended to be a minimum of 15 feet from structures and combustible materials and should remain attended at all times. This helps ensure the fire is controlled and prevents it from spreading.

Make sure all Fall and holiday decorations are flame retardant and use a battery light instead of a candle in jack o' lanterns.

Anyone opting to use a space heater to keep warm should be sure it is placed at least three feet away from other objects, such as curtains, and always be sure to unplug it when it's not in use. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) space heaters account, annually, for 43 percent of U.S. home heating fires.

All fireplaces should be cleaned and inspected before use to ensure everything is in proper working order. Utilize a fireplace screen to keep sparks from floating out of a fireplace and always put out a fire before going to bed or leaving the house.

Additional fire safety tips can be found on the NFPA website or on the Office of the State Fire Marshal website.

Representative Winger tours Superior Ambulance in Elmhurst, a local provider of emergency medical services.

Illinois Pioneers Community College Pathway to Professional Status
In these times of soaring tuition bills and increased costs of residential campus living, many Illinois families are finding increasing challenges in helping their loved ones afford four years of attendance at a traditional college or university. Many students are responding to these challenges by starting out their higher education in one of Illinois’ 48 community colleges. There, they take courses that build up credits that can be transferred to a four-year institution.

This week, data released by the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) shows that many of these students have a bright future. Among all 50 states in the calendar period studied, Illinois now ranks #1 in terms of the rate of bachelor’s degree completion among community college students that transfer to four-year colleges and universities.

Illinois, the state with the first community college in the nation (Joliet Junior College), has worked intensively to coordinate community college credits with a baccalaureate pathway that a student can follow to a four-year degree and eventual professional status.

The study tracked a group of first-time college students who enrolled in Illinois community colleges in 2010, and then subsequently transferred to four-year schools. The students were tracked through 2016; by that year, 53.8% of them had earned a bachelor’s degree. This was the highest four-year transfer completion rate of any U.S. state with community colleges.