BioSince the beginning of her political career, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford has been a vocal champion of her strongest passion- promoting quality education and development programs for Illinois' youth. As either chair or vice chair of the Senate Education Committee for more than a decade, Lightford has been able to pass meaningful legislation providing specialized curricula in bullying prevention and a universal preschool program for at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds. She also has served as vice chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.
After becoming Senate assistant majority leader in 2009, Lightford enhanced her role as an advocate for education reform. Through her leadership, the Senate passed legislation reforming and increasing the cap on charter schools in Illinois. Her expertise positioned her as the top negotiator on 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 addition, Lightford has worked tirelessly to pass legislation aimed at re-enrolling high school dropouts. The Illinois Hope and Opportunity Pathways through Education program will offer classes to students who have dropped out of high school, allowing them a second chance at earning a diploma.
Earlier this year, Lightford negotiated Senate Bill 7, a landmark education reform bill aimed at boosting student performance through accountability for schools, administrators and teachers. SB 7 was hailed as a national model by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and will help ensure that every child in Illinois public schools has a quality teacher.
As the youngest African-American woman ever elected to the Illinois Senate, Lightford also has taken a lead role in promoting women's issues. In 2003, she co-sponsored the Equal Pay Act, which states that no employer may discriminate between employees on the basis of gender when it comes to salaries. In 2010, she sponsored legislation strengthening the Equal Pay Act by allowing women who have been discriminated against more time to file an action against an employer. Lightford has also sponsored numerous bills focusing on women's health care.
Lightford also has made it a top priority to help working families during tough economic times. She is responsible for legislation passed in 2003 and 2006 that gradually increased the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour until it reached $8.25 per hour in 2010, helping more than a million low-income citizens throughout Illinois provide for their families. She sponsored legislation in the 97th General Assembly that would continue minimum wage increases in the future and extend minimum wage protection for tipped employees. In 2005 and again in 2010, she helped pass laws to protect working families from predatory lending practices by reforming Illinois' payday loan industry. She also sponsored the measure that established the Council on Responsible Fatherhood as well as laws allowing for expungement of criminal records.
In addition to her progressive legislative agenda, Lightford has been a positive force for change in her district. Recognizing the need to address holistic development of our youth, in 2004 she initiated the innovative "Uplift Our Future" mentor program. In September, she established the Saturday University program, a free, community-based academic program to help boost students' success in school. She serves on the board of directors for the Proviso-Leyden Council for Community Action Inc., Loretto Hospital and the Boys & Girls Club of West Cook County. She is also is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
Lightford holds a bachelor's degree in public communications from Western Illinois University and a master's of public administration from the University of Illinois Springfield. She will soon begin her fifth term representing the 4th Legislative District, which includes much of Proviso Township and the Austin community area on Chicago's West Side. In addition to serving as vice chair of the Senate Education Committee during the 98th General Assembly, Lightford is a member of the Assignments, Executive, Executive Appointments, Financial Institutions and Higher Education committees. She resides with her family in Maywood.
In recognition of her efforts, Lightford has received many awards from a variety of organizations, including-
West Side Chapter NAACP Good Government Civic Award
One of the Chicago Defender's 2011 Women of Excellence
Legislative Leadership Award from the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association
Habilitative Systems Inc.'s Freeing the Human Spirit Award
Chicago Teachers Union Certificate of Commendation for Support of Public Education
Loyola Hospital's Appreciation for Your Efforts on Behalf of the School Based Health Center
Rainbow Push Coalition's Woman of Distinction Award
Alternative School Network's The Education Champion Award
Illinois Principals Association's Friend of Illinois Principals Award
Community and Economic Development Association's Award for Being an Energy Partner
Legislative Partner Illinois Association of Park Districts' Legislator of the Year Award
Safer Foundation's Carre Visionary Award
Western Illinois University Alumni of the Year
Proviso/Leyden NAACP Good Government Civic Award
Health Care Council of Illinois Champion of Senior Care Award