U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL,8) was at the University of Illinois at Chicago Wednesday morning to talk with students about higher education and college affordability.
"I can't think of something more important as an investment to our nation than making sure that we make college affordable, and that we get to a point where students are not starting off life with tremendous amounts of student loan debt," Duckworth told reporters after the town hall.
The event, sponsored by UIC student organizations and Young Invincibles Action, was supposed to be a candidate forum, but Kirk declined to participate, Duckworth said.
The congresswoman used the event to detail college affordability proposals she is sponsoring in the U.S. House, namely the "In the Red Act." The proposal would adjust Pell Grants for inflation, allow borrowers to refinance student debt at lower interest rates and provide students with two years of tuition-free community college.
Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, marking how far into 2016 women must work in order to earn what men made in 2015.
Women today still earn just 79 cents on average for every dollar paid to men. For African-American women and Latinas, the wage gap widens to 60 cents and 55 cents, respectively, according to an analysis by the National Partnership for Women & Families.
Equal pay advocates say it's time to end the gender wage gap, which could be closed in part by passage of the long-proposed federal Paycheck Fairness Act. Under the bill, employees could share salary information between co-workers without retaliation, among other provisions.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL,8) is among the Democratic cosponsors of the Paycheck Fairness Act. Duckworth, who is running for incumbent Mark Kirk's (R-IL) Senate seat, is seeking to draw a contrast with her opponent on equal pay issues.
Declining wages among men drove 40 percent of the progress in closing the U.S. gender wage gap over the past 35 years, according to research by the Economic Policy Institute.
Experts at the Washington, D.C.-based progressive think tank highlighted that finding last month as they unveiled a "Women's Economic Agenda." EPI's 12-point policy agenda looks to improve economic security for women and families by closing the gender pay gap and promoting broad-based wage growth.
"Over the last several decades women have entered the workforce in record numbers and made great strides in educational attainment. Nevertheless, when compared with men, women are still paid less, are more likely to hold low-wage jobs, and are more likely to live in poverty," reads the agenda's accompanying report by EPI's Alyssa Davis and Elise Gould. "Gender wage disparities are present at all wage levels and within education categories, occupations, and sectors--sometimes to a grave degree."
That's when Illinois women are projected to achieve equal pay in the state, if the current rate of progress in closing the gender wage gap continues, shows a recent report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR).
Of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, women in Illinois -- who currently make 80 cents on average for every dollar earned by men -- have the 25th shortest wait until they will see equal pay.
In other states, women born today probably will not achieve pay equality during their lifetime if current trends continue.
The State Innovation Exchange (SiX), a group working with state legislators to advance progressive policies across the country, compiled the list. SiX was formed in an effort to counter the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that crafts and pushes conservative, corporate-friendly state legislation.
According to SiX's review, the top 10 state-level progressive measures approved thus far in 2015 involve the following: closing the wage gap for women and minorities; accommodating pregnant workers; implementing earned sick leave; expanding access to higher education; tackling the student debt crisis; reducing carbon emissions; modernizing voter registration; repealing the death penalty; increasing police accountability and public safety; and preventing abusers and stalkers from obtaining guns.
"We are convinced that progressives are right on the issues and the SiX review of the states bears that out. From advancing the economic security of working families to improving access to voting we saw that even in a map that is deeply red, progressives were able to achieve some important policy victories in 2015," SiX Executive DirectorNick Rathod said in a statement. "I'm confident that as SiX grows and is able to better resource, train and organize legislators around the country, we can help to see that progressives are able to achieve more of the types of policy victories like those that made the list this year."