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Our View: Thumbs up to the Civil Rights Act on its 50th birthday

Published: Friday, July 4, 2014 11:41 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, July 4, 2014 11:55 p.m. CST

Thumbs up: To 50 years of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964, made discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or nationality illegal. It also ended discrimination in schools, workplaces and public facilities and barred disenfranchisement of minorities. The act was a major legislative breakthrough that changed the ground rules for race relations in America for decades to come, and our country is a much better place because of it and later reforms that were instituted to prevent discrimination.

Thumbs down: To crushing debt. A report from the Project on Student Debt reports that about three-quarters of Northern Illinois University graduates had debt in 2012, and the average debt of an NIU grad was $30,521. Students are graduating with the expectation of spending a decade or more paying off their student loans, debt that may prevent them from major purchases like buying a home. The state of Illinois’ average student debt is $28,028, and nationwide, the average is $29,400.

Thumbs up: To smoke-free living. The DeKalb County Housing Authority’s decision to make all of its properties smoke-free will promote healthier living for all residents. Second-hand smoke from nearby apartments can infiltrate the homes of non-smokers, and those who live in Housing Authority buildings have a right to clean air in their apartments. Those who smoke will do so less when they must leave their apartments to light up, and perhaps the decision will motivate some smokers to quit, which would also be a positive.

Thumbs down: To severe summer weather. DeKalb County has seen summer get off to a wet start, although we were lucky to escape the worst of Monday’s storms. Even so, a Genoa family’s home burned after a suspected lightning strike, hundreds of people lost power, and one vehicle drove into a sinkhole created when a rural road was washed out. Around the Midwest, the Mississippi River has reached flood stage and several areas have seen record rainfall. 

Thumbs up: To pairing reading with free summer lunches. This is the first summer that Sycamore School District 427 was eligible to participate in the Voluntary Action Center’s summer lunch program, as West Elementary School was the district’s first school to have more than half its students qualify for free or reduced priced lunches during the school year. District leaders have planned literacy projects and other educational activities on the days the meals are offered to help children stay excited about reading while school is not in session. What a creative way to build summer learning into children’s days.

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