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Community-minded equity lens guides her approach to policymaking

By MARIA GARDNER
For Capitol News Illinois

State Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas’ friends tease her for changing the meaning of words. “Solution” becomes a verb when she says “I’m about solutioning.” 

Pacione-Zayas, 43, D-Chicago, has been actively “solutioning” since she took office in December when then-state Sen. Iris Martinez stepped down to become Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Representing the 20th district on Chicago’s Northwest side, Pacione-Zayas has flexed her expertise in education and leaned on her community-minded equity lens to guide her approach to policymaking.

Raised as an only child, her community played a huge part in her life. She grew up in Logan Square and, from a young age, her parents took her to board meetings and community events, instilling in her the importance of social responsibility and collective action. Those experiences “really helped shape what I bring to the table in terms of a legislator,” she said.

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Category: In the News

Illinois pleas to skip SATs

State and federal education heads disagree on tests

Illinois Times, April 1, 2021 | Original article

By Madison Angell

pacione zayasThe Illinois Senate has added to the call for the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to waive spring assessments, such as the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), for students, as it did in 2020. State Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas, D-Chicago, spearheaded a resolution, approved March 17, calling for testing waivers. She said many students have been learning remotely or in a hybrid system for the past year, and expecting them to return to school for in-person testing is unrealistic.

"We all know this is not a typical year," Pacione-Zayas said in a statement. "Let's have some compassion for our students and teachers and allow them to use their limited time in the classroom to learn and recover from the trauma of the pandemic, rather than to take stressful tests."

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Category: In the News

New Role, New Goal

Lawndale News, Jan. 21, 2021 | Read the original online here

By Ashmar Mandou

pacione zayasLongtime education advocate Cristina Pacione-Zayas garnered quite the experience working with such prolific organizations as Erikson Institute, Latino Police Forum, Enlace Chicago, and The Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago, earning her Ph.D. in educational policy studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Pacione-Zayas now sits as the State Senator for the 20th Illinois Senate District and looks to implement impactful policies that will create long-lasting opportunities for those within the district she now serves. Senator Pacione-Zayas lays out her plans in the coming months during a phone interview with Lawndale Bilingual Newspaper for our New Role, New Goal series.

Pivotal Lesson
Coming from a family of community organizers I learned the fundamentals of collaborating with other families, community leaders, working closely with children, young people, and educators. It’s in my blood. Growing up in Logan Square there were many injustices occurring throughout our neighborhood, the same injustices occurring in many neighborhoods today, so I learned about social responsibility and the importance of working as a collective to bring about change.

New Role, New Goal
There are many areas that I would like to keenly focus on, first being providing an abundant amount of COVID-19 resources to the 20th District. It’s disheartening to witness the rise in COVID-19 cases in comparison to other neighborhoods. We are working on a strategy to get COVID-19 under control, to bring about rapid testing sites set-up so people can feel comfortable and safe. In the realm of business, I am going to be honest, it’s going take a long time to recover from this, but I believe we can formulate a plan that will help entrepreneurs sustain their business. It will just take time. Another component I would like to focus on is on the education side. We need to be innovated in how we continue to work under a pandemic. We need to create new ways students can learn both in-person and virtual, we need to create the best practices for remote learning so that students are not left behind.

Civic Leadership
As the old adage goes, if you are not at the table, you are on the menu. In order to inspire change, you need to roll up your sleeves and get to work. If we look at most of the movements that occurred over the summer, they were all organized by our young activists. There is a lot of energy and a clear vision on how to bring about change. There is a lot of excitement so let that be your point of entry to get involved. Make a change.

Category: In the News

pacione zayasChicago Sun-Times, Dec. 22, 2020 | Read the original article here. Lea en español aquí

By Rachel Hinton

Members of the Cook County Democratic Party have filled the seat vacated by former state Sen. Iris Martinez.

Cristina Pacione-Zayas, who served as the associate vice president of policy at the Erikson Institute until this week, was sworn in Monday night after being selected by Cook County Democratic Party committee members.

The term ends in 2022.

Lea este artículo en español en La Voz Chicago.

Pacione-Zayas was not immediately available for comment but told the Erikson Institute “it is an honor to serve in the Illinois State Senate and to represent the 20th district on the Northwest side of Chicago.

“I am especially thrilled about the prospect of applying child development science to policy making in the General Assembly,” Pacione-Zayas’ statement reads in part. “You can count on me to help fellow legislators ‘find the baby’ in the work, and to advance an anti-racist framework that dismantles systemic racism and economic exploitation so we can all thrive.”

Earlier this month, former Sen. Martinez said Pacione-Zayas was the candidate she wanted her fellow Cook County Democratic Party committee members to support.

“I think we’ve got ourselves a really good person who is committed to the neighborhood,” Martinez previously said.

Martinez gave up the Senate seat after becoming the first Latina elected to the clerk of the circuit courts, which puts her in charge of maintaining records for the country’s second-largest consolidated court system.

Pacione-Zayas earned a Ph.D. in educational policy studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is secretary of the board for the Illinois State Board of Education — a role she was appointed to last year by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

She is a former education director for the Latino Policy Forum and a culture of calm coordinator for Chicago Public Schools, a role she called “an amazing opportunity to really think about how schools” can serve the communities they’re in.

Category: In the News

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Office Information

Springfield Office:
M120 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8191
 
District Office:
3140 W. Montrose
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 278-2020