Maureen Foertsch McKinney

News Editor / Equity Blog

Read Maureen's "Equity" blog.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is a lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers,  and is curator of the Equity blog. Maureen joined the staff in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Ways to Connect

Alex Wroblewski

Chicago writer Jamie Kalven focuses on patterns of police abuse and impunity in Chicago. He heard about an attempted cover up of the details in the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old wielding a  knife.

Housing Action Illinois

Estimates of the homeless populations in the state and the nation were released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, pointing to an 11 percent drop nationally and a slight decline in Illinois.

I talked with Bob Palmer, policy director at Illinois Housing Action, to find out more about those numbers.

Washington University in St. Louis

There are actions governors can take about their concerns over Syrian refugees, but keeping them out of their states — even temporarily — is not one.  So says the emeritus professor whose textbook on immigration is used by about 185 law schools in the country.

Valerie Everett

The first installment in a series on homelessness looks at a campaign to get the city and public schools to target the needs of homeless Chicago students.


University of Illinois Springfield researchers are taking an unusual tack at getting funds to do research. They have created a crowdfunding account to pay for testing kits. They plan to investigate hepatitis c in homeless people in central Illinois.

UIS professors Kanwal Alvarez and Josiah Alamu need to raise at least $500 and hope to get $2,000.

Alvarez says UIS researchers have not used the fundraising method previously.

Voices For Illinois Children, National Women's Law Center

Illinois fares poorly in a recent national report looking at access to child care assistance. In fact, the state ranks dead last after after cuts were made in July to drastically reduce maximum income levels for families to qualify. The report, by the Washington, D.C.-based National Women’s Policy Center, compared policies between the states as well as the District of Columbia.


  People in the transgender community deserve the same rights as anyone else. So said more than 80 percent of respondents in a national survey conducted by the

University of Illinois Springfield Survey Research Office.

A boarded up apartment building
Robert Loerzel / Illinois Issues

The Illinois poverty rate hovers above pre-recession levels at 14.4 percent, according to Census numbers released Thursday. In all, 1.8 million Illinoisans live in poverty.

Meanwhile, income in Illinois is stagnant even though job growth is up, according to numbers crunched by the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance.

This is likely a consequence of the state’s budget woes, says Kimberly Drew, an economic security specialist at the alliance.

Drew says cuts in social programs because of the budget impasse are likely to worsen the effects of poverty in the state.

Limits on who is eligible for this Welfare-to-Work program sparked intense debate in Springfield.  But the fight isn’t over. 

Greater Chicago Food Depository

Just under 2 million people a year are fed by food banks in Illinois, according to the 2015 report of the Illinois Commission to End Hunger, which released its annual analysis last week.

Photograph by Yoshiko Dart / Access Living

Twenty-five years after the landmark federal law, people with disabilities in Illinois still have trouble getting hired.

Access Living

In July, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill calling for language that would create respectful references to people with disabilities throughout state law.


Sunday marked the anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Recently, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran an extensive story marking the occasion. To learn about that story and get an update on what’s happening in Ferguson, I talked with the story’s author, Kevin McDermott.

Rita Crundwell showing a horse
American Quarter Horse Association

Illinois’ male public officials and politicians aren’t the only ones behaving badly. A recent study looked at the cases of 29 Illinois women involved in corrupt acts over a 25-year period.

That’s the number rounded up by graduate student Ryan Ceresola. The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale published the study this June.

With essay titles like “We Can’t Breath,” a new book co-edited by an Illinois State University professor aims to combat “modern-day lynchings of black men such as Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner and Michael Brown.’’

The Department of Education last year released the names of dozens of schools under investigation for poor handling of sexual assault cases. Two of those were in Illinois: the University of Chicago and Knox College in Galesburg.

The issue was on the radar of lawmakers. Late in the spring legislative session the House and Senate approved a bill to improve collegiate responses to campus sexual assault. The legislation was sent to the governor in June.

A pilot internship program for youth who age out of the foster care system would be designed in January, if approved by the governor.

The unpaid program, which aims to discourage youth homelessness, would operate for a two-year period before being assessed for long-term implementation, state Sen. Mattie Hunter, a Democrat from Chicago, says. The program would be offered to youth who’ve aged out of the system when they are 21 years old.

Photographs by Tony Wedick


One hundred miles west of Chicago lies Nachusa Grasslands, a 3,500-acre prairie restoration site.

The dry prairie, oak savannahs, grasslands and wetlands draw hundreds of different plant and animal species, including the endangered Blandings’ turtles and 180 different birds such as dickcissels and grasshopper and Henslow’s sparrows. The more than 700 plants include the state’s largest population of the federally threatened prairie bush clover, according to The Nature Conservancy.

Professor Maria Krysan
University Of Illinois At Chicago

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a major opinion on housing discrimination. It determined that violations of the federal 1968 Fair Housing Act could occur even if intent to discriminate is not shown.

Meanwhile, the federal Housing and Urban Development administration announced new regulations that clarify the expectations of the act, which aims to limit racial bias in housing. They demand that cities and towns across the country analyze housing patterns for signs of racial discrimination and report the findings.

Several people commenting on my story last week: “Why Are Women Poor?” wrote that women in the story would not be in poverty if they had been married.

Picture of Zylinska family
Magdelina Zylinska

Nearly half of Illinois children in households headed by single women live in poverty — compared with just over a quarter of children in households headed by single men.

Nicholas Hartlep headshot
Illinois State University

With titles like “We Can’t Breathe” and “Grey Hoodies, Baggy Jeans, and Brown Skin,” a newly released book of essays stood out from much of the information that comes across the Equity blog radar. So we looked up co-editor Nicholas Hartlep, a professor in educational foundations at Illinois State University.  The book, published by Rowman and Littlefield, features 57 essays.  Hartlep, an author of several works on the topic of race, talked with Maureen Foertsch McKinney, who acts as co-curator of WUIS/Illinois’ Equity blog. 

American Quarter Horse Association

Illinois’ male public officials and politicians aren’t the only ones to behave badly. A recent study looked at the cases of 29 Illinois women involved in corrupt acts over a 25-year-period.

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General Lisa Madigan pushed legislation calling for new policies to handle sexual assault cases on Illinois campuses. The bill was approved by both Houses in late May.

An international debate has churned since a Muslim chaplain from Northwestern University complained about her treatment on a United Airlines-operated flight.

I talked with University of Illinois professor Stacy Harwood, co-leader of a project on racial  microaggression,  about whether that flight attendant’s action could be considered racist.  

Barack Obama
WUIS/Illinois Issues

There is sure to be an economic benefit to the city of Chicago with the decision to locate the Barack Obama Presidential Center on the city’s south side, but not to the extent a University of Chicago impact study suggested.

schoolbus and rural setting in disrepair
Rain Rannu

The status of the New Orleans school system post-Hurricane Katrina is a personal issue for University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professor Adrienne Dixson.

Now an academic focusing on issues of urban education and school reform, Dixson taught in the New Orleans public schools from 1991 to 1995, and has family in the region.

In a paper co-written with scholars from Georgia State University in Atlanta, she says, “We talked about the ways that public education has changed in a way that we argue displaces and disenfranchises people of color in particular.’’

Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren / Harvard

A recent study showed that children who grow up in poverty have a better shot at economic mobility depending on where they live.

The study, by economists Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren of Harvard University, was based on earning records for millions of families and is part of an ongoing effort called The Equality of Opportunity Project.

"We show that the area in which a child grow up has significant causal effects on her prospects for upward mobility," the report states.

A sex trafficking researcher is urging community members to take action to help thwart victimization.

“We have awakened to this issue of sex trafficking,” says Jody Raphael, a professor at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago, who has investigated the sex trade in Illinois for about the past 15 years. “We really need to have some activism going in our communities.”

Members of the Illinois General Assembly’s Latino Caucus are calling for increased blood donations from Latinos because they are more likely to have the type in highest demand.

While the Latino population makes up 17 percent of the Illinois population, just an estimated 4 percent are blood donors, says Margaret Vaughn, who is government affairs direction for the Illinois Coalition of Community Blood Donors.