Substance News editorship returns to Schmidt family

Steinmetz High School teacher Sharon Schmidt, the widow of Substance founder and long-time editor George Schmidt, has returned to edit Substance beginning May 1, 2023. She had previously served as editor from October 2018 through May 2020.

Since 1975, Substance has been advocating for economic justice and professional respect for teachers, democracy within the Chicago Teachers Union and improved public schools. The monthly paper was in print from 1975 until 2012; we've been publishing stories online for nearly 20 years.

In addition to George Schmidt and his Substance co-founder Larry MacDonald, other editors have included Leo Gorenstein and Terry Czernik. Following George's death on Sept. 17, 2018, Sharon Schmidt edited Substance until May 2020. John Kugler edited Substance from June 2020 through April 2023.

The October 2018 Substance News homepage is devoted to stories and comments about George. Stories about his personal life appear on the left column of the homepage; articles about his work life are posted on the right. George Schmidt with his sons Sam, Josh, and Dan and widow Sharon in Chicago on July 15, 2018.


May 5, 2023 at 8:16 AM

By: John S. Whitfield

A triumph for our democracy, a win for First Amendment rights

Illinois lawmakers push back on library book bans

Measure passes vote despite partisan fissure

Claire Savage


CHICAGO – Illinois lawmakers greenlighted a bill Wednesday that says libraries in the state must adopt an anti-book banning policy to receive state funding, in a vote that fissured along party lines.

The measure, spearheaded by Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, represents a counter-movement to growing efforts to restrict books on topics such as race, gender and sexuality in schools and libraries across the United States.

The legislation has passed both chambers and now heads to the desk of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said he looks forward to signing it.

“This landmark legislation is a triumph for our democracy, a win for First Amendment rights, and most importantly, a great victory for future generations to come,” said Giannoulias in a news conference Wednesday after HB Newly-elected Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias addresses the crowd after taking the Oath of Office on Jan. 9 in Springfield. State lawmakers greenlit a bill on Wednesday that says libraries in the state must adopt an anti-book banning policy to receive state funding in a vote that fissured along party lines.

2789 cleared the Senate in a party-line vote.

In order to be eligible for state funding, the bill requires libraries to adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which holds that “materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation,” and “should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”

Libraries may also develop an alternative policy prohibiting the practice of banning to receive the funds.

Chicago-area Sen. Laura Murphy, a Democrat and one of the bill’s sponsors, celebrated its passage.

“Our nation’s libraries have been under attack for too long – they are bastions of knowledge and proliferate the spread of ideas,” said Murphy in a news release. “Librarians are trained professionals, and we need to trust that they will stock our libraries with appropriate materials – they were hired for their expertise, and they deserve our respect.”

All 19 Republicans in the Illinois Senate voted against the measure, including Republican Sen. Jason Plummer, who represents Edwardsville, a city northeast of St. Louis.

Plummer said the bill is an effort by Illinois Democrats “to force their extreme ideology on communities across this state” and would wrest control from local libraries.

“The members of locally elected library boards, who work to increase literacy in their communities, don’t need a book-ban agenda foisted on them by Chicago politicians who are just trying to get cheap publicity,” Plummer said in a news release. “It’s offensive to the ideals of good government to threaten to take public funding away from the very communities that generated that funding through their taxes,” he said.

Giannoulias, a Democrat, said he is “blown away that this has become a partisan issue.”

Attempted book bans and restrictions at school and public libraries hit a recordhigh in 2022, according to a March report from the American Library Association.

Giannoulias, who in January was sworn in as the first new secretary of state in a quarter-century, teamed up with Naperville Democratic Rep. Anne Stava-Murray after parents in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove complained to the high school board about “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe last summer.

Savage is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

May 13, 2023 at 8:39 AM

By: Sharon M. Schmidt

Still the Same's comments about Sharon Schmidt's flexibility

While I appreciate the sentiments of "Still the Same's" comments, our policy is not to publish unsigned comments.

May 31, 2023 at 5:39 PM

By: David R. Stone

Thanks & congratulations

Congratulations, Sharon, on taking the helm at Substance News. And thank you to George, John, and all the other volunteer journalists who have fought the good fight and kept Substance News going for all of these years.

-David R. Stone, retired CPS teacher, and former Substance News contributor

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