Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

September issue: Out with the Old — NCLB

Check out the September edition of Illinois Issues magazine.

Find a profile of Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, who has taken her party away from the legacy of James 'Pate' Philip, according to writer Kevin McDermott, in "Her own style."

In our cover story, educators and policy groups weigh in as Congress prepares to reauthorize the 2001 No Child Left Behind law. See "Out with the old."

And get a preview of an Illinois Supreme Court case that has potential to clarify what nonprofit hospitals need to do to qualify for property tax exemptions. Read "Charity care" before the case's oral arguments, scheduled for September 23.

In the print edition, only, University of Illinois at Springfield professor Christopher Mooney analyzes Gov. Pat Quinn's "populist" style as he calls attention to direct democracy concepts of recall and citizen initiative in "Let the people speak."

Also in print-only, MarySue Barrett, president of the Metropolitan Planning Council, pens a guest essay about "Wise spending," or a method she says would get infrastructure investment right.

As always, the print edition also includes, among other monthly features, the award-winning column by Charlie Wheeler, director of the Public Affairs Reporting program at UIS. This month, he says, "Illinois' budget is the most out-of-whack in recent history."


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Education cuts "rough" this year, worse next year

By Bethany Jaeger
Grant-funded education initiatives ranging from after-school programs to gifted education were “zeroed out” in a $7.2 billion budget adopted today by the Illinois State Board of Education.

The budget relies on about $362 million in cuts. It would have been worse without about $2 billion in federal stimulus funds, which won’t be available next fiscal year.

“This is a rough year. Next year could be a catastrophic year,” said Jesse Ruiz, chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education, which met in Springfield today for an emergency meeting to enact the fiscal year 2010 budget.

Next fiscal year, the board anticipates having to cut an additional $1 billion “just to tread water” and maintain this year’s funding levels, even with 25 percent to 100 percent reductions for education-related grants, said state superintendent Christopher Koch.

The cuts are the result of a $26 billion state operating budget enacted last week. The General Assembly relied on $3.5 billion in short-term borrowing. While much of that money is earmarked to helping prevent more severe reductions in grants to community-based services, none of it so far has been dedicated to education-related grants.

For instance, agricultural education was cut in half. Early childhood education programs were reduced by a third. Bilingual education lost funding by a quarter. And $3 million for homeless education programs was eliminated, but the board said federal stimulus dollars will cover some costs this fiscal year. As we wrote about in Illinois Issues magazine this spring, the number of homeless youth is increasing while funding has failed to keep pace for years.

When deciding how to spread the pain, the board chose to fully fund general state aid and so-called mandated categoricals, which cover special education and transportation costs. The minimum amount of state aid provided for each student increased by $160, bringing the so-called foundation level up to $6,119.

Board member Joyce Karon said fully funding general state aid and mandated categoricals accomplishes two goals: It spreads the money around to reach as many students as possible and grants the most flexibility to local school districts.

The board also avoided cutting programs or line items that would leverage significant amounts of federal matching funds. If the board decreased funding for certain programs, it would fail to satisfy federal requirements to maintain past funding levels, added Linda Mitchell, the board’s chief financial officer.

“The budget passed by the General Assembly gave the board a lot of discretion, and that means gave the board a lot of difficult choices — a lot of ‘Sophie’s Choices’ of which children and which programs,” Mitchell said.

Ruiz added that the General Assembly again is mandating that districts provide such services as bilingual education but it is not approving the necessary funding. “We are just in essence putting the burden on local districts to somehow find the means and putting more stress on them,” he said. “And we can’t, as regulators in that regard, let them off the hook. Yet, we’re kind of passing the buck.”

On multiple occasions he reminded more than two-dozen advocates in attendance that the new budget has a political context: Incumbents and candidates will be campaigning throughout the state as they prepare for the 2010 elections. He said this year’s budget process, while disheartening, should energize advocates to pressure politicians to explain why they rejected revenue increases.

“Before you give them a check and a dime, challenge them and ask them how they’d invest in education in the future,” he said. “And I don’t want platitudes. I want specific plans. And make sure how they’re going to balance it all.”

He continued: “We need to become very, very, very discriminating consumers of our public officials. And I for one would raise the benchmark in my level of scrutiny in that regard. Keep your dollars in your pocket. Give to a school before you give it to a candidate.”

One advocate was Linda Drust, Williamson County Early Childhood Cooperative executive director. She said the 33 percent reduction to early childhood block grants would mean that her organization, which serves five school districts in southern Illinois, would go from serving 600 at-risk children to 400. She said she did not have alternative funding sources.

One wild card is whether Gov. Pat Quinn will use some of his discretion in a limited amount of money left over to fund such grants as early childhood education. The short-term borrowing scheme approved as part of the fiscal year 2010 budget deal allotted $2.3 billion to community-based human services and left $1.3 billion for him to spend as he chooses.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Merit pay tops panel's recommendations

By Jamey Dunn

A bipartisan reform group raised the concern today that the majority of Illinois high-school graduates are not prepared for college or the workforce.

According to Robin Steans, Advance Illinois executive director and sister of Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago, one out of every four incoming high-school freshmen in Illinois will drop out. Two will not be prepared for college or work upon graduating, which leaves only one graduate out of the four prepared for the next step.

Former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, Advance Illinois co-chair and brother of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, said that ensuring kids are ready for college or work would benefit Illinois businesses by creating a stronger workforce. “If we can close this gap of the number of students who are either college-ready or work-ready, it would have a tremendous impact on the economy of our state,” Daley said.

The group laid out some sweeping changes in it’s report, released today, which focused on three areas of reform:

Radically shift personnel policy.
Teachers' pay and tenure would be determined by student achievement, not by the number of years a teacher is on the job. Former Gov. Jim Edgar, co-chair of Advance Illinois, said that automatically giving teachers a pay increase for getting a master's degree should be reconsidered because, he said, there is no correlation between teachers who hold degrees and students who perform better in the classroom. Edgar said the money could be better spent on other training programs that prove more effective. 

Increase standards for test scores. Raising the standards for test scores and the requirements for high-school graduation would help ensure that Illinois is on par with the rest of the country and that students are prepared for life after high school.

Create a special fund to encourage innovative solutions. The “Race to the Top Fund” was inspired by a federal program and would allow schools to compete for grants for specific problems in their districts. Schools that received the money would have to illustrate that students improved before they could get renewed funding. 

Members of Advance Illinois, a non-profit organization funded by several philanthropic groups, set out in November of last year to tour the state and talk to parents, educators and interested groups. They also have been researching reform methods. Their report will be submitted to the General Assembly.

The report did not address school funding. Edgar said the group plans to take up that issue later. He said the next step is for members to rally support for these proposals. “It's going to take some major battles to get some of these things,” he said, adding that the current budget crisis will probably keep the legislature from taking up education reform until next year.

UPDATE: Gail Purkey, spokeswoman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, said that rating educators on students' test scores alone does not consider all the traits needed to be a good teacher. “Test scores in a vacuum is not the best way to evaluate teachers,” she said. However, she added, the group's recommendations are in their earliest stages, and her organization wants to work with Advance Illinois to create viable reforms. “These are bullet points, and there’s going to be a lot of discussion.”


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Life of a Homeless CPS Student

Very sad story about a homeless CPS student and her mother that aired on WTTW's Chicago Tonight on the day of May 27th, 2009.

Via Uptown Update!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nervous energy and four-point plans

The national economic doom and gloom is starting to cast ominous clouds on existing state budget problems, leading Gov. Rod Blagojevich and other state officials to propose some ways to adjust. So far, it seems as though the state is running in place. There’s no indication that the General Assembly and the governor are going to start getting along any time soon to follow through on some of these proposals. The legislature returns for its annual fall session Wednesday and Thursday. Friday is still up in the air.

The governor's proposal foreshadows this month's closure of numerous state parks and historic sites, as well as reduced human services, that resulted from $1.4 billion in budget cuts. While the first two rounds of money already have been transferred from special dedicated funds to help restore some of the funding, the governor hasn’t yet signed legislation authorizing the spending. He has until December 5 before it automatically becomes law.

In the meantime, Blagojevich released a four-point plan that includes borrowing money, asking the feds for some bailout money and withholding more state money. Announced through a news release, part of the plan would create a new law for emergency budget management. He seeks authority to hold as much as 8 percent of general revenue funds in reserves for state agencies, education, higher education, state pension funds and local government funding. That would be on top of the 3 percent reserves he already requested. Another portion of his new plan seeks as much as $3 billion in federal aid during the next three years.

Part of his proposal also relates to Comptroller Dan Hynes’ idea announced last week. It would allow the state to borrow money, which is nothing new. But instead of having to pay back the loan by the end of the state’s fiscal year (June 30), the state would have 12 calendar months to repay the loan. The premise is that because the comptroller would have more time to repay the loan, his office would have more flexibility in cash flow.

The proposal would need legislative approval by a three-fifths majority of each chamber so it could immediately take effect.

Right now, cash flow is a huge problem because the state can’t pay about $4 billion of its bills, including Medicaid payments to medical providers. The comptroller wrote in a letter to state officials to announce that the backlog could top $5 billion and inflict 20-week delays for payments by March. “To characterize this as an imminent crisis risks understatement,” he wrote.

Hynes’ spokeswoman, Carol Knowles, says the comptroller’s office is getting continuous complaints that unpaid bills threaten everything from police officers being unable to fill their gas tanks to prisons being unable to pay their vendors for food deliveries. Bills are paid as cash flows in, but the comptroller’s office also has to have enough money on hand to pay such long-term obligations as employee payroll and general state aid for schools. “It’s a very delicate balancing act,” she says, “and the larger the bill backlog is, the more difficult it is to answer the emergencies when they arise because it gets to the point where everything is an emergency.”

Senate Republicans describe the governor’s four-point plan as “begging and borrowing.” Sen. Christine Radogno, deputy minority leader from Lemont, says while she could support further belt tightening for state agencies or regular short-term borrowing as legitimate cash-management tools, she wants specifics that aren't available from the governor's press release. And she says she has concerns about short-term borrowing that crosses over into the next fiscal year, as proposed by Hynes. “I’m certainly willing to look at any proposal of the comptroller or the governor, but we just need to be careful not to fool ourselves and the taxpayers,” which, she says, are the same taxpayers who are footing the bill for the federal government’s $700 billion bailout package approved last month.

Cindy Davidsmeyer, spokeswoman for Senate President Emil Jones Jr., says he acknowledges that the state is facing a huge crunch, and he looks forward to hearing more details as they come out. House Speaker Michael Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, says only that the plan is under review.

Education re-reform
Also Tuesday, a new diverse, well-funded education policy group announced efforts to issue comprehensive reforms by this spring, although it’s unlikely that the group’s recommendations would be ready to go by the time the legislature is supposed to enact a state budget for fiscal year 2010.

Founders of Advance Illinois, a nonprofit based in Chicago, plan to travel around this state and others to gather evidence during the next six months. The goal is to take a broad and long-term view of ways to reverse some of Illinois’ worst academic trends that hamstring its students and workforce.

“The bottom line is … that Illinois schools are performing, despite the fact that we’re the fifth largest economy in the country, at an average to below-average level,” says Robin Steans, executive director of Advance Illinois and sister of state Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago. “On any academic measure or any attainment measure you might care to look at, we’re trailing the nation. At all grade levels in all subject areas.”

Ellen Alberding, president of the Joyce Foundation, serves on the board and says the Chicago-based foundation funds educational policy efforts throughout the Midwest. Illinois’ condition sticks out, she said after the news conference, because a large gap exists between educational attainment of low-income minority students and higher-income white students. According to information released by the group Tuesday, Illinois ranks 6th in the nation for having one of the largest achievement gaps between African-American and white students. Alberding also said she was struck by a study of Chicago students that shows only 10 percent of eighth graders who score well on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test later score 20 or above on the ACT, which indicates that most students in the study were ill prepared for higher education.

“It’s outrageous that the state has its expectations so low,” she said.

The Joyce Foundation supports the new effort along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, the Grand Victoria Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the McCormick Foundation and the New York-based Wallace Foundation.

Board members include a vast political mix, starting with co-chair and former Gov. Jim Edgar. The Republican unsuccessfully pitched a plan in the 1990s to reduce local property taxes and increase state income taxes as a way to reform education funding. He said Tuesday that he still believes the state relies too heavily on local property taxes to fund education, but the group would not focus on funding reforms. It only would announce recommendations for funding reforms as part of a more comprehensive plan, he said.

Deflecting the focus away from the question of whether taxes would increase, however, will be a challenge.

The other co-chair is former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, the Democratic brother of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and a rumored candidate for governor in 2010. Also among the board members is former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a Republican who helped lead negotiations between Blagojevich and legislative leaders to draft a capital program for road and school construction projects. That plan stalled. Former state Sen. Miguel del Valle, a Democrat and current city clerk of Chicago, used to chair the Illinois Senate Education Committee. Del Valle said Tuesday that Advance Illinois “is the most promising” of all the efforts he’s seen to reform public education.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

State Constitution: If it’s not broke . . .

Cheryl Jackson of the Chicago Urban League:

While both sides have valid arguments, we at Chicago Urban League feel it is important for voters to remember that the vast majority of the problems African Americans face do not stem from flaws in our state Constitution. A shortage of good-paying jobs, failing schools and lack of access to capital to fund businesses–none of these problems will go away by attacking our state Constitution with a red ballpoint pen. High crime rates, scarce affordable housing and deteriorating infrastructure in our neighborhoods–these are social ills that cannot be blamed on the Constitution. In fact, the estimated $40 million to $80 million cost of a Constitutional Convention could be better spent purchasing computers for public schools on the South and West sides, or hiring more highly skilled teachers in the toughest neighborhood schools.

As for education funding, the Constitution already clearly spells out the responsibility of the state to provide a high quality education to all of its citizens, and it's high time for Illinois lawmakers to honor that.

In 1808, the designers of the state's original Constitution wrote in a useful feature for making changes to the document: It's called an amendment. We, at the Urban League, believe the tools to lead Illinois forward are already in the hands–or certainly within reach–of our legislative leaders. The other tool lies in your hands. As a voter, you have the power to elect the candidates you believe will make the changes our community needs. If you're not informed about who you want to vote for, their policies and their track records, then I suggest you do your homework before Tuesday rolls around.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Ex-CSU chief OKs $18,000 book on ... self


Before leaving Chicago State University, embattled university president Elnora Daniel signed off on spending more than $18,000 to publish a tribute book honoring herself, a glossy coffee table publication featuring pictures of Daniel posing with lawmakers, university staff and her family.

The 52-page soft-cover book looks like a personal photo album, with minimal text and no photo captions. There are pictures of Daniel at a grant ceremony with President George W. Bush, smiling at U.S. Sen. Barack Obama and accepting state checks from Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, who funneled millions of dollars to Chicago State under Daniel's leadership.

The last page features a photo of Daniel and five family members dressed in formal dinner attire and standing next to an elaborate staircase. Daniel's university-financed family travel was the subject of a stinging state audit that found she spent more than $15,000 to attend a leadership conference aboard a Caribbean cruise ship in August 2006, where she was accompanied by five family members.

The taxpayer-financed book, titled "A Retrospective: Ten Years of Vision and Leadership," was mailed to about 400 people, including government officials, university presidents, business executives and donors, according to documents the Tribune obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. About a quarter of the recipients are Chicago State faculty and administrators.
I don't know whether or not I should consider this a fitting end or what. Especially after looking at how her tenure at Chicago State ended. I suppose one takes the perks while they last.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Decline of Chicago: The City that Doesn't Work

Steve Bartin from this local blog known as Newsalert offers his two cents on the state of the city of Chicago in this online column. Something that's worth a pull from this column among other things I'd like to excerpt...

Recently, Crain’s Chicago Business reported on Chicago winning an award from Fast Company magazine. “Chicago stood out in our reporting for its creativity and vitality,” Editor and Managing Director Bob Safian said at a press conference here. “Chicago offers something distinctive.”

Fast Company Magazine is representative of much of the media: not much on hard facts about Chicago. The Windy City has distinctions but not positive ones. Chicago’s retail sales tax is the highest in the nation at 10.25 percent. Unions, high taxes, and political corruption have made Chicago one of the leaders in big city decline.

One of the great modern myths of big city America is that Chicago is some sort of successful town and a role model for others. By any traditional performance standards Chicago has failed. Like many old, big industrial cities, Chicago peaked in the 1950 Census with a population of 3,620,962. In the 1950s over two percent of the entire U.S. population lived within Chicago city limits. Over a half century later, while America’s population doubled, Chicago’s population declined. The 1960, 1970, 1980, and 1990 Census numbers showed Chicago losing population.

Mayor Daley and Chicago residents were quite excited about the 2000 Census showing Chicago gaining over 112,000 people (a growth rate at half the national average for the 1990s). It appears the 1990s were an anomaly for Chicago. Since the year 2000, according to Census estimates, Chicago again continued its population decline with a loss of 63,000 from 2000 to 2006 leaving a total of 2,833,321.


Though 2000 was a somewhat positive year, that year’s Census numbers mask some rather disturbing trends. The white flight out of Chicago continued with 150,000 non- Hispanic white people leaving Chicago from 1990 to 2,000. African-Americans, for the first time, began leaving Chicago with a net loss of 5,000. The population gain in Chicago during the 1990s was due to Hispanics.

Here's another problem highlighted...

What is even more pronounced is the lack of white children in the public school system. The entire Chicago Public School is only 9 percent white . Not a single public school has a population that is majority white. Not one.

Recently, the stubborn facts of Chicago’s population decline made news. As CBS TV Chicago reported in January of 2008:

Half-empty schools are ‘unacceptable’ because they don't serve their students or the communities they're supposed to anchor, Mayor Richard M. Daley said Thursday, setting the stage for the biggest wave of school closings in decades.

Officials contend 147 of 417 neighborhood elementary schools are from half to more than two-thirds empty because enrollment has declined by 41,000 students in the last seven years. A tentative CPS plan calls for up to 50 under-used schools to close, consolidate with other schools or phase out over the next five years.

Most of the underused schools are on the South and West Sides, often where the student population is largely African-American, and in lakefront neighborhoods that include Lincoln Park, Lake View, Uptown and North Center.”

The situation isn’t any better in Chicago’s Catholic School System. The Chicago Tribune reported on February 27, 2007:

Nicholas Wolsonovich, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, called the exodus from Chicago's Catholic schools ‘mind-boggling.’ In 1964, he said, some 500 schools were spread across the diocese, with about 366,000 students. Now, the system has 257 schools and fewer than 100,000 students. Over the last decade statewide, the number of Catholic schools has dropped from 592 in 1997 to 510 this year, according to figures released at the conference.

Chicago’s political elite love to give speeches about the importance of public education, but not for their children. Mayor Daley sent his children to private schools. Deborah Lynch, the former head of the Chicago Teacher’s Union, sent her kids to private schools. America’s newest political superstar, Barack Obama, sends his kids to private schools. With the exodus of the rich from Chicago’s public schools, 69 percent of the children in the Chicago Public School system are poor.

The horrible public schools, high taxes, and crime have driven families out of Chicago. The city’s job base cannot compete with anti-union places like Houston and Phoenix.

Let's talk a little about business in Chicago. Chicago and Cook County already has the highest sales tax in the nation but what might be the after effects of that and other taxes on businesses here...

Chicago’s high tax life style has driven businesses and jobs to the suburbs. Chicago is one ofthe only towns in America with an employee head tax on employment. Companies with over 50 employees must pay $4 a month per employee to the city. Most of the major corporate headquarters in the Chicago area are located in Chicago’s suburbs. Motorola, Walgreens, All State, Kraft, Anixter, Illinois Tool Works, McDonald’s, Alberta-Culver, and Abbott Labs all have their corporate headquarters outside city limits.

Recently, Chicago got its first Wal-Mart. In most places in America, politicians allow consumers to decide whether a business should fail or succeed. In Chicago, with the power of the unions, Chicago’s city council has made it difficult for Wal-Mart to open up any more stores. Chicago’s poor are relegated to paying higher retail prices and have less access to entry-level jobs. The adjacent suburb of Niles has the unusual distinction of being the only town in America (with less than 45,000 people) with two Wal-Marts. One of the Niles Wal-Marts is located right across the street from Chicago.

The largest employer in the city of Chicago is the Federal government. Followed by the City of Chicago public School system. Other major employers are the city of Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority, the Cook County government, and the Chicago Park District. These thousands of government workers provide the backbone of the coalition for higher taxes, generous pensions and “political stability”.

Chicago’s political system is inefficient and costly. There are no term limits in Chicago. The Democratic Party has controlled the Mayor’s office since 1931(a big city record). There’s no opposition: Democrat’s control 49 out of 50 seats on the city council. Corruption is everywhere. Barely a month can go by without a major scandal. The FBI has the largest public corruption squad in the United States located in Chicago . Chicago voters don’t seem to care. Those who care about high taxes, good public schools, and low crime are a small minority in Chicago.

I just post this here because there are some things to consider here. Does anyone think the City of Chicago is in trouble? Does anyone think there might need to be some changes made in how the city is able to attract and retain businesses here?

This column concludes that low-tax and low-regulation Houston, Texas will over take Chicago in 15 years. Does anyone think that will happen?

Cross-posted at The Sixth Ward.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Bills on the move

The Illinois General Assembly is quickly moving a lot of legislation this week since returning from a two-week spring break. Here's a sample of bills to watch, which is an addendum to the list published in Illinois Issues magazine this month:

State Board of Education revamp
HB 4232: The state's education board would be revamped and newly appointed by the governor, but he or she would have a select pool of candidates vetted and chosen by a panel of state lawmakers under a measure sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat and frequent critic of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration meddling in state agency business. He said on the House floor that while he's not pointing his finger at any education board members, “the system we have in place is a system that does not foster independent advocacy for children.”

Such opponents as Blagojevich ally Rep. Jay Hoffman, a Collinsville Democrat, said the idea of terminating all current board members goes overboard and ignores the fact that Blagojevich revamped the board during his first term. “It has been fixed,” Hoffman said during floor debate. “Unfortunately, this is a solution looking for a problem that doesn't exist. We have a better state board today than we have ever had in the State of Illinois.” Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat and chamber leader, also opposed the measure, saying the extra layer of bureaucracy could actually create less accountability, less transparency and less teamwork than the board has today. She said if the chief executive fails to appoint people who are up to the task, there's a place to hold that official accountable: “It's called the next election.”

The measure's future in the Senate could be bleak if Senate President Emil Jones Jr., who was a Blagojevich ally in the past, chooses not to call the measure for a vote. Lang pointed to a similar proposal he floated last year to revamp the Illinois Gaming Board in the name of making it more independent and shielded from political influence. That's still in the House, too.

Foreclosure assistance
SB 1979: Homeowners in need of financial assistance to avoid losing their homes would receive grants under a measure approved by the Senate. Sponsored by Chicago Democratic Sen. Rickey Hendon, it would allow grants to lenders if the lender agreed to freeze the foreclosure process and negotiate with the homeowner. It now goes to the House.

College campus violence
SB 1881: Bail would be denied to individuals who make terrorist threats of large-scale violence, such as the threat made last month at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, under a measure approved by the Senate. The sponsor, Alton Democratic Sen. William Haine, said the proposal would slow down the legal process so threats of campus violence could be investigated properly.

Smoking ban exemptions
SB 2006: Another attempt to relax the state's smoking ban, this one to allow veterans' homes to permit smoking, passed the Senate. Sponsored by Rushville Democratic Sen. John Sullivan, the proposal is one of multiple attempts to change the law to allow some groups to smoke in public places.

Early childhood education
HB 5038: The state would dedicate more money to education programs aimed at children age 0 to 3 under a measure approved by the House. Funding programs for the youngest children is a growing trend as more research shows the earliest investments pay off in the long run (see Illinois Issues, April, page 6). It now goes to the Senate.

HB 4705: The House also unanimously approved an extension of Blagojevich's first-term program Preschool for All, which first funds state-sponsored preschool for children from low-income neighborhoods who are considered at risk of academic failure. The extension, albeit by only two years, would allow Illinois to extend available funding to children from middle-income families, as planned when the governor initiated the first phase.

Follow the money
HB 4765: Illinois taxpayers would have a one-stop shop to find out how their public dollars were spent under a measure unanimously approved by the House. Rep. Michael Tryon, a Crystal Lake Republican, sponsored the measure to create a Web site that would track all money spent on all districts, all state contracts, all state employees and all tax credits, and then some, to improve government transparency. His idea is modeled after Missouri's Web site, The state's Central Management Services estimates the cost to be $100,000 a year, according to Tryon, who rebutted that the state would save money if contractors became more competitive when bidding for state business. “In this day and age especially in Illinois, and I know we share the concern when we turn on the TV and we open up the newspaper and we're seeing the U.S. attorney saying [we have] pay to play on steroids,” Tryon said during floor debate. “We should be a leader in this, and I hope we see this in action by this time next year.”

Overdue bills
HB 5898: The governor's annual budget proposal would have to include the amount of overdue bills and would require Illinois to pay bills within a month of being submitted under a measure approved by the House 101-3. It also would increase the interest rate if the state took more than 60 days to pay the bill. Rep. David Winters, a Shirland Republican, said he supported the measure because it would help make the state budget more transparent when Illinois lacks the money to pay for new programs. Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, voted present and said the proposal as written doesn't allow the state enough flexibility if it had a tight cash flow, a concern shared by the governor's budget office (scroll down to see the balanced budget note).


Friday, March 14, 2008

No small plan: Public boarding schools for Chicago

This is from the Tribune today...

Public boarding schools where homeless children and those from troubled homes could find the safety and stability to learn are being pursued by Chicago Public Schools officials.

Under the plan, still in the nascent stages, the first pilot residential program could open as soon as fall 2009. District officials hope to launch as many as six such schools in the following years, including at least one that would operate as a year-round school.

The proposal puts Chicago at the forefront of urban school reform, as cities struggle to raise the academic achievement of students hampered by dysfunctional homes and other obstacles outside school.

Some districts, including Chicago, have looked for solutions from small schools to single-sex campuses. But residential schools are a bolder -- and far more expensive -- proposition. Long an option for the affluent, boarding schools are virtually unheard of for the disadvantaged.

Chicago Public Schools chief Arne Duncan said he does not want to be in the "parenting" business, but he worries that some homes and some neighborhoods are unsafe, making education an afterthought.

"Some children should not go home at night; some of them we need 24-7," he told the Tribune. "We want to serve children who are really not getting enough structure at home. There's a certain point where dad is in jail or has disappeared and mom is on crack ... where there isn't a stable grandmother, that child is being raised by the streets."

Chicago school officials are still working through details of the plan, and it's not clear whether the schools would be run by the district, outside agencies or some combination of the two.

It's also not certain how the schools would be funded, who would shoulder the liability of keeping students overnight or how students would be selected.

In April, as part of its Renaissance 2010 new schools program, the district will put out a formal request for boarding school proposals. Officials have already met with interested groups in Chicago.
There are a lot of questions here. Especially how are they going to pay for it. I would hope that private agencies will help run such a school.


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Our underfunded colleges

From the Chicago Reader blog Chicagoland...

Due to persistent underfunding from Springfield, our state's 60 public colleges and universities have now deferred approximately $3 billion in maintenance costs.
If this is a serious problem then why is the governor talking about tearing down an academic hall at Northern Illinois University or mistaken donating money to a school not connected with a church who's landmark sanctuary was burned down?


Monday, February 11, 2008

RezkoWatch: Terrorist donations to Obama campaign?

Great work again by RezkoWatch's B Merry:

Did former Weather Undeground Terrorist William Ayers, pictured in the 1960s, donate to the Obama campaign?

From Peter Hitchens in the Daily Mail:

It suggests very bad judgment, as do strong, persistent suggestions that Obama also accepted quite small contributions from extreme Left-wing veterans of the terrorist Weather Underground now living in Chicago.

His list of contributions shows one for $200 from a certain William Ayers. Can this possibly be the same William Ayers, now a Chicago professor, who used to plant bombs in the Seventies and has said: "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough"? His partner, Bernardine Dohrn, once "declared war" on the US government.

It wouldn't be surprising. Those (like me) who know the Left-wing codes notice things about Obama that suggest he is far more radical than he would like us to know.

From RezkoWatch:

To be perfectly clear, the $200 campaign contribution cited by Hitchens is yet to be located. Ayers' name does not appear on any of Obama's political action committee reports—Obama for Illinois, Obama for Congress 2000, Obama 2010, or Obama for America—filed with the Federal Election Commission .

Ayers is married to Bernardine Dohrn, also a former Weather Underground terrorist. Both are tenured professors. Dohrn is a law professor (even though she has no license to practice law) at Northwestern University. Ayers is an education professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

During his terror salad days, Ayers said this, "Kill all the rich people. ... Bring the revolution home. Kill your parents." Yes, this man is an education professor.

Of the Charles Manson killings, Dohrn emitted this ghastly comment shortly after the crime, "Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim's stomach! Wild!" And she is a law professor.

RezkoWatch discovers that Obama and the terrorist-twosome have appeared together:

In November 1997, Ayers and Obama participated in a panel at the University of Chicago entitled Should a child ever be called a "super predator?" to debate "the merits of the juvenile justice system".

In April 2002, Ayers, Dohrn, and Obama, then an Illinois state senator, participated together at a conference entitled "Intellectuals: Who Needs Them?" sponsored by The Center for Public Intellectuals and the University of Illinois-Chicago. Ayers and Obama were two of the six members of the "Intellectuals in Times of Crisis" panel.

Ayers, "who in the 1960s was a member of the terrorist group Weatherman and a wanted fugitive for over a decade as a result of the group's bombing campaign," is currently the Board Chairman of the Woods Fund of Chicago and Obama is a former Board member.

Although they've been professors for over a decade, it still angers me that academia opened their arms to these thugs.

That's not all from that blog to report this afternoon:

Thankfully, the RW tipster provided the NYT link as well as information that led to the following:

The RezkoWatch Confidential Tips email inbox brought a chilling surprise posed in the form of a question: Was the Khaleel Ahmed who donated to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)'s campaign in 2004 the same Khaleel Ahmed who was arrested in February 2007 with his cousin on terrorism charges?

On June 16, 2004, Khaleel Ahmed, 215 Orchard Avenue, Bensenville, Illinois, contributed $2,000 to Obama for Illinois. This was Ahmed's first and only political contribution.

Additionally, a search for his cousin's name, Zubair Ahmed, found this as well: On June 16, 2004, Zubair Ahmed, 907 Polo Lane, Oak Brook, Illinois, contributed $500 to Obama for Illinois. This likewise was Zubair's first and only political contribution.

More on this pair, from the New York Times:

Two cousins were arrested here Wednesday on charges of conspiring to commit terrorist acts against American military personnel in Iraq, as well as others abroad, in an Islamic holy war against the United States and its allies.

The defendants, Zubair A. Ahmed, 27, and Khaleel Ahmed, 26, were taken into custody at their Chicago homes after a federal grand jury in Cleveland returned a fresh indictment in a pending terrorism case in which three Ohio men are already awaiting trial in Toledo.

The new indictment accuses the two Chicago men of plotting with the Ohioans "to kill or maim persons in locations outside of the United States," including members of the armed forces serving in Iraq.

It says the cousins, both United States citizens, sought training in firearms and countersurveillance from a person with an American military background. The indictment identified that person only as the Trainer. It describes the Trainer as an American citizen who communicated extensively with the three original defendants about paramilitary training but who was not engaged in the conspiracy.

This is not the kind of change that I can believe in.

Related Marathon Pundit posts:

University of Illinois at Chicago's Bill Ayers: Not a jarhead

The Weather Underground and Ward Churchill-UPDATED!
Bernardine Dohrn watch
David Horowitz says you should know about Bernardine Dohrn and William Ayers
Moron Professor Bill Ayers
More on Bill Ayers' wife, Bernadine Dohrn
SDS' 1968 Tragical History Tour
Update on another campus radical: Bill Ayers of the Weather Underground

To comment on this post, please visit Marathon Pundit.


Thursday, January 31, 2008

Controversial Chicago State University president stepping down

You could put this story under, "what took her so long?" If you haven't been tracking the story, there were issues with finances and contracts at Chicago State. So now we see someone is taking a hit for these flaps from today's Trib...

Elnora Daniel, the beleaguered president of Chicago State University, told colleagues Wednesday that she plans to retire, following a year in which her spending practices and leadership repeatedly came under fire.

She plans to leave on June 30, the day her contract is set to expire, but she will continue to collect her $241,025 salary and other benefits until June 30, 2009, as an "educational leave" clause in her contract allows.

Daniel announced her departure in an e-mail sent early Wednesday morning to faculty and staff at the 7,000-student South Side university, which serves more African-American students than any other university in the state.

Daniel had been asking the board since at least June to extend her contract, but the board never acted on her requests.

Her contract requires that she give the board "reasonable notice" of her intention to seek a paid leave, which becomes an option if her contract is not renewed, according to the agreement.

Her announcement comes as federal authorities are set to audit the university's spending on a government-funded project in west Africa, the subject of a recent Tribune investigation.

"It is with both sadness and a great deal of pride that I leave the university," Daniel wrote in her e-mail, a copy of which was forwarded to the Tribune. She wrote that the decision was difficult, but that "all good things must inevitably come to an end."

Daniel did not respond to calls or e-mails requesting comment.

Daniel, 66, has been president of Chicago State for the last decade. At a July news conference, called so she could defend her spending practices, Daniel said that she had no plans to step down.

"I will not resign. Never," Daniel said. "There are many important things that have been accomplished as a result of me being at this institution."

In Wednesday's e-mail, Daniel cited the university's new library and convocation center among her accomplishments. She also pointed to the creation of the doctoral program in educational leadership—the university's first PhD program—and the new College of Pharmacy, which will welcome its first class this fall.
Let's hope that Chicago State can appoint a leader who can right the ship and make that university into a desireable destination for those looking for a school to attend.

Related posts from my blog
Chicago St. president pays back $8,650
Chicago State copier buys were inside deal


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The harsh truth

By Patrick O’Brien
The first round of students affected by the state’s Truth-in-Tuition law could have sticker shock when they open their bills this fall. Students at state schools with a locked-in tuition in the past are now vulnerable to a fluctuating economy because the state law does not guarantee a set tuition beyond four years unless a student’s academic program is designed for five or six years.

This spring marks the end of the first four-year group of students’ guarantee on tuition. Students returning for a fifth year of school will experience tuition hikes in the works at some state schools, and the first group of Truth-in-Tuition students can expect hefty increases as they try to finish their degrees.

The state budget picture hasn’t been rosy for higher education in the past few years. As state schools tighten their belts, they are forced to pass costs onto students.

Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, for example, first enrolled undergraduate students at $124 a credit hour in fall 2004, but it will propose that those students receive a 25 percent tuition increase starting in fall 2008 to $155 a credit hour. While this is only a proposal, the standard procedure in adopting tuition increases indicates this probably will be the size of the hike.

One reason the school is proposing such a large increase, seven times the rate of inflation, is because the first class of students were guaranteed stable tuition rates that were too low, according to Mark Wilcockson, the university’s vice president of finance and administration. Even with that 25 percent increase, this group of students at the school will pay the least in tuition at the university.

Wilcockson added that the Truth-in-Tuition law made it difficult to project costs four years ago, especially with the state’s economic picture playing such a large role in tuition increases. State aid to schools has decreased steadily since 2002, so students will feel the pinch this fall when state aid is unlikely to increase much and may actually decline.

While the Truth-in-Tuition law does take into account the rising costs of education, it does not take into account the increasing amount of time it takes to earn a degree. Students who have not finished their degrees in four years often complain about the limited availability of courses they need to finish their degree, according to Wilcockson.

Nationally, one in four students completes a degree in four years, according to Eastern Illinois University. The school has instituted a program, EIU4, which guarantees qualified students a four-year degree if they meet certain benchmarks.

As state universities continue to feel the budget crunch, however, the ability to increase course offerings — a key component in reducing the time it takes to graduate — is seriously hampered, according to Wilcockson.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Another Univ. of Illinois military scholarship scandal figure gets a promotion

For almost a year I've been covering the University of Illinois military scholarships scandal.

A very brief summary: In early 2006, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign's Chicago Executive MBA program announced that the were offering 110 full-ride scholarships to returning War on Terror veterans. Only about forty ended up receiving them, some vets were accepted, then had their admissions rescinded, got un-rescinded than re-rescinded.

Here are some earlier posts on the scandal:

Broken promises: How "jarheads" got shunted aside at the University of Illinois: A Marathon Pundit series
Marathon Pundit Exclusive: What happened behind the scenes of the University of Illinois veteran scholarship scandal
University of Illinois: "Hookers are Praised as Soldiers" –Marathon Pundit's Third Investigative Report
University of Illinois military scholarships scandal update
Exclusive: Van der Hooning, and Illinois vets, get a hearing at the Court of Claims
Scandal update: Lt. Gov. Quinn wants count of vets in Univ. of Ill. MBA program
Marathon Pundit exclusive: Lt. Gov. Quinn's letter to U of I president about military scholarship scandal

The dean of the College of Business while most of the events in the above posts were occurring was Dr. Avijit Ghosh, who was promoted to serve as vice president for technology and economic development for the three-campus University system.

Taking his place on an interim basis will be Larry DeBrock, who previously served as the associate dean of academic affairs and acting associate dean of the faculty in the College of Business.

Both appointments are subject to University of Illinois Board of Trustees approval. Both press releases are still on College of Business web site, so I think it's safe to assume that both men will be in place in their new jobs on January 1--which is of course the same day the U of I football team will play in the Rose Bowl.

As I've commented before, if you are a fan of the Missouri Tigers or the Florida Gators and you're angry that the Fighting Illini (who lost to Mizzou in September) are in the "Granddaddy of Them All," contact U of I president Joseph White about the jilted veterans at

As I noted a few months ago, I obtained a copy of an e-mail in which DeBrock referred to his colleagues as hookers.

DeBrock wrote:

So, if you are telling folks they need to drive 3.5 hours... teach 3 hours, and drive back 3.5 hours, they need (to be) compensated. And your 37.5 is nice compensation. But, high priced hookers are still hookers. But, BUT, B U T , if you bring in 70 students and the college nets 3.5 million, the hookers are praised as soldiers. They are cheered by smiling faculty waving UIUC flags lining the roadside while they ride back into town.

Robert van der Hooning, the former associate dean in charge of the veteran's program, told me DeBrock was one of the College of Business senior staff who derisively to the veterans at one time they were so eager to admit into the EMBA program as "jarheads."

Other university officials deny that, but I'm with van der Hooning on this one--as well as everything else on this story.

To comment on this post, or to vote in the Pajamas Media presidential straw poll, click here.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Marathon Pundit exclusive: Quinn's letter to U of I president about military scholarship scandal

The below letter has been authorized as authentic. Thanks to Marathon Pundit commenter R. Gerritt for submitting it last night under my blog comments section.

Thank you R. Gerritt, and thank you Lieutnenant Governor Quinn.

November 20, 2007

Dr. B. Joseph White
President, University of Illinois
364 Henry Administration Building, MC-346 506 S. Wright St
Urbana, Illinois 61801

Dear President White:

I am writing to express my continuing concern about the University of Illinois' Executive MBA program's treatment of our veterans.

On March 3, 2006, I joined Robert van der Hooning, then Assistant Dean for Professional and Executive Education at the University's College of Business, at a University of Illinois-sponsored luncheon to promote the College of Business' commitment to award free tuition for its Executive MBA Program to Illinois servicemembers who have served in the Global War on Terror. At that time, the University pledged to provide up to 110 full academic scholarships to the 20-month Executive MBA Program, including tuition, mandatory fees, books, meals, and lodging.

Since that promising beginning, I have been deeply disappointed by the University of Illinois' failure to fulfill its promise to our veterans. Instead of honoring our pledge to our veterans, the University ofIllinois has cut back on its promise.

I am writing this letter to formally request a full listing of all veterans who have thus far received the tuition waiver from the College of Business, along with a list of all veterans who have applied for an been denied admission and total enrollment numbers for the Executive MBA program over the last two years. I expect the University of Illinois to make good on its promise and set an example of ethical behavior for all of its students.

I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.


Pat Quinn Lt. Governor

cc: Dr. Richard Herman, Chancellor, UIUC
Members, University of Illinois Board of Trustees

Related Marathon Pundit posts:

Related posts:

Scandal update: Lt. Gov. Quinn wants count of vets in Univ. of Ill. MBA program

Broken promises: How "jarheads" got shunted aside at the University of Illinois: A Marathon Pundit series

Marathon Pundit Exclusive: What happened behind the scenes of the University of Illinois veteran scholarship scandal

University of Illinois: "Hookers are Praised as Soldiers" –Marathon Pundit's Third Investigative Report

University of Illinois military scholarships scandal update

Exclusive: Van der Hooning, and Illinois vets, get a hearing at the Court of Claims


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Quinn wants count of vets in Univ. of Ill. MBA program

Rich posted a blurb on Capitol Fax...Here is an extensive rundown on the University of Illinois military scholarship scandal.

Almost a year ago I made my first post on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (my alma mater) reneging on its promise to give 110 full-ride executive MBA scholarships to War on Terror vets.

The school's EMBA program is based in the Illini Center in Chicago's Loop, pictured above.

In March of 2006, with great fanfare, the university announced the scholarship offer. The understanding within the college, and among supportive public officials such as Lieutenant Governor Patrick Quinn and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, both Democrats, was that the scholarships would be given out immediately.

But as Robert van der Hooning told me many times over the months, the University of Illinois School of Business, led by its dean at the time, Dr. Avijit Ghosh, decided to "reverse-engineer" the process and admit significantly fewer veterans. Their fear was that expected share of the tuition costs. The IVG would be the primary funding source for those scholarships, the University of Illinois would pick up the rest.

The B-shool then rescinded on some scholarship offers--then un-rescinded some (after Quinn and Emanuel got involved) then rescinded some more.

After the dust settled, about 35 veterans, not 110, received scholarships for the 2006-07 school year. The balance, university officials promised, would be awarded over the next two years.

Well, it's year two, and I have received credible allegations that far fewer than the expected number of veteran scholarships were awarded to Illinios veterans this year.

Van der Hooning, who filed an ethics complaint about the chicanery, is no longer employed by the university. He's filed a suit against the school, and his case was recently heard by the Illinois Court of Claims in Chicago.

He's still keeping an eye on our veterans, as is Lt. Governor Quinn. He sent a strongly worded letter to Dr. Joseph White, the president of the University of Illinois, requesting a not only a count of veterans currently enrolled in the EMBA program, how many received scholarships, and how many vets were turned away by the state's flagship university.

And the local media is listening. WBBM-AM Chicago has already reported on the story, as has the Associated Press and below is an excerpt from their report:

"Since that promising beginning, I have been deeply disappointed by the University of Illinois' failure to fulfill its promise to our veterans," Quinn wrote. "Instead of honoring our pledge to our veterans, the University of Illinois has cut back on its promise."

University of Illinois spokeswoman Robin Kaler, noting that the person in charge of the scholarships is out of town, said the school hasn't responded yet to Quinn's letter. She wasn't sure how many scholarships have been awarded so far.

"They're working on a response," she said.

Quinn spokeswoman Elizabeth Austin said he wrote the letter after hearing from veterans in the program and others that the university isn't making good on its initial pledge of 110 scholarships.

Thank you, Mr. Quinn and Ms. Austin.

And thank you, Illinois veterans for fighting for our freedom.

Related Marathon Pundit posts:

Broken promises: How "jarheads" got shunted aside at the University of Illinois: A Marathon Pundit series

Marathon Pundit Exclusive: What happened behind the scenes of the University of Illinois veteran scholarship scandal

University of Illinois: "Hookers are Praised as Soldiers" –Marathon Pundit's Third Investigative Report

University of Illinois military scholarships scandal update

Exclusive: Van der Hooning, and Illinois vets, get a hearing at the Court of Claims

To comment on this post, please visit Marathon Pundit.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"Tings are OK"

That's House Speaker Michael Madigan using his best Chicago accent to jokingly gauge the progress of leaders’ meeting with Gov. Rod Blagojevich Tuesday in Springfield to discuss the expansion of gaming for new revenue. Turning on the serious tone, Madigan said, “We had a good meeting, and it appears that we’re making progress. Not everything is resolved. There are differences, which I’m not going to get into.”

The four leaders of both parties met with Blagojevich in the Statehouse Tuesday afternoon and all reported progress, although they wouldn’t talk specifics. And it may take more than the seven to 10 days originally said to be the timeline for agreeing on how much to expand gaming and how to pay for Chicago mass transit, statewide construction projects and education.

The proposals on the table but not quite agreed upon include:
- A land-based casino owned by the city of Chicago, although they have to nail down a way to share the revenue between the city and the state
- One riverboat elsewhere in the state, although there’s no indication where that second boat would go
- Slots at horseracing tracks, although they aren’t releasing a number of new positions that would be allowed
- An independent gaming board, desired by House Speaker Michael Madigan, House Minority Leader Tom Cross and Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, although it has some opposition or concerns about who would appoint the new gaming board members
- A 70-30 split of the revenue — 70 percent of the new gaming revenue would pay for road and school construction, while 30 percent would provide new education funding per Senate President Emil Jones Jr.’s desire, although the leaders haven’t yet agreed on how much revenue would be generated in the first place

Regarding the split of money, Watson said, “The bigger the capital bill, the better, as far as I’m concerned, but I’m not opposed to the 30 percent that’s being allocated to education.”

He also said he could vote for slots at the tracks, but added, “I’m not sure I’ve got members who can. That’s the biggest problem.”

And the revised timeline, per Watson, is that seven to 10 days may have been the original goal, but “I think we’re talking more time than that.”

The leaders scheduled a telephone conference for Thursday.


Monday, August 13, 2007

University of Illinois military scholarships scandal update

Here are my prior posts on the University of Illinois military scholarships scandal.

Broken promises: How "jarheads" got shunted aside at the University of Illinois: A Marathon Pundit series

Marathon Pundit Exclusive: What happened behind the scenes of the University of Illinois veteran scholarship scandal

University of Illinois: "Hookers are Praised as Soldiers" –Marathon Pundit's Third Investigative Report

On September 12, in the basement of the James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago, the Court of Claims, which consists of seven "judges" who are actually attorneys appointed by Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The Court of Claims is the arena where certain types of lawsuits against the state, or state universities, are heard.

I am going to try and attend.

Robert van der Hooning, the former Assistant Dean for the University of Illinois College of Business was the man in charge of the program whose goal was to offer 110 full-ride scholarships the Urbana-Champaign campus' Executive MBA program in Chicago last year.

Many of those scholarships were later rescinded by senior University of Illinois College of Business administrators.

To me, actually to most people, "a deal is a deal," but fearing under-funding of the each scholarship's funding source, the Illinois Veterans Grant, the administrators quietly began pressing the delete button on many of those scholarship offers.

After getting the good news, shortly after Memorial Day, some veterans got the bad news. The scholarships they thought they had were pulled. After Rep. Rahm Emanuel and Lt. Governor Pat Quinn got involved, many of those scholarships were offered again, only to be re-rescinded, and then offered again.

Van der Hooning is suing the University of Illinois, charging his dismissal from the school was in retaliation for his whistleblowing activity as he tried to right the scholarship wrongs.

Despite what I see as a very strong case, van der Hooning may be facing a tough audience next month. Governor Blagojevich hasn't done much if anything to increase funding for the constantly underfunded Illinois Veterans Grant program. By law, what the Illinois Veteran's Grant doesn't pay, state universities have to cover out of their own pockets.

"Blago" was sworn in to office for his first term two months before the invasion of Iraq. As for as the military, and their needs, things have obviously changed since January, 2003.

And as I stated above, the Court of Claims "judges" are Blagojevich appointees.

The University of Illinois is run by its board of trustees, who are appointed by, you guessed it, the governor.

The state's fiscal 2008 budget, which was due at the end of May, still hasn't been approved. There's a chance, albeit a slim one, that the Illinois Veteran's Grant will be remembered before a budget is approved.

I don't expect much from Blagojevich, however. As Diane from Respublica reports, "Governor Elvis" has signed just 31 of 700 bills that have been sent to his desk this year.

And Illinois War on Terror vets keep coming home, looking to get on with the rest of their lives and continue to contribute to society.

If van der Hooning loses, so do the veterans, since a signal will have been sent that it's okay to screw them over.

This case is not just about one guy.

Related Marathon Pundit post:

Univ. of Illinois College of Business Dean on "partial leave of absence without pay"

To comment on this or any other Marathon Pundit post, click here.


Monday, July 23, 2007

One of those weeks

Monday’s events could set the tone for an action-packed but odd week at the Capitol. Strange bedfellows flew around the state to announce an electricity rate relief package that took months to unfold, and the governor spent the day in Chicago while busloads of Chicago ministers drove down to Springfield to rally and pray outside of his Statehouse office, as well as the House and the Senate.

First, the strange bedfellows of Senate President Emil Jones Jr., House Speaker Michael Madigan and state Attorney General Lisa Madigan flew around the state Monday announcing a long-awaited deal to relieve electricity rates for Ameren Illinois and Commonwealth Edison customers. Details of the agreement are provided from the House Democrats’ Web site in this press release and this fact sheet. Highlights: In addition to one-time credits, customers’ bills would reflect between 40 percent and 70 percent off of the 2007 rates. The rates going forward would be set by the new Illinois Power Authority, which would scrap the type of auction that set this year’s rates and that was supposed to transition Illinois into a deregulated system. Legislation is expected to move soon.

Second, four busloads of ministers and education advocates tried to storm the Capitol to urge state lawmakers and the governor to increase education funding. When guards calmly told them they couldn’t get onto the floor of each chamber, the group knelt in prayer and then sang spiritual hymns as they walked to the next door. When they approached the governor’s office, they were again greeted by guards and then by the governor’s chief of staff, John Harris. Their momentum deflated when Harris told them the governor wasn’t even in the Capitol, that he was in Chicago signing the statewide smoking ban. The ministers were invited to a meeting with all legislative leaders and the governor in the Capitol Tuesday, but most of them returned to their busses.

Earlier, the ministers held a Statehouse press conference and said lawmakers have a “moral obligation” to increase education funding. They stressed they weren’t in town for anyone’s agenda other than the children’s and that they were in Springfield to urge the governor to stand by his promise to put more money into education. (Blagojevich and Jones proposed $1.5 billion for education.)

“We’ve had the governor to our churches on several occasions, singing, what’s his favorite song, ‘Precious Lord, take my hand,’” Rev. Roosevelt Watkins of Bethlehem Star Church in Chicago said. “I think that if there’s no budget, absolutely, he’ll get a different reception. Not only him, but we’ll have Emil Jones, who we have a lot of lines with. All of them, they all will get a different reception.”

But Rep. Arthur Turner, a Chicago Democrat, said the group is the first of many to stressing the need for more education funding, but they’re just starting to realize the complexity of weighing all the budgetary needs. “If you’ve got funding in the schools and the CTA busses aren’t running on a school day, you’re still no better off than you were before,” he said after speaking with the ministers.

Third, AFSCME Council 31, which represents about 40,000 state employees, sent a letter Friday urging the leaders and the governor to avoid a government shutdown, preferably with a 12-month budget or at least with another one-month budget.

Fourth, the governor signed the statewide smoking ban in Chicago Monday. It bans smoking in restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, hospitals, nursing homes, sports arenas, casinos and other places January 1, 2008.

More action gets under way Tuesday.
Deanese Williams-Harris contributed to this report.


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