Illinois Public Media News
Illinois' financial uncertainty has prompted a lot of school districts to move to one-year contracts for teachers.
But a union spokesman says that's not the case in East Central Illinois. The Illinois Education Association's Gene Vanderport says the districts in the area have been pretty fair to those he represents. He says there have been a lot of early settlements with multi-year contracts, including Urbana, and he expects those in Gifford and Rantoul City Schools to settle soon as well. But Vanderport admits it's been a struggle for most school districts. "Nobody's getting rich in public education, that's for sure,"said Vanderport. "We're down to absolute bare minimum of people doing the services that need to be done, to educate the kids. We're not making Buicks, we're educating brains, and it takes X number of people to do that. School boards recognize that we gotta keep feeding our families, and they've been relatively decent across the board in recognizing our needs."
Still, Vanderport says his union and others are trying to settle without asking for too much, while urging state and federal lawmakers to work on a consistent and sustainable school funding formula. "That's why we're for progressive funding mechanisms that aren't in place at this point," said Vanderport. "And we hope to continue to lobby for those, and make those issues election-year issues." Vanderport says negotiations with Champaign teachers are still taking a while. The two sides have been bargaining since January, and he says salary and benefits remain the sticking points. Vanderport says Champaign Unit 4 schools and his union should wrap up talks by August, but he says it's hard to say what the length of the contract will be.
Preliminary tests of a liquid spill near a railroad track in Danville show that residents there aren't at any health risk. Illinois' Environmental Protection Agency hopes to have more information at a public meeting in the city on Wednesday. But agency spokeswoman Maggie Carson says the first samples prove that the smell of the fatty acids used in industrial settings are the only problem so far. "We're fully aware that there are odors and the neighbors have experienced them, and this is a problem," says Carson. "Even though there's not a hazardous chemical involved, the odors affect the quality of life of the neigbhors."
The substance appeared to have come from Double-S Liquid Feed Service on North Bowman Avenue. Carson says some of it spilled as it was being off-loaded, and rain waters carried it into a ditch. She says the area isn't heavily populated, but enough people were adversely affected to call for the meeting. Carson says it's also not yet known how much of the liquid had spilled, but she says inspections of site show small quantities of the substance may have spilled before there. The EPA is working with Double-S and the city of Danville to clean up the site. Carson says if the problem proves to be severe, the EPA could call the Attorney General's office over possible fines or other penalties. The EPA's public meeting over the spill is Wednesday at 12:15 at the Danville Boys and Girls Club.
Scott Lee Cohen plans to file his petitions with the Illinois State Board of Elections to run as independent for governor.
Cohen says he'll file the signed petitions on Monday afternoon in Springfield. His campaign said in a news release Sunday that he's been on a five-week, nonstop campaign to collect the 25,000 signatures needed to get on the November ballot. Cohen's campaign says he has more than 130,000 signatures.
Cohen is trying to revive his political career after being forced to resign as the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor when issues in his personal life became widely known.
He says voters "were very anxious'' to sign the petition and he thinks they'll be "just as eager'' to vote for him in November.
The University of Illinois is scrapping plans to spend nearly $100,000 on a sculpture of university President Stanley Ikenberry. U of I spokesman Thomas Hardy says Ikenberry called off the project this week shortly after the Chicago Tribune began asking questions about it. But Hardy would not talk on tape with WILL Radio, saying he felt the Tribune was trying to make a news story out of something that wasn't worth the attention. Hardy did say the $98,000 project was a fraction of the cost of the $75 million Ikenberry Commons residence hall project. The university originally planned to hang the sculpture in the dining hall that's opening this fall. The art was to be paid for with student housing fees.
The Tribune reports that the school hadn't yet signed a contract, but university officials had filed paper work with the state to justify the no-bid, $98,000 purchase. The U of I had reportedly planned to award the project to Urbana-based sculptor Peter Fagan. Hardy says Ikenberry stopped the plan because he didn't want to generate any ill will. The expenditure would have come amid a budget crisis that's led university officials to furlough employees and raise tuition. Hardy says private funding of the sculpture could be explored at later.
Nearly 70 years after opening as a site for producing explosives, about 7,000 acres in Western Indiana are now being prepared for industry. The US Army held a deactivation ceremony yesterday to signal the closure of the Newport Chemical Depot.
When Terry Arthur came to work there 1993, she was told her job would last five years, as the Army set out to store and dispose of the chemical nerve agent VX.
But the 9-11 terrorist attacks brought about a new age... and changed a lot of jobs there as about 200 soldiers were brought into secure the Depot. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert spoke with Arthur:
The Los Angeles Lakers have won their 16th NBA championship, dramatically rallying from a fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 83-79 Thursday night in Game 7 of the NBA finals.
Kobe Bryant scored 23 points despite 6-of-24 shooting while winning his fifth title with the Lakers, who repeated as NBA champions for the first time since winning three straight from 2000-02.
Ron Artest added 20 points for the Lakers, who shot terribly while trailing for most of the first 31/2 quarters. Yet they reclaimed the lead midway through the fourth quarter and hung on with big shots from Pau Gasol and Artest.
With their fifth title in 11 seasons, the Lakers moved one championship behind Boston's 17 banners for the overall NBA lead.
After the game, hundreds of jubilant Los Angeles Lakers fans poured into the streets near Staples Center, and Los Angeles Police declared an unlawful assembly.
Police urged people to disperse immediately outside Staples Center Thursday night.
A police spokesman says at least two people have been arrested --- both misdemeanors for drinking in public.
Police massed around the arena before the game, aiming to prevent a repeat of the violence that accompanied the Lakers' victory last year.
A small central Illinois school district says the company that supplies bread for its lunches has declined to bid to for a new contract because of the state government's financial mess.
Superintendent Bruce Owen of the Unit 30 school district in Dieterich says Lewis Bakeries of Indiana cited the state's slow rate of providing appropriated money.
Dieterich is in Effingham County, about 70 miles south of Champaign. The two-school district has just under 500 students.
School districts and other state-dependent institutions have been waiting for months on money the state has promised but says it can't provide.
Illinois' state government is facing a $13 billion budget deficit.
Owen says no other companies bid for the contract. The district may have to buy its own bread from local bakeries.
There's no action Friday in the corruption trial of ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Testimony this week concluded on Thursday with the jury hearing from a former Blagojevich donor.who scored a job leading a state agency.
Ali Ata says in 2002 and 2003, he twice donated $25,000 to Blagojevich's campaign...each time having conversations with the governor that included vague talk of a state job.
With support from Blagojevich and his now-convicted fundraiser Tony Rezko, Ata was appointed executive director of the newly-created Illinois Finance Authority.
The ex-governor's attorney, Sam Adam, Junior, asked Ata several times whether Blagojevich ever told him he needed to contribute to get the state job.
Ata repeatedly said no.
That continued line of questioning clearly frustrated Judge James Zagel.
The judge told Adam that if he didn't think the jury understood that argument by now, "then you should just give up all hope".
Zagel made the remark in front of jurors - some of whom laughed.
Ata returns to the stand on Monday when trial resumes.
President Obama has nominated an Illinois appeals court judge to the Federal Bench for the Central District of Illinois.
Justice Sue Myerscough sits on the appellate bench in Springfield and ran unsuccessfully for the State Supreme Court. She has her law degree from Southern Illinois University and clerked for former federal judge Harold Baker. She has also served on the circuit court and in a private law practice.
Obama says Myerscough has shown an unwavering commitment to public service throughout her career and iis grateful for her decision to serve the American People from the District Court Bench. The nomination requires Senate Approval.
People receiving food stamp benefits will soon be able to double their purchasing power at the Champaign Farmers Market.
A total of $1500 was awarded by the Lumpkin Foundation and Provena Covenant Medical Center to the market, which is held every Thursday on North First Street. The funds will allow food stamp recipients to buy up to $20 worth of food while being charged $10 on their Illinois Link Cards.
Valerie McWilliams of the North First Street Association of Champaign says there's a perception that food is more expensive at farmer's markets than at large grocery stores. She says that for people on a very limited income this can be discouraging, and the double-value program will help make fresh produce more affordable for them.
But Market Director Wendy Langacker says the program value should also boost sales at the market, and keep vendors coming back.
"The vendors who might feel that they're maybe not making as much as they would like, I think it will help add to their bottom line", says Lanaker, "which will encourage them to come back to the market, which has a long-term benefit in terms of the whole market itself."
The value program begins June 24th. The Champaign Farmer's Market is held from 3 to 7 in the police department parking lot on the corner of North First Street and University.
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