Illinois Public Media News
School board members in the Champaign district will have more unenviable work ahead of them as talks begin on a new district budget.
Last year they had to make roughly $2 million in cuts to staff and other expenses to meet a projected budget deficit. For the fiscal year 2012 budget, Chief Financial Officer Gene Logas said Unit 4 will likely have to shed another $2 million in expenses.
Logas said cuts in staff positions may be inevitable, but core curriculum should not be affected. On the other hand, Logas says some specialized courses with low headcounts - mainly in high schools - may not be offered.
"We're not jamming 30 kids into a classroom or anything like that," Logas said. "It's just that some of those classes that we've been able to allow to take place with very small numbers in the past, those are some of the ones we're going to have to take a hard look at and maybe not be able to offer as many of those."
Logas said he hopes that most of the personnel cuts will be resolved through attrition instead of layoffs - but he noted Unit 4 will have to notify potentially laid-off teachers and other staff in March. He said discussions on the 2012 budget begin with Monday night's school board meeting.
Governor Pat Quinn says "zero politics" was involved in his decision to appoint Ricardo Estrada to the U of I board, instead of re-appointing another Hispanic Democrat who he had named to the board in 2009.
Carlos Tortolero told the Chicago Tribune that he believes Quinn's decision not to reappoint him to the board was "political". He says he asked for an explanation for the governor's decision, but never got one. Quinn says he likes Tortolero, who heads the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. But the governor says he didn't want to keep reappointing the same people as U of I Board. Quinn says Estrada is an excellent choice for trustee.
"He has worked in the settlement house movement in our city, state of Illinois and done a great job," said Quinn. "And he also served on our Admissions Review committee that we put together to straighten things out. And I thought he did such a good job that he would be a good man for this position."
Besides serving on the panel Quinn set up to investigate the U of I admissions scandal, Estrada is a former executive director of Erie Neighborhood House, a Chicago social service agency serving primarily Latino families. Estrada says serving on the panel following the U of I's admissions scandal helped a great deal in preparing him.
"I learned a lot about the university, its practices, and policies," he said. "And the great things they were doing, and the issues they had at the time. I've come to this board with my eyes wide open, and hope to contribute."
Estrada says he hopes to be a great steward with university resources and the public trust. Estrada was seated at Thursday's U of I Board meeting in Chicago, along with another new trustee, attorney Patricia Brown Holmes, who says one of her goes is keeping tuition costs down.
"Increasing tuition to a point where it's unaffordable is just unacceptable," she said. "I don't think that that's going to be one of our goals, and I think we will do whatever we can to keep it affordable."
Quinn also re-appointed another of his 2009 appointees, former Springfield mayor Karen Hasara. The six-year appointments must be confirmed by the Illinois Senate. Trustees re-elected Merchandise Mart boss Chris Kennedy as their chairman.
University of Illinois trustees have adopted a policy designed to limit tuition increases even as they raise the cost of housing at the school's three campuses.
The tuition policy approved Thursday links tuition increases to inflation and other factors.
Students are guaranteed by state law to pay the tuition rate they paid in their freshman year throughout their undergraduate years. But the rate increases for most incoming classes.
This year, tuition increased 9.5 percent and led to complaints from some students and parents. The cost of tuition and housing for a typical undergraduate year at the Urbana-Champaign campus is more than $20,000.
Governor Pat Quinn said he likes 'the basic framework and concept' for the next year's tuition that was outlined Thursday by University of Illinois Chief Financial Officer Walter Knorr.
"I think that has a lot of merit to try and keep tuition pretty much even with inflation and adjusted dollars," Quinn said. "I think carrying that out is a good mission."
Quinn said the state is also putting about $404 million into grants for MAP, or the Monetary Awards program., but he said the demand is at least 50-percent higher that. Quinn added that one of his goals for the next four years is to secure more scholarship money for students who attend Illinois' public universities and community colleges.
Trustees on Thursday also raised the cost of a double dorm room in Urbana-Champaign 4 percent to $9,452 a year. Costs in Springfield and Chicago increased less sharply.
(Additional reporting from the Associated Press)
University of Illinois trustees have re-elected Christopher Kennedy as their chairman.
Trustees meeting in Chicago on Thursday picked Kennedy as the leader for the next year of the governing board that oversees the university and its three campuses. Kennedy was first elected in September 2009. Lawrence Eppley was his predecessor but resigned over the university's admissions scandal. Kennedy was one of six trustees appointed in September 2009 by Gov. Pat Quinn to fill vacancies left by resignations related to that scandal.
Kennedy is a son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and he runs Merchandise Mart Properties in Chicago.
Quinn on Wednesday reappointed another trustee, Karen Hasara of Springfield. The governor also picked two new trustees, Chicago-area lawyers Patricia Brown Holmes and Ricardo Estrada.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has filled three vacancies on the University of Illinois' Board of Trustees just as the board is scheduled to meet Thursday in Chicago.
Three of the 10 seats on the board were vacant after the terms expired over the weekend. Patricia Brown Holmes and Ricardo Estrada will join the board as new trustees replacing Frances Carroll and Carlos Tortolero. Meanwhile, Karen Hasara, whose term was also up, will continue serving.
All three appointees are alumni of the University of Illinois. Holmes, a partner at Schiff Hardin LLP, has been named one of Illinois' "Top 50 Women Lawyers" by Illinois Super Lawyers. She received both her bachelor of science and juris doctorate degrees from the University of Illinois. Estrada currently serves as the first deputy commissioner in the Department of Family and Support Services for the City of Chicago. He received his master of business administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Hasara, a current trustee for the Springfield Mass Transit District, served as mayor of the city of Springfield from 1995-2003. She received both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Hasara and Tortolero were appointed to the board in 2009 when other trustees resigned over a university admissions scandal. Carroll refused to resign.
"Students from all over the world come to Illinois because they know that they will receive the highest quality of education from the University of Illinois," Governor Quinn said in a statement. "I am confident that today's appointees will help ensure the continued integrity and quality of our state's flagship university.
A $10 million grant to the University of Illinois from the Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) will help preserve large amounts of grains and oil seeds lost each year by establishing the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss.
The institute will be housed within the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. It will also work with the College of Engineering, College of Business and College of Information Technology. The money from the grant will be used to launch new technology, collect crop data, and offer agricultural training programs for students and farmers.
The UN Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that around 10 to 20 percent of the world's grain harvest goes to waste because of mishandling or post-harvest operations. It is a problem ADM officials say poses a serious threat to the world's food supply, especially in developing nations. ADM president Patricia Woertz said just about five percent of all agricultural research dollars are used to study postharvest losses. Woertz said she hopes the research that results from this grant improves the world's food supply.
"It is our hope that the post harvest strategies and the practical applications devised here at U of I will ultimately boost the livelihoods of rice farmers in Southeast Asia, the sorghum grower in Eastern Africa, and the sunflower farmer in India," Woertz said. "Ultimately their gain is the world's gain."
Interim Vice Chancellor Steve Sonka, who is the former director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory, will head the institute. He said he is hopeful this new partnership with ADM will help the university strengthen its ties with groups in other countries that are also trying to reduce crop losses.
"Our strategy is to learn from their research - both their triumphs and failures - build on their work and then expand it," Sonka said.
Three of the 10 seats on the University of Illinois' Board of Trustees are vacant after the appointments expired, and it isn't clear how or when Gov. Pat Quinn will fill them.
The terms of Frances Carroll, Karen Hasara and Carlos Tortolero expired Sunday. Quinn has yet to say whether they'll be reappointed or replaced.
Hasara says she's spoken with the governor's staff but doesn't know when or how Quinn will act. In a visit to the U of I's Urbana campus Wednesday, the Governor would only say he'd have an announcement soon.
Quinn appointed Hasara and Tortolero in 2009 to fill seats left vacant when other board members resigned over a university admissions scandal. Carroll refused to resign.
"We had a problem that came up in 2009, and I appointed new trustees, and they, I think, carried out the reforms that I wanted and the people wanted," Quinn said.
(Additional reporting from the Associated Press)
A Champaign teacher who spent three weeks in China is taking his lessons to local youth.
Doug Butler visited nine Chinese cities, as part of trip funded by the Freeman Foundation and Indiana University's National Consortium for Teaching about Asia. The 6th grade teacher at Jefferson Middle School said the goal of the rip was to create a lesson plan to bring back to local classrooms.
The trip was also supported by the University of Illinois' Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies, which is now loaning out Chinese Culture Boxes to grade school through high school-age kids. Butler said he hopes sharing his experiences from his trip with his student will broaden their horizons.
"We live in a country where we seem to be a little ethno-centric to only U.S. history," he said. "Number two in the economy behind the US is China, and they're our biggest training partner, and they should be introduced to them."
Contents of the culture boxes range from Chinese coins and toys, to historical references and artifacts from the Communist era. Terms for borrowing the boxes can range from a few days to a few weeks, and should be arranged with the U of I. Anyone wishing to borrow the boxes should contact Sandy Burklund at the Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies at 333-4850 or e-mail the center at email@example.com. It is located in the International Studies building on South Fifth Street in Urbana.
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has approved a budget proposal for next year that it will send to lawmakers in Springfield.
After the General Assembly passed a massive 67-percent income tax hike, it is uncertain how Governor Pat Quinn and the legislature will respond to the request. The ISBE is asking for $709.4 million in additional state support for Fiscal Year 2012. Board of Education spokeswoman Mary Fergus said she is "cautiously optimistic" that the funding request will be approved.
Fergus explained that in formulating the proposal, the ISBE considered feedback from the public and the state's Education Funding Advisory Board, which pushed for a much larger $4 billion increase in education funding.
"We know the economic reality is not going to support that," she said.
State support for education has plunged in the last couple of years by about $450 million.
A bulk of the money requested by the ISBE would support General State Aid and mandated categoricals that have seen cuts, like transportation funding. Also included in the budget request is a $3.5 million increase for bilingual education, a $2.3 million increase to improve teacher training programs, and a $900,000 increase in the amount of funding for feasibility studies as school districts consider consolidations.
"We're not really talking about expanding a lot of programs," Fergus said. "Some of this increase will go toward a little bit of expansion, but really this is about restoring funds."
The Illinois State Board of Education will include its budget recommendation as part of the overall Fiscal Year 2012 state budget.
An Illinois law requiring a daily moment of silence in public schools is back in effect after a 2-year hiatus.
The Chicago Tribune reports that the Illinois State Board of Education notified schools Friday that the law is back.
A federal injunction barring the moment of silence has been in place for two years.
Illinois legislators approved the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act in October 2007. The law was challenged in court by Rob Sherman, an outspoken atheist, and his daughter Dawn, a student at Buffalo Grove High School in suburban Chicago.
U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman overturned the law in 2009, but a federal appeals court ruled the law is constitutional because it doesn't specify prayer.
Gettleman reportedly lifted the injunction Thursday.
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