Illinois Public Media News
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's plan to reform the public pension system to save money would actually cost $95 billion extra over the next three decades.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show Quinn would cut in half the amount of money the state would put into retirement systems for state employees in the next five years. But those short-term savings would be accompanied by much larger long-term costs.
The total cost would be $532 billion through 2045, up from $437 billion under the current pension plan.
Representatives of employees' unions and a legislative finance commission criticized the idea.
Quinn is trying to close an $11.6 billion deficit by raising income taxes and cutting spending. He has proposed lowering pension benefits for new employees to save money.
25 high school seniors from Champaign are among the first to take their courses in an accelerated setting.
They were honored Tuesday night as the first year of Unit 4's Academic Academy comes to a close. Principal Rhonda Howard says the graduates were formerly students at Central or Centennial High Schools but were falling behind on class credits and needed more advice on how to pursue a career. 67 students in all are enrolled at the school.
The Academy is based on five sessions of classes rather than two semesters, and the classes are smaller, providing for more one-on-one time with teachers. Howard says not every teen fits the mold of the traditional high school schedule.
"Many of our students have full time or part time jobs, and some of them have children. They have obligations outside the school setting that at times attendance has been difficult for them. So we have been able to offer that accelerated pace and help them catch up," Howard said, adding that students who have to miss school can take computer-based courses on line.
Each applicant to the academy must complete one year of school in a traditional setting, but past attendance, behavior records and current credit totals are also considered. In the academy's next year, Howard says she hopes to build on the school's list of guest speakers from the community and get more students involved in job shadowing programs and college visits.
The 25 seniors at Champaign's Academic Academy will also graduate with their home schools late this month.
A Champaign School Board candidate who lost her race by two votes will not contest the election results in court. Lynn Stuckey says after looking at previous case law, there doesn't appear to be any grounds for her to challenge the vote count - a recount last month found that Stig Lanesskog edged Stuckey by two votes for the third of three school board seats in an eight-way election. Stuckey says she'll still attend and speak out at Unit 4 board meetings and will decide later whether to run again.
Seven months after University of Illinois trustees agreed to let the school's Global Campus try to become a standalone, degree-granting institution, they're about to consider scaling it back.
University trustees meeting in Chicago Thursday will consider a measure that would start reshaping the university system's online effort based on a report put together by faculty.
That report calls for winding down the online global campus as it exists and opening again next year with a smaller staff and budget under the control of the university's three campuses.
The measure calls for more study on how to change Global Campus but makes clear that trustees are unhappy with low enrollment. Global Campus has 426 students but was expected to draw thousands.
The chief financial officer for the Champaign School District is expanding on his warning of tough financial times ahead.
In February, Gene Logas told the Champaign School Board that they would have to trim the budget for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 to adjust to recession-driven declines in state aid and sales tax revenue. On Monday night, he told board members that new data indicates that tax revenues may still be down in FY 2012. He says when that budget year approaches, the district should look at repeating something it last did in 2005.
"The working cash bonds that we issued several years ago are completely paid off by the time we get to 2011-2012," said Logas. "I think we'd have to look at the possibility of issuing some working cash bonds".
The Unit four school board could approve the bonds for FY 2012 without a referendum. But Logas says the district should seek public direction before it works out the three million dollar budget cut he's recommending for the FY 2011 budget.
The Champaign school district's Consent Decree has been extended a few weeks past its scheduled June 30th expiration date --- due to scheduling problems with the judge overseeing the case. Federal Judge Joe Billy McDade has extended the racial equity decree until he can schedule a hearing on motions filed by plaintiffs in the case. School Board President Dave Tomlinson says McDade had no open dates in June --- and the hearing may not be held until July 20th or later.
Tomlinson and plaintiffs attorney Carol Ashley says this extension of the Consent Decree is only due to scheduling problems. Ashley is seeking a multi-year extension until the Unit Four school district works out problems she says remain with achieving goals set by the decree. But Tomlinson says the district has made a good-faith effort towards all the Consent Decree goals.He says the district's objections to the extension were overturned.
Five months after the closing of Columbia Center, the Champaign School Board has confirmed that a regional program will teach most of its students expelled from school for the foreseeable future.
Unit Four school board members voted unanimously Monday night to pay 43-thousand dollars over the next two years for an expanded READY program. The Regional Office of Education for Champaign and Ford Counties operates READY as an alternative program for middle and high school students with behavioral problems. School Board President Dave Tomlinson says READY will be the first choice in such cases. "(The READY program has) been doing a good job for several years," says Tomlinson. "We've transitioned in that (alternative education) category already to READY for this year, so we're going to continue to do that for the foreseeable future."
READY didn't have the capacity this semester to accept all the students that Unit Four wanted to send to it. A few receive home instruction instead --- a program actually designed for students forced to stay home due to medical conditions.
Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services Michael McFarland says the expansion of READY should make it big enough to accept all Unit Four students needing alternative education. He says a few with special education needs will continue to be sent to the Circle Academy at the Cunningham Children's Home in Urbana, or the Pavilion Foundation School in Champaign
A federal judge has turned down a request from the plaintiffs in the Champaign Unit Four Consent Decree case for more hearings.
Attorneys for plaintiffs in the racial equity case had requested hearings on its motions to extend the Consent Decree past June 30th. They also wanted a comprehensive hearing on whether the Champaign school district had been acting in good faith in all its actions to meet the requirements of the decree. But Judge Joe Billy McDade ruled Monday that the decree does not require such hearings.
Unit Four School Board President Dave Tomlinson says he's pleased with the judge's decision. He says the move will limit hearings in the Consent Decree case to whether the district has met specific requirements in special and alternative education and building new classrooms on the north side of Champaign. He denied charges from the plaintiff's attorney that opposing a comprehensive hearing was an attempt to shut out public comment. "This is a court document and we have to fight this in court," Tomlinson said.
Plaintiffs' attorney Carol Ashley could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
An astronaut from Central Illinois will lead NASA's space shuttle mission this afternoon.
The commander leading a seven-member crew on the shuttle Atlantis to the Hubble Space Telescope is University of Illinois graduate Scott Altman. This mission has been long-delayed, originally scheduled for last October. On-board equipment that transmits data back to Earth broke down, and it's taken months for engineers to prepare replacement equipment that the Atlantis crew will take to the Hubble.
This is one of 8 or 9 final missions for the Space Shuttle program. It's expected to be phased out either next year or early 2011, depending on government funding. Altman, who was on three other shuttle missions, says he'd like to believe the U of I could play a role when the Orion space capsule resumes manned missions around 2015.
"When I came to NASA, I'd hoped I would be one of the first people to visit Mars and go beyond where we've been. Now I realize it's the next generation that's going to do that, and it's the people I talk to at Illinois who are going to make that happen and be a key part of that," Altman said. "I kind of envy them (for) that opportunity."
Altman says he's happy to pass the torch to potential astronauts, but he admits he's envious of them when making return visits to his alma mater. Altman received a master's degree in aeronautical engineering from the U of I in 1990. He's a native of Pekin.
The University of Illinois and the union for graduate student workers on its Urbana campus have agreed to call in a federal mediator to help them reach a contract agreement.
The decision came Tuesday in the second bargaining session between the U of I and the Graduate Employees Organization. Administration spokeswoman Robin Kaler says they hope to eventually reach an agreement that the U of I can afford.
"We're looking to achieve a fair and equitable contract within the budgetary constraints that we face," Kaler said.
Meanwhile, G-E-O spokeswoman Peter Campbell accuses the administration of failing to reply to the contract proposal they offered at last month's bargaining meeting. Instead, he says the U of I negotiators only wanted discuss what he calls extraneous issues.
The current contract for graduate employees runs out August 15th. Campbell says they hope to keep the advances made by that contract and improve wages and benefits, especially health care.
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