Illinois Public Media News
New rules that could greatly expand the number of Indiana's public schools subject to state takeover are on hold while state legislators take a longer look at the proposal.
More than 100 schools in 76 districts had feared the new rules could put them at risk of takeover, but The Indianapolis Star reports (http://indy.st/GRw6lk ) that a legislative change would give those schools a fresh start.
The proposal from the state Board of Education called for any school receiving Fs in four consecutive years in state evaluations to face takeover, along with schools that received any combination of Ds and Fs for five straight years.
Currently, only schools rated an F for six consecutive years face state takeovers.
Legislators are expected to establish a study committee to review the rules.
A person familiar with the coaching search at Illinois says the Illini are interested in talking to Ohio's John Groce.
The person said Sunday that Illinois turned its attention to Groce after Brad Stevens said he will stay at Butler. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the search to replace fired coach Bruce Weber is ongoing.
A message was left seeking comment from Ohio basketball spokesman Drew Wiseman.
Groce coached Ohio to a 29-7 record this season and a spot in the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. The Bobcats lost 73-65 to top-seeded North Carolina on Friday in one of the best games of the tournament.
Stevens had reportedly been an Illini target after Shaka Smart elected to stay at VCU
Stevens says he is "happy and extremely grateful'' to be at Butler.
Robert Easter takes the helm as president of the University of Illinois on July 1, when the resignation of current President Michael Hogan takes effect. Easter earned his doctorate at the U of I in the early 1970s before taking a faculty position there. He recently served as Dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, and then interim Provost and Chancellor on the Urbana campus. The university has gone through a rough period over the last few years marked by an embarrassing admissions scandal, and the resignations of two presidents.
Easter will stay on as president for two years, and he tells Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers that he's ready to help move the university forward.
As Illlinois adults sip their coffee and unfold their newspapers early Sunday morning, state officials say they can also become some of the first people in the country to buy lottery tickets online.
Illinois will become what lotto officials say is the first state in the U.S. to sell tickets over the Internet when the high-security website goes live around 7 a.m. Sunday. Online players will be able to buy up to $10 worth of Lotto or Mega Millions tickets, and state lawmakers are already considering whether to add Powerball into the mix.
The Illinois Lottery estimates e-ticket sales could net hundreds of thousands of new players, and bring in between $78 million and $118 million in new revenue for the cash-strapped state, half of which would fund capital projects. State lawmakers signed off on the online pilot program in 2009, but implementation had been held up pending legal approval from the U.S. Justice Department, which finally came in December.
In Illinois, where lotto tickets must be bought at a licensed retailer, the plan hasn't been without controversy. Some retail groups have worried that online lottery sales, which they say account for up to 50 percent of revenue at some convenience stores, would take a huge bite out of their in-store business. And anti-gambling advocates complain Internet ticket sales could tempt addicts and underage buyers.
But Illinois Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones said the system is secure, and require would-be gamblers to turn over their names, addresses, Social Security numbers and credit card information before they click "buy."
"But there's also the psychological protection that if you attempt to circumvent our rules by playing underage, or playing from outside the state, and you win, we do a winner validation for any prize over $600," Jones said Friday. "And we won't pay you."
Meanwhile, retailers and convenience store owners have been in talks with Jones and Northstar Lottery Group, the private company that runs the Illinois lotto. The store owners had been pushing for a bump in their five percent commission rate to offset a feared drop in in-person ticket sales, as well as a plan to require that online tickets be purchased exclusively using designated debit cards that could only be bought and recharged at brick-and-mortar stores.
But business groups seem to have quieted down after striking a deal to require that Illinois study the effects of online ticket sales on retailers, and the viability of the debit card idea. That plan will be tacked onto the bill that would add Powerball to the Internet pilot program. The amendment is designed to "lift the opposition that the convenience store owners have had," and will likely be introduced next week, according to the bill's sponsor, State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston.
Retailers say they have a symbiotic relationship with the Illinois Lotto. But they're staying vigilant.
"These concerns are not going away, but at least we now - I shouldn't say 'at least' - we now have - or will have - a mechanism to determine whether our concerns play out," said David Vite, CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which represents 5,100 convenience stores across the state.
Legislation to prevent cozy relationships between lawmakers and lobbyists has been squashed by an Illinois Senate panel.
The measures would have required officials to disclose family members who are lobbyists. Legislators also would have been barred from becoming lobbyists for one year after serving, and they couldn't negotiate for lobbying jobs while still in public office.
The measures were buried Friday in a subcommittee controlled by Senate Democrats.
The sponsor says he isn't giving up. Republican Sen. Darin LaHood of Dunlap hopes to find a Democrat willing to sponsor his legislation.
LaHood says the measures would make the state more transparent and start to clean up Illinois' reputation for corrupt government.
The bills are SB3646, SB3647, SB3648 and SB3649.
The Illinois House Friday approved a measure intended to prevent state universities from using private headhunters to find new faculty and administrators.
The proposal says no tuition or tax dollars could be used on outside search firms. Representative Chapin Rose says the state cannot afford to use headhunters. He says universities should be able to handle the job in-house.
"When you stop to consider the amount of people we're already paying that traditionally, 20 years ago, would do these functions -- why -- have we just gone completely insane?," Rose said. "Why can't they just do what was done 20 years ago which is go hire a dean or a faculty member or whoever?"
Rose, a Republican from Mahomet, says the University of Illinois spent more than $250-thousand dollars on an outside firm to find a new chancellor for the Urbana campus.
But he praised the Board of Trustees for naming longtime U of I administrator Robert Easter the next university president, without a search committee or headhunter. At least two lawmakers say the legislature might be micromanaging. Representative Ann Williams is a Democrat from Chicago.
"I'm wondering if there are any other examples in Illinois statute where we dictate how much, or what items can or cannot be expended by a public university," Williams said.
The measure passed 91 to 9 and now goes to the Senate.
UI Trustees Accept Hogan's Resignation, Appoint Easter
The executive committee of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees has accepted president Michael Hogan's resignation.
Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten says his handling of Rick Winkel's late withdrawal from the circuit clerk's race was correct, even though state Elections officials had suggested a different approach.
Winkel defeated Stephanie Holderfield to win Tuesday's Republican primary for Champaign County Circuit Clerk --- even though he had dropped out of the race in early February. The withdrawal came too late to change the ballots, and some ballots had already been sent out to early, overseas voters.
The Illinois State Board of Elections recommends that in such cases, that local election officials simply should simply ignore any votes cast for the candidate who withdrew. That recommendation is binding in the case of state races, but only advisory on local elections. Hulten said refusing to count votes for Winkel would have been unfair to the voters.
"I am very confident that it is the legally correct position," Hulten said. "And I am even more confident that it is the right decision to make. Voters have voted. It is not our job to act an omniscient election authority, and wave a magic wand, and pretend those votes don't exist."
Winkel said he will formally withdraw as a candidate after the ballots are certified --- leaving selection of a new nominee up to the local Republican leadership. They may choose Holderfield for the post, or someone else. Holderfield said in a statement, that given the Elections Board's differing advice, she may appeal Hulten's decision.
University of Illinois President Michael Hogan has resigned amid criticism from faculty and students.
"It has been a distinct honor and privilege to serve as President of the University of Illinois," Hogan said in a statement. "While the University has faced some significant organizational and budgetary challenges over the past several years, we have initiated the reforms necessary to modernize and streamline our business functions and redirect the savings to academic purposes. The underpinnings of this great institution are sound."
Hogan took over at the University of Illinois in 2010, in the wake of an admissions scandal there.
The Board of Trustees Executive Committee is expected to name Robert Easter to succeed Hogan at a meeting on Friday in Chicago. Easter, who served as interim Chancellor & Provost, will take over as president July 1, for a two-year term.
"Now, as Mike has decided to move on, the Board of Trustees has asked me to assume the mantle of leadership of this great institution as its President. I do so with pride, but also humility-with eagerness, but also enormous respect," Easter said. "I am committed to our students and all of our campuses. And, it is for this reason that I accept the responsibilities as President and pledge to move forward energetically and collaboratively with an agenda that reaffirms the University of Illinois' special place among the very best of institutions of higher learning in the United States."
Trustee Karen Hasara said that Easter is a good choice for U of I president, because he is well known and respected throughout the university community.
State Rep. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet), who is a graduate and a student trustee of the University of Illinois, said he supports the appointment of Easter as the university president-designate. Rose said as a U of I faculty member, Easter is someone everybody trusts.
"I just hope they give him a long enough contract that he can move us forward," Rose said. "I mean I don't want to see some other search, you know, for somebody else. I mean the U of I has this history of always looking for some guy from Michigan or some guy from Stanford. Forget that. The right guy has been here the whole time."
In the email, Chairman Chris Kennedy suggested the U of I's next leader should be "a proven administrator with a track record of collaboration and success within our University."
Hogan had been criticized by faculty and students for weeks for allegedly not listening to the concerns. He has been under pressure for months as faculty complained about his management style and plans for the campus. His chief of staff resigned over anonymous emails intended to win faculty support of an unpopular enrollment management plan. Hogan was cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident.
Kennedy said earlier this month that he expected Hogan to improve his relationship with the university community within a couple of months. In an interview on March 8 after that meeting, Hogan said he would redouble efforts to better communicate with University faculty and students.
"I've spent a lot of time with faculty. I've spent a lot of time with faculty governance groups, but I have to take it up a notch," Hogan said. "I really have to persuade people that not only I am in the room with them, I'm actually listening to them. I'm not only seeking their advice, I'm profiting from what they have to say."
Joyce Tolliver is an Associate Professor of Spanish, and Vice-Chair of the Academic Senate Executive Committee. Tolliver said Hogan's exit was difficult, but it had to happen. She also wished him well.
University of Illinois entomology professor May Berenbaum was on a committee that hired Hogan, but had signed two recent letters calling for his resignation. Both letters were signed by more than 100 faculty members. Berenbaum said she was surprised to learn about Hogan's resignation.
"It's just an unfortunate situation all around. It wasn't supposed to go this way. That's all," Berenbaum said. "I have every confidence that our campus will recover from this. I mean this has been difficult, but I am absolutely sure that we can move on successfully."
Professor Laura Greene said Hogan's resignation is "good for the university." She was also one of more than a hundred faculty members who signed a letter asking for Hogan's dismissal. Greene said she opposed plans to consolidate the university's admissions system.
"For this particular university system, I think it's important to maintain the strength of each campus," Greene said.
U of I student Keenan Kassar is a Senator-elect on the Urbana campus. He helped organize a student demonstration last week to speak out against Hogan's leadership. Kassar said the next president of the University of Illinois should be someone who can repair the U of I's reputation, and prevent additional scandals from happening.
"With Hogan we ran the risk of our reputation dropping," Kassar said. "He was seeking of repairing it, but he was the one damaging it. I don't think it's damaged beyond repair. I just hope we don't get anyone who does damage it."
Trustee Karen Hasara said it was clear that public dissatisfaction with Hogan was high in the university community, for his handling of his enrollment management proposal. She said trustees took the latest letter signed by chaired faculty calling for Hogan's quick departure very seriously. But Hasara said it was Hogan's resignation was his own decision --- and not due to pressure from trustees.
"I don't know that we ever suggested that he resign," Hasara said. "We certainly discussed with him what we thought needed to happen, and he actually was receptive to that. But I think in the final days, he just realized that it was going to be better if he did step down."
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who is an ex officio member of U of I's Board of Trustees, said in a statement he respects Hogan's decision.
"I would like to thank him for taking on the challenge of heading our state's flagship university during a difficult transition period," Quinn said.
Quinn also commented on the decision to appoint Bob Easter as university president-designate.
"I have confidence in his (Easter's) leadership and ability to continue moving the state's largest university forward," Quinn said.
Hogan will stay with the University of Illinois as a history professor.
Michigan-based Dart Container Corporation is purchasing Solo Cup Company.
The roughly $1-billion transaction was announced Thursday morning.
The Lake Forest, Illinois manufacturer of plastic cups, plates, bowls, and soufflé cups employs 600 people at its 269,000 square foot facility in Urbana.
Solo spokeswoman Angie Gorman said it is too early to say what the purchase means for the Urbana plant.
"It's premature to speculate on facilities and employment, but a lot of that planning will come soon," Gorman said.
Dart said the close of the sale will take up to six months, and no changes are expected for 6-to-12 months after that.
"We're planning to bring as many Solo employees as possible into the operation," Gorman said.
Dart makes more than 600 products, including foam cups. According to the company, the addition of Solo will broaden its product lineup and the kinds of materials they are made from.
The one change she does confirm is the company name. Gorman said the plant will become part of Dart Container Corporation, but certain products, including Solo's red cups, will maintain the Solo brand.
Solo makes the well-known red Solo cups and a variety of disposable food and drink containers out of paper, plastic and recycled materials. Solo was founded in 1936 as a paper container company and introduced its signature red plastic cup in the 1970s.
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